USING SESSION RPE TO MONITOR DIFFERENT METHODS OF RESISTANCE EXERCISE
1Department of Health and Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, USA
2Department of Kinesiology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA,
3Department of Exercise and Sports Science, University of Wisconsin-La
Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin, USA
4School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University,
15 February 2006
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) 5, 289
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|The purpose of this study was to compare session rating of perceived
exertion for different resistance training techniques in the squat
exercise. These techniques included traditional resistance training,
super slow, and maximal power training. Fourteen college-age women
(Mean ± SD; age = 22 ± 3 years; height = 1.68 ±
0. 07 m) completed three experimental trials in a randomized crossover
design. The traditional resistance training protocol consisted of
6 sets of 6 repetitions of squats using 80% of 1-RM. The super slow
protocol consisted of 6 sets of 6 repetitions using 55% of 1-RM. The
maximal power protocol consisted of 6 sets of 6 repetitions using
30% of 1-RM. Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) measures were obtained
following each set using Borg's CR-10 scale. In addition, a session
RPE value was obtained 30 minutes following each exercise session.
When comparing average RPE and session RPE, no significant difference
was found. However, power training had significantly lower (p <
0.05) average and session RPE (4.50 ± 1.9 and 4.5 ±
2.1) compared to both super slow training (7.81 ± 1.75 and
7.43 ± 1.73) and traditional training (7.33 ± 1.52 and
7.13 ± 1.73). The results indicate that session RPE values
are not significantly different from the more traditional methods
of measuring RPE during exercise bouts. It does appear that the resistance
training mode that is used results in differences in perceived exertion
that does not relate directly to the loading that is used. Using session
RPE provides practitioners with the same information about perceived
exertion as the traditional RPE measures. Taking a single measure
following a training session would appear to be much easier than using
multiple measures of RPE throughout a resistance training workout.
However, practitioners should also be aware that the RPE does not
directly relate to the relative intensity used and appears to be dependent
on the mode of resistance exercise that is used.
WORDS: Weight lifting, non-traditional resistance training.
Resistance training plays a key role in conditioning athletes
for the specific strength and conditioning demands of different
sports. To date, traditional resistance training has become the
most widely accepted method for improving muscular strength and
power (Kraemer and Ratamess, 2004).
However, traditional resistance training is but one of several techniques
developed with the goal of increasing muscle mass, strength, agility,
and/or power. These non-traditional methods differ from the traditional
model in many ways, one of which being the different velocities
at which the non-traditional methods are performed. Examples of
these non-traditional methods involve manipulation of the exercise
speed including training at slow repetition speed and maximal repetition
speed. Until recently, few studies have compared these two types
of resistance training with the traditional method (Keogh et al.,
However, it is important for coaches, trainers, and even the athletes
themselves to know which technique is most effective in order to
design an appropriate resistance training program. A study by Keogh
et al., 1999
investigated different resistance training techniques in the bench
press. Alternative resistance training techniques such as heavy
eccentric exercise and functional isometrics appeared to work significantly
better than heavy weight training on a number of the variables including
power and force production. However, methods such as super slow
training and maximal power training had significantly lower levels
of force than heavy weight training.
A common method used to assess the intensity of exercise is the
rating of perceived exertion (RPE). This scale has been widely researched
for its use in both clinical and exercise settings (Borg, 1998; Noble and Robertson, 1996).
Since then the RPE scale has been validated and became a standard
method of measuring the level of intensity experienced during physical
activity (Noble and Robertson, 1996).
Recent studies by Gearhart et al. (2001;
and McGuigan et al., 2004
have yielded promising results to the scale's application of resistance
exercise. A number of studies (Day et al., 2004;
Foster, 1998; Foster et al., 1995; 1996;
McGuigan et al., 2004) have shown that a single session RPE rating may accurately
reflect the intensity of an exercise session. The previously mentioned
studies investigated the use of the scale with different exercises,
but did not address the scale's possible use with different resistance
training techniques of the same exercise.
Of interest is how the perception of effort relates to the relative
loading used for resistance exercises. Previous studies have demonstrated
a relationship between the intensity of exercise as expressed as
% of one repetition maximum (1-RM) and RPE (Gearhart et al., 2001; 2002;
McGuigan et al., 2004).
However, resistance exercise can include a myriad of variables such
as number of sets, number of repetitions, velocity of movement,
rest periods between sets, exercise type, equipment used etc. It
would be interesting to see how manipulation of some of these acute
variables would impact of perception of effort. It is well accepted
that to increase power and rate of force development that explosive
power training is the most effective method (Kraemer and Ratamess,
There is also a large body of literature showing the intensity of
exercise and adequate volume is required to maximize muscular strength
(Kraemer and Ratamess, 2004).
There is also research that demonstrates clear physiological differences
between high force and high power resistance training protocols,
with lactate responses with higher force training (Bush et al.,
However, there is no clear evidence that dramatically reducing the
velocity of exercises using methods such as super slow will have
significant benefits for strength and power (Hunter et al., 2003,
Keeler et al., 2001;
Neils et al., 2005).
Therefore, the purpose of this study was to compare three different
resistance training techniques in the squat exercise to examine
session RPE as a tool to quantify different techniques of the same
exercise. These techniques included traditional resistance training,
super slow, and maximal power training.
Experimental approach to the problem
This study used a randomized, crossover design, in which subjects
completed three experimental trials in randomized. Subjects were
tested at the same time of day during each of the experimental trials
with no less then 48 hours between trials.
The testing schedule consisted of one familiarization session during
which subjects provided informed consent to the protocol which had
been approved by the university Institutional Review Board, had
their height and weight measured, received instruction on the use
of CR-10 RPE scale and session RPE to rate perceived exertion, performed
a 1-RM test, and practiced the three types of training including
traditional, super slow and jump squats. The subsequent session
order was randomized for each subject and included one session of
heavy resistance training, one session of super slow training, and
one session of explosive resistance training. The heavy resistance
training session protocol consisted of six sets of six repetitions
using 80% of 1-RM. The super slow training protocol consisted of
six sets of six repetitions using 55% of 1-RM. The explosive resistance
training protocol consisted of six sets of six repetitions using
30% of 1-RM. These percentages were chosen based on previous recommendations
that have been provided for various training protocols (Kraemer
and Ratamess, 2004;
Neils et al., 2005).
Fourteen college-age women (Mean ± SD; age = 22 ±
3 years; height = 1.68 ± 0.07 m; weight = 65 ± 17
kg; squat 1-RM = 58 ± 16 kg; squat to bodyweight ratio =
0.85 ± 0.24) were recruited for this study. The subjects
were free from any skeletal, muscle, cardiovascular, or endocrine
limitations and were currently involved in a resistance-training
program (of at least two sessions per week) for a minimum of 3 months.
All subjects were familiar with the squat exercise and all reported
having previously performed the exercise as part of their training
All subjects received a standardized physical examination of height,
and body mass during the first phase of the study. During the duration
of the study, subjects were be told to refrain from exercise 48
hours prior to each testing session, to follow the same diet on
each day of each trial, and not to eat for at least 3-4 hours prior
to any given testing session. In addition, subjects were instructed
to abstain from alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for a minimum of
24 hours prior to any testing session.
Each subject was familiarized with the different training techniques
during the initial testing session. Multiple warm-up trials were
given prior to 1RM testing (% are given of subject estimated 1RM),
10 repetitions at 30% followed by 2 min rest, 7 repetitions at 50%
followed by 2 min rest, 4 repetitions at 70% followed by 3 min rest,
1 repetition at 90% followed by 3 min rest. From the last warm-up
set, loading was increased through subject feedback on level of
repetition intensity so that 1RM was achieved within 3 trials. Four
min of rest was given between each 1RM effort. For each repetition,
subjects were asked to lower the bar until their hips were parallel
to their knees and were advised that upon reaching the bottom of
the squat they should immediately move the bar upwards until the
start position was reached. The reliability of this method of 1RM
testing for the squat in our laboratory is high (ICC = 0.98).
The super slow method used 55% of 1-RM with 10 seconds for the eccentric
and 10 seconds for the concentric phase while attempting to maintain
constant velocity. A metronome was used to aid the subject in maintaining
the correct tempo. The maximal power training used 30% of 1-RM.
For the power method, subjects performed an explosive jump squat.
The traditional method used 80% of 1-RM. All resistance training
techniques was assessed using six sets of 6 repetitions for a total
of 36 repetitions for each of the protocols. Two minutes of rest
was allowed between each set. All testing was conducted using the
Rating of perceived exertion measures
During the familiarization session, each subject was given instructions
on the use of the RPE scale (Table
1). For assessing RPE during the exercise sessions, standard
instructions and anchoring procedures were explained during the
familiarization session (Borg, 1998;
Noble and Robertson, 1996). Subjects were asked to use any number on the
scale to rate their overall effort. A rating of 0 was to be associated
with no effort (rest) and a rating of 10 was considered to be maximal
effort and associated with the most stressful exercise ever performed.
During each of the three training sessions RPE measures were taken
after the completion of each set. Following each set during the
training the subject was asked "How would you rate your effort?"
The session RPE measure was used to rate the entire workout (Table
1). The subject was shown the scale 30 minutes following conclusion
of the training bout and asked, "How was your workout?"
Statistical significance was set at p < 0.05. Comparisons
among the groups were made using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA).
The Turkey post-hoc test was used to identify significant differences
in group means.
comparing average RPE and session RPE, no significant difference
was seen (Figure 1). Power
training had significantly lower average and session RPE (4.9 ±
1.9 and 4.50 ± 2.1) compared to both super slow training
(7.81 ± 1.75 and 7.43 ± 1.73) and traditional training
(7.33 ± 1.52 and 7.13 ± 1.73). Figure
2 shows the set by set growth of RPE during all three types
of lifts. The super slow and traditional exercise bouts clearly
required near maximal exertion by the last set.
purpose of this study was to compare three different resistance
training techniques (traditional, super slow and power) in the squat
exercise. We found the super slow and traditional resistance training
methods were perceived as being significantly harder than the maximal
power method. There was no significant difference between the mean
RPE measures taken following each set and the session RPE for each
There are several possible reasons to explain why super slow and
traditional training were perceived to be more difficult compared
to the maximal power method. Firstly a greater volume of work was
performed during the super slow and traditional training compared
to the maximal power method. A previous study by Kraemer et al.
showed that increased training volume did not necessarily relate
to increases in RPE and factors such as absolute load and rest periods
between sets were more important factors. Another possibility is
the issue of fatigue. Since the super slow and traditional methods
took longer to complete one set it is possible that subjects were
more fatigued than with the maximal power training. Both traditional
and ballistic squats allow some contribution via SSC to the movement.
That could contribute to why super slow training seems harder in
addition to the other areas mentioned. It should also be noted that
the exercises were performed on a Smith Machine which would remove
the balance factors associated with free weight exercises.
The loading for both the super slow and traditional training was
far greater then the maximal power method. It has been previously
demonstrated that when muscles are under heavy loads there is greater
tension development which requires an increase in motor unit recruitment
and firing frequency (Gearhart et al., 2001;
Noble and Robertson, 1996).
With greater motor unit recruitment, the motor cortex may send stronger
signals to the sensory cortex, which may increase perceived effort
(Gearhart et al., 2002).
Since the super slow and traditional loads were heavier loads (55%
and 80% of 1-RM, respectively) it is likely that this may partially
explain the significant difference in perceived effort.
finding that subjects perceived the super slow session (55%1RM)
to be as difficult as traditional session (80%1RM) is an interesting
one. By decreasing the speed at which a person lifts weights, it
has been proposed that less friction is placed on joints and the
time under tension is longer in the muscle, therefore producing
greater benefits compared to traditional resistance training (Hutchins,
However there is only limited research on super slow training and
very little evidence for the superiority of this method over traditional
resistance exercise (Hunter et al., 2003;
Keeler et al., 2001;
Neils et al., 2005).
A previous study by Keogh et al., 1999
used similar loading with the bench press exercise. Findings by
Keogh et al., 1999
indicated non-traditional resistance training techniques appeared
to work significantly better than heavy weight training on a number
of the variables including power and force production. . In that
study, the time under tension in the super slow exercise was clearly
greater than the other methods involved (such as functional isometrics
and heavy weight training). The loading used for the super slow
session required the subjects to lift 55% of their 1RM for six repetitions,
which is similar to what has been used in previous studies (Neils
et al., 2005).
The lifting speed was closely monitored by the researchers and a
metronome was used to monitor the lifting speed. Once the loading
was increased past 55%, difficulty in lifting was experienced which
limited how much loading could be placed on the body. Although the
time under tension appeared to be greater with the super slow protocol
it is very likely that the neurological mechanisms are different
to the heavier loads used with the traditional heavier protocol
with regards to motor unit recruitment. For example data from Bush
et al. (1999) demonstrated that there is increased lactate per set
with loads of at least 80%1-RM and this may have been a factor given
the high volume of sets used in the present study (6 sets).
It is important to note that there appears to be an apparent disconnect
between the perception of effort and the actual load being used
in the super slow method. There needs to be a reduction in loading
to make it possible to complete the required number of repetitions.
Although this results in greater time under tension with lighter
loads due to asynchronous motor unit recruitment, the subjects appeared
to perceive this type of loading to be as difficult as the heavier
traditional training. This may have also been exacerbated in the
subjects in this study, who although they had 3 months of resistance
exercise experience, did not report having used super slow methods
previously. As there are no randomized controlled trials demonstrating
strength and power benefits for super slow training, the efficacy
of this type of training needs to be questioned. This highlights
the need for practitioners to be aware of the limitations of relying
solely of a subject's perception of effort to assess the effectiveness
of a training intervention.
It is possible that the relatively short duty cycle in the power
exercises, with at least a small unloaded time during the flight
phase of the jumps led to improved blood flow, and contributed to
the lower perceived exertion. We (Foster 1999),
have previously demonstrated that several markers of fatigue, including
muscle oxygen saturation and blood lactate accumulation, are greater
during speed skating in the circumstances were higher muscle forces
and a long duty cycle contribute to reductions in muscle blood flow.
It is probable that with all three protocols the muscle forces were
high enough to limit muscle blood flow. However, with the pattern
of exercise in the super slow and power exercise, it seems reasonable
to speculate that the relatively longer and shorter periods of increased
muscle tension, respectively, may have contributed to the increased
sensation of effort.
In the present study, RPE values for each set were taken in addition
to the session rating. The main purpose of taking the RPE values
following each set, in addition to comparing average and session
RPE, was to further familiarize the subjects with rating their perceived
effort on the RPE scale. We believed this would increase the accuracy
of the session RPE value. We did not find any significant difference
between the session RPE and the average RPE values. The lack of
significant difference between the RPE measures and the session
RPE confirm findings from previous studies (Day et al., 2004;
McGuigan et al., 2004;
Sweet et al., 2004).
Additionally, Foster et al., 2001,
who examined session RPE as a tool for quantifying aerobic exercise,
found high correlation between the average RPE and session RPE values
using regression analysis. This provides further evidence that session
RPE is a valid tool across a variety of modes of training. Lastly,
Eston et al., 2006
have recently demonstrated that the growth of RPE during the course
of fatiguing exercise appears to follow scalar properties, with
a predictable RPE at various percentages of the relative maximal
effort. This relationship is apparently stable even when the performance
ability is experimentally manipulated by a preceding exercise bout.
Thus, RPE in its various manifestations may provide a remarkably
accurate, if simple, window into the metabolic disturbances associated
with different types of exercise.
appears that the resistance training mode that is used results in
differences in perceived exertion that does not relate directly to
the loading that is used. Using session RPE provides practitioners
with the same information about perceived exertion as the traditional
RPE measures. Taking a single measure following a training session
would appear to be much easier than using multiple measures of RPE
throughout a resistance training workout. However, practitioners should
also be aware that the RPE does not directly relate to the relative
intensity used and appears to be dependent on the mode of resistance
exercise that is used.
wish to thank the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Undergraduate
Research Committee for their financial support.
present study showed that session RPE values are not significantly
different from the more traditional methods of measuring RPE during
training had significantly lower average and session RPE compared
to both super slow training and traditional training
does appear that the resistance training mode that is used results
in differences in perceived exertion that does not relate directly
to the loading that is used.
Alison D. EGAN
Employment: Graduate assistant, Department of Health and
Exercise Science, University of Oklahoma, USA.
Jason B. WINCHESTER
Employment: Graduate assistant in the Exercise Biochemistry
Lab in the department of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University,
Research interests: Strength, power, and speed production;
resistance exercise; muscle physiology; methodology for testing
power production; stretching and performance.
Employment: Professor in the Department of Exercise and
Sport Science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, USA.
Research interests: Clinical physiology, high performance
physiology, exercise physiology.
Employment: Lecturer, School of Exercise, Biomedical and
Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Australia.
Research interests: Resistance training physiology, monitoring