What the heck is RPE?!

In a recent post, I spoke of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  It’s basically a method to help you gauge how intense your workout is or should be.  It assists the lifter by helping him/her determine what weight or degree of intensity should be attempted in a given workout; much like a percentage based program.  This method of gauging a workout is far different from a typical percentage based program, though.  To understand how it differs, one must know exactly what a percentage based program is and how it differs from using RPE to gauge your training intensity.

Your typical percentage based program can be found anywhere on the web.  The web is chock full of them.  Simply go to Google and type in “powerlifting peaking spreadsheet”.  The results will return a mind numbing amount of programs that will supposedly increase whatever lift you are focusing on as long as you stick to the prescribed amount of weight that fills in the spreadsheet rows.  What makes it percentage based is the fact that they use percentages of your 1 RM for a given lift. Well, I’m here to tell you that most of those programs are a waste of time.  Every time that I have attempted a percentage based program, I get injured.  Now, I know of guys that have yielded great results from a percentage based program, but I am not one of those guys.  Most people get injured or excel in their training only to bomb out at the meet.  The reasoning behind this is because these programs are written and tweaked for one particular individual.  Most of these particular individuals will get popular in the sport of powerlifting and then someone will post their routine online, hoping to make a buck.  After that, numerous people attempt the routine.  Some actually succeed with the routine, mostly geared individuals, but the majority fail.  A successful routine or peaking cycle must revolve around the athlete, not the assumption that they will be able to lift with the intensity level of the elite lifter in which the percentage program was originally designed for.  I have used a percentage based program, with great success, but it was provided by a professional lifting coach and was tweaked as we went along.

So, how is a person supposed to be 100% sure they are training with enough intensity if not chained down by a percentage based program?  The answer is insanely simple.  Train instinctively by listening to your body.  Since I have started training this way, I have been injury free and the gains are steady.  Slow, but steady.  To gauge the intensity of my workouts, I use RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion).  RPE can be applied to all types of exercise, but I use it for my powerlifting movements (squat, bench press, & deadlift).  With all of my other exercises, I use different methods to gauge my intensity. Below are some charts that describe exactly what a RPE chart looks like for general fitness and weightlifting:

        GENERAL FITNESS                                                                WEIGHTLIFTING


After viewing these two charts, I hope you see what I mean by gauging intensity.  RPE can be used with cardio, weightlifting, powerlifting, or whatever!  To get to a point in which you are using an RPE scale to gauge your workouts, you have to start keeping a log; if you don’t already. If you don’t have a log, even without using RPE, you will not progress much in your training.  When I first began recording RPEs, I wrote down the applicable number from the weightlifting chart above after my last set of a lift.  For example, I did squats with 315 lbs. for 3 reps on my last set.  I wrote “@9” next to that entry in my workout log.  This meant that I had one more rep left in the tank.  Had I not had one rep left, I would’ve written “@10” next to the entry.  Make sense?  I sure hope so because this is extremely straightforward compared to most of the other articles you will read on the internet that concern this topic.  Most of the articles require the reader to have a Masters in Science in order to understand all of the material contained in the article. There is no reason a simple explanation can’t be give, and a quick one at that!

To learn more, check out the RTS method of training.  RPE is just a small part of this awesome method; a method I feel everyone can benefit and see steady gains from.


Intensity Cycle Begins!

This morning’s workout was the beginning of an intensity cycle for my training partner and I. We have a powerlifting competition scheduled for October and need to step it up a bit in our training. Since February, we’ve been following the RTS method of training and have been receiving great results. While we will continue to use this method of training, our intensity training cycles will be a bit longer than the normal 3 week cycle and our volume cycles will be less than normal 3 week cycle. How much longer or shorter? We don’t even know. We are instinctively training, so things change with the wind. This will continue up to about four weeks from the meet; then we may do some type of percentage based peaking cycle.

Today was a heavy squat, dead lift accessory, and random movement day. Below is the flow of events.

Exercise: Weights x Reps x Sets

Started with a fully body Warm-up and hopped on the elliptical machine for 10 minutes.  Then hit:

LB (low bar) Squats: Bar x 7 x 1, 135 x 5 x 1, 185 x 3 x 1, 225 x 3 x 1, 275 x 3 x 1, 295 x 2 x 1,315 x 2 x 1, 345 x 1 x 1 (85 % of 1 RM) @ 9 RPE

Note: RPE means Rate of Perceived Exertion. Basically, it’s a numerical value to gauge how many more reps you have left in the tank on a given set of reps. At my last rep, I felt I was at a 9 RPE. This means I feel I had 1 more rep in me before failure. This equated to 85% of my 1 rep max of 402 lbs. on the squat.

Deficit Deadlifts (off a 45 lb. plate): 135 x 6 x 1, 225 x 5 x 5

Note: Performed these with the “touch and go” method. Normally, I completely rest the weight on the floor before lifting. With the “touch and go” method, I pull the weight back up as soon as the plates hit the ground.

Lying machine leg curls: 40 x 12 x 1, 45 x 10 x 1, BURN 45-30-15

Note: We always do a bodybuilding movement for lagging leg muscles at the end of this workout. I really want more of a defined look in my quads, so I tend to hit these pretty hard.  The BURN on the last set consists of a drop set in which I drop the weight after performing as many reps as I can with the recorded amount of weight, starting with 45 lbs. Why lift heavy if your legs don’t look the part?

I was very pleased with our performance, today, and can’t wait to see how many PRs we hit before we even step on the platform. I plan to write more about the RTS method of training since I have seen such great results in strength and overall body composition from following
it’s guidelines.

Tomorrow, we destroy the upper body!


MB Slingshot Review

Recently, I gave the MB Slingshot a try.  A co-worker of mine had purchased one and, after witnessing him instantly add a good bit of weight to his bench his first time using it, I had to see what this thing was all about.  I borrowed it from him and incorporated in into my bench press, the very next day.  My training partner tried it, too.  If you don’t know what the MB Slingshot is, it’s really a huge band that you put your arms through for use with the bench press.


We did a few normal warm-up sets and then decided to do all of our working sets with the Slingshot.  Immediately, we added more weight than usual.  Why?  Because the weights we normally lifted felt a lot lighter with the Slingshot.  See, the Slingshot works by assisting you at the bottom of the lift.  It basically slingshots the bar back up!  Also, I had no shoulder pain throughout my entire workout.  I normally suffer from pain in my right shoulder when a certain amount of weight is added to the bar.  This fact, in itself, made me want to purchase one.

Now, some would ask “why the need for such a training tool?”  The simple answer is overloading.  After reading more about the Slingshot, I learned that it’s best used at the end of a bench session.  Say you do 3 to 4 working sets.  After those sets, throw some more weight on the bar and slide on the Slingshot.  Then, knock out 3 more sets.  This method of overload training will eventually train your CNS to handle the heavier load.  In time, weight that could only be lifted with assistance from the Slingshot will no longer require use of it.  What do you do at this point?  Keep adding weight!

Upon returning the Slingshot to my co-worker, I felt the immediate need to purchase one.  There is no way
that this tool is a gimmick.  They have a few options available, which can be researched at http://www.howmuchyabench.net, and each is worth the money.

Note:  I am not funded by, sponsored by, or even know anyone from MB Slingshot.  I just feel it’s worth a solid review from an amateur powerlifter in hopes that it benefits others.

Saturday Upper Body Session

After my dog woke me up at the crack of dawn, I decided to head to the gym for an upper body session.  This vacation week has forced me to work out on a Saturday, which is something I rarely do.  I like to take the weekends off and chill.  Saturday workouts are fun, though, because you encounter a different crowd than the usual.  Luckily, I didn’t have to wait on any equipment.

After I performed a full body stretch session, which lasted about 10 minutes, I initiated the following assault:

Exercise: Weight x Reps x Sets

Hammer Strength shoulder press: 35 x 15 x 1, 80 x 8 x 1

Note: Weights listed are per arm.

Db shrugs: 60 x 15 x 1, 65 x 12 x 1, 70 x 10 x 1, 75 x 8 x 1

Note: Performed these slow with a stretch at the bottom and a squeeze at the top of the movement.

Hammer Strength chest press: 45 x 12 x 3 (single armed), 45 x 12 x 1 (both arms)

Note: Performed first 3 sets angled at 45 degrees.  This carves some serious striations into the inner chest.

Snapshot 1 (5-30-2015 3-54 PM)

Db flyes: 20 x 12 x 4

Note: Stretched at the bottom of the movement and squeezed my chest together at the top.

Wide grip lat pull-down: 80 x 15 x 1, 90 x 10 x 1, 120 x 8 x 1

Wide grip cable row: 110 x 12 x 3, 110 x 10 x 1

Super set-

Db pull-overs: 50 x 12 x 3

Reverse rear delt flyes: 30 x 12 x 1 (cable), 15 x 12 x 2 (db)

Super set-

Reverse EZ bar curls: 40 x 12 x 2, 50 x 8 x 1, BURNOUT

Dips: Bodyweight x 12 x 3, Bodyweight x 10 x 1

Note: The BURNOUT consists of AMRAP with the current weight, dropping the weight after each point of failure until only lifting the bar.

This was an awesome workout and one I will definitely do, again.  I don’t really ever perform the same workouts, but this one had me feeling a serious pump.

Tomorrow, I rest!





Friday Deadlifts and Squats

I normally wait about four days before hitting squats or dead lifts, in the same week, but this post-vacation week has forced me to hit them after only resting two days.  With that being said, I kept the volume up and the weight low.  Here’s how it all went down:

Started with some full body stretching before getting on an elliptical machine for 10 minutes.

After that, I got to work.

Exercise: weight x reps x sets

Sumo deadlifts:  135 x 5 x 1, 185 x 5 x 5

Worked on my form and speed.

Low-bar squats:  135 x 10 x 5

Mixed paused reps with speed sets. Thought I was going to die.

Lying machine leg curls: 45 x 10 x 2, 50 x 12 x 2

Worked towards hypertrophy on that last exercise (said like Bradd Pitt in “Inglorious Bastards”.

After all of this non-sense, my legs were TOASTED!

Tomorrow, I attack Upper Body (again).



3 Year Anniversary Beach Trip!

To celebrate our 3 year anniversary, my wife and I decided to take a trip to the beach.  What followed was 5 days of awesomeness and relaxation.

The day we arrived, we were there hours before our hotel room was ready, so we decided to hang out at a notorious beach spot appropriately named “The Hangout”.


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After a few hours of hanging out on the beach, we decided to try our hands at a little scooter adventure.  The cost to rent one was $30 an hour, and turned out to be the best $30 I can recall ever paying.  We explored the coast line and the local national park, all in an hour.  The scooter topped out at about 35 mph, so it was a pretty safe ride.


The next morning, we decided to start the day by visiting the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, FL.  Since it was Memorial Day weekend, the place was packed.  This, however, had no negative impact on the experience.  The place was slam full of airplanes and authentic war time memorabilia, making it a truly awesome experience for a vet like me.  The volunteers that worked there were extremely knowledgeable and very friendly.  God only knows the horrors they’ve experienced for all of us to roam this nation as a free people.

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After leaving the museum, we headed to the resort.  We stayed at the lovely Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, AL.  If ever in Orange Beach, please make sure to stay a night or two at the Perdido.  It’s totally worth it.  During our stay, we experienced as much as we possibly could.  The beach was absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect, though it did get a bit windy the last two days of our stay.

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A pine cone on the beach with no pine tree for miles.  Mind blown, to say the least.

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Though most don’t enter a gym on their vacation, going at least once makes my vacations even better.  That is, if the gym is an option.  The gym at the Perdido is well equipped and has a very nice view of the beach!









I had to take a picture, which serves no justice, of this truly majestic boat that was docked next to the outdoor restaurant we dined at one night.  I don’t know who owned it, but their bar tab that night was definitely not an issue for them!


Our trip lasted only a few short days, but we made memories that will last a lifetime.  I took the pictures below, as I sat by the pool for the last time, to look at on days I’m feeling brain dead from work.  Can’t wait to return!

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