Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

“No pain, no gain.” That’s an interesting and scary phrase, isn’t it?


One thing that I love about group fitness is the social and community aspect of working out. When you show up to boot camp, you can share your day, goals, successes, challenges and more with your coach and the guys and gals next to you. It’s also common to be motivated to push and challenge yourself without a conversation. You know the feeling. When you’re on the verge of quitting or letting up because it hurts, but then you muster up whatever you’ve got left to glance over and see your co-worker breathing just as heavy and grimacing, which makes you decide that you’re in it together and you’ve got more reps in you to finish the set. It’s basically healthy peer pressure motivating you to keep working.


But even if you close your eyes during your favorite (haha), painful exercises, it’s important to rate and be aware of how hard you’re working. It’s important to measure your progress. For instance, maybe you were spent after 5 burpees, but at the end of boot camp you’re able to knock out 15 with energy to spare. One way to gauge the intensity of your workouts (without a heart rate monitor) is a rating system called the Rated Perceived Exertion scale. It’s also known as the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion, which includes a scale of 0-20. That may be too many numbers to think about while you’re working out or in recovery mode, so many fitness organizations have dwindled it down to a more manageable, 0-10 scale. The Cleveland Clinic’s handout makes it very simple, see here.


Shape Magazine gives us a little more structure below:

RPE 1–2: Very easy; you can converse with no effort

RPE 3: Easy; you can converse with almost no effort

RPE 4: Moderately easy; you can converse comfortably with little effort

RPE 5: Moderate; conversation requires some effort

RPE 6: Moderately hard; conversation requires quite a bit of effort

RPE 7: Difficult; conversation requires a lot of effort

RPE 8: Very difficult; conversation requires maximum effort

RPE 9–10: Peak effort; no-talking zone


Another source, VeryWell Fit, shares, “In general, for most workouts, you want to be at around Level 5-6. If you’re doing interval training, you want your recovery to be around a 4-5 and your intensity blasts to be at around 8-9. Working at a level 10 isn’t recommended for most workouts. For longer, slower workouts, keep your PE at Level 5 or lower.”


Our challenge for you over the next 7 weeks is to use this scale to rate your workouts. Start off with rating the first week’s fitness test, so that you can compare it to the re-test in week 7. Feel free to rate workouts weekly make sure that you’re not taking it too easy on yourself, but at the same time, not compromising your form and going to hard.



By Victoria Emmitt RD

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