Understanding RPE and It’s Relation to Exercise Intensity

Apr 12, 2023Jordan Lindstrom

Are you working hard enough? Are you overtraining? And what does the "right amount of effort" truly entail?

Sure, you can use a heart rate monitor to measure your heart rate while working out. Still, tracking your heart rate alone isn't enough to tell you whether you are working too hard or not working hard enough.


… because your heart rate can vary based on factors such as;

  • Menstrual cycle
  • Stress levels
  • Presence of substances such as alcohol or caffeine in your body

That's where the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) comes in.

The findings of a study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience suggests monitoring your RPE can help you optimize your training intensity, enabling you to achieve your workout or overcome training plateaus.

What is RPE?

Perceived exertion refers to the intensity of an exercise, with a score based on how difficult a specific workout feels when you’re performing it.

RPE doesn’t measure how difficult an exercise is; it’s a subjective score based on how YOU feel physically and mentally.

RPE uses a score of 1 to 10, where 10 is the most difficult and 10 is the least difficult. The scale allows you to monitor your training intensity without needing a fitness tracker.

If you’re new to RPE, settling on a particular score can be challenging if you don’t know how your body and mind feel when you max out your effort.

You can better assess your effort level and body capabilities using an RPE scale as you continue to train.

Besides, what your body and mind perceive as easy will vary as you build strength and fitness. 

Why Should You Use RPE?

RPE enables you to exercise to a particular intensity to achieve the goals of a specific routine.

In addition, RPE allows you to adjust your workout intensity depending on how your body is feeling. That way, you can tweak your exercises based on your current physical or mental state, helping you reduce injury risk.

For instance, because of energy, hormones, or changes in life, the number of jump rope skips for a maximum calorie burnout might vary from session to session, and that’s okay. You don’t have to do 800 skips every day to optimize your workout.

On the days you’re in the best mental and physical state, using RPE can help you maximize your workout, ensuring you’re pushing your body hard enough to achieve your goals.

How to Measure RPE

You can determine your RPE by picking a rating between 1 and 10 based on the following factors:

  • Increased breathing rate
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Muscle fatigue

An RPE of 1 is equivalent to “just above rest” with barely any exertion. A 10 RPE, on the other hand, is a “maximal effort.”

What Affects Your RPE?

Your RPE measurement is subject to your current mental and physical status. This means the rating can change based on different external factors, including whether you’re stressed, your meal for the day, or had enough sleep.

If you’re fasting, stressed or dehydrated, you might struggle to achieve the same RPE with a lower intensity than if you drank several glasses of water or had a pre-workout meal.

Assessing your workout based on the effort required to achieve your goals can be helpful when you’ve hit plateaus.

Jumping Rope With RPE

To incorporate RPE into your rope jumping routine, it is essential to start with a proper warm-up.

A warm-up consisting of 5 to 10 minutes of light jumping can prepare your body for the more intense exercise to come. It can also help prevent injury and improve overall performance according to Mayoclinic.

After warming up, gradually increase your intensity level by jumping faster or incorporating more complex jumping techniques. However, it is important to pay attention to how your body feels and not push yourself too hard too quickly.

The goal is to reach a level of intensity that feels challenging but sustainable, around a 5 or 6 on the RPE scale.

Once you have reached a comfortable level of intensity, aim to maintain this level for 20 to 30 minutes. Taking breaks as needed and listening to your body is important. If you feel fatigued or overly exerted, take a short break or decrease the intensity level until you feel ready to continue.

As you progress in your rope jumping routine, you can increase the duration and intensity of your sessions to continue challenging yourself.

For example, you can try jumping for longer periods, incorporating more complex jumps or double unders, or increasing the speed of your jumps. Always pay attention to your RPE levels and adjust your intensity accordingly.

RPE for Cardio and HIIT

You can measure your RPE during HIIT workout or cardio by assessing how difficult or easy it is to talk during exercise.

You can converse easily at light exertion. It becomes increasingly difficult to talk as the intensity increases until you can’t talk.

Still, you don’t have to push your body to the maximum to see results. Instead, you can benefit by using varying intensities throughout your training week.

As a beginner, you’ll want to maintain lower intensities as you build a fitness foundation. Low-intensity cardio is best done with light to medium effort, where the RPE is a 3.

As your fitness improves, you can try HIIT cardio with an RPE of 8.

Final Thoughts

Irrespective of your training style, it’d be best to workout at various intensities to prevent and overcome workout plateaus and maximize the results for your regimen.

Leveraging your RPE allows you to modify your exercises in a way that enables you to achieve the optimal intensity level during every session according to Strengthening and Conditioning Journal research

As you continue using RPE, you’ll better understand your body and how different intensities feel.

Do you incorporate RPE in your workout? How does it help you achieve your goals? Feel free to leave a comment below.


  • SMM

    First time trying this and it seems interesting as seeing what effects me and my intensity

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