One of the most asked questions around the RTS forums is how do I determine my topset if I’m using RPE? It’s true that when we use RPE we’re autoregulating so we don’t know 100% what weights we’ll be hitting but we can extrapolate our topset from last week’s performance so that we’ll at least have a plan going into the workout.
Let’s use a hypothetical situation as an example. Last week Joe squatted 500×5 @9. This week he’s slated to work up to a triple @9. This is what Joe should do to find his projected topset:
- Find x5 @9 on his RPE Chart¹. According to that chart, x5 @9 correlates to 77%
- Divide his topset by that percentage: 500/.77 = 650. This is his e1RM from last week.
- Find this week’s prescription on the RPE Chart. x3 @9 = 85%.
- Multiply last week’s e1RM by this percentage: 650*.85 = 550. His projected topset will be 550×3 @9
So Joe’s projected topset will be 550×3 @9. But how does he know if he’ll be able to hit that topset? This is supposed to be autoregulated! What Joe should do is two work-up sets at -10% and -5% from his projected topset². These sets will allow him to “calibrate” his topset for the day. So it’ll look similar to this:
Using these calibration sets, by the time he does 520×3 he should know whether or not 550×3 @9 is in the cards for that day. Maybe 520×3 is more like an 8.5. He can subtract some weight from the topset. Or maybe 520×3 is a 9. He can stop there for the day. Maybe he’s having a really good day and 520×3 is more like a 7.5 and he should aim for 560 or 565.
This approach works really well to hone in on your topset. It also adds some extra volume that you might not have otherwise done. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you should try and hit the projected topset or to add weight to it. Keep in mind the initial projected topset should be considered your “maintenance” weight as it’s calculated off of last week’s e1RM, ie. your e1RM won’t change if you only hit the projected topset.
Now, if you’re new to an RPE based program and don’t have date with which to extrapolate, I’d suggest you work up in a similar way with moderate jumps until you hit your prescribed RPE.
For best results you should customize your RPE Chart
I picked this up from Mike T.