How do I know what weight to choose if it’s not prescribed or based off the percentage of my 1 Rep Max?
As part of the Performance programme we will not always prescribe loads, because your ability to execute a specific load will depend on many factors and can vary day-to-day. What we want to allow is the opportunity for you to build your intuition around your capacity in real-time, and learn how to make an educated approach to loading based on past work as well as how you’re feeling each day. This may take some time to fine-tune, but here is some guidance on how to approach loading:
First, if there is a rep range such as 8-10 per set, try to hit the top end of the rep range with great form holding strict to the tempo if given. If you accomplish this, try moving up a bit in weight on the next set or the next time the movement appears.
Generally as reps decrease throughout your working sets you will want to increase the load. Similarly, from week to week, as similar movement patterns show up and repetitions decrease, these are opportunities to increase the load in a somewhat linear fashion. How much load you can increase will vary from person to person, but the goal with weekly progressions of similar patterns is to allow you a chance to progress in load and movement quality.
Finally, remember that even with bodyweight or a small load, holding to strict tempo and activating the correct muscles will provide a fantastic stimulus with a good amount of time under tension – it’s better to be conservative and prioritise the quality of movement rather than overload and have your form suffer.
Within conditioning sets, you will develop a feel over time based on the intent of the piece, the duration, and other factors. When in doubt, use lighter weight until you are confident your movement quality can be sustained throughout every set.
What about RPE?
Sometimes you see us prescribe loading using the RPE scale. For exmaple:
Bench Press; @20X1; 5 reps @ RPE7 x5; Rest 2:00
RPE stands for rate of perceived exertion, or "how hard was it out of 10?". An RPE7 in this context is effectively a 7 out of 10 effort on each set.
Another way to think about this is with reps in reserve. If an RPE10 or 10/10 effort would mean working to failure or no reps in reserve then and RPE9 would infer having one rep in reserve at the end of the set and so on. With this kind of prescription you're unlikely to see anything less than an RPE6 prescribed as its pretty hard to judge with any accuracy when you've got more than 4-5 reps left in reserve at the end of a set.