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J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Jun;32(6):1627-1636. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002032.

Rating of Perceived Exertion as a Method of Volume Autoregulation Within a Periodized Program.

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Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand.
School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Sciences, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia.
Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Muscle Physiology Laboratory, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida.


Helms, ER, Cross, MR, Brown, SR, Storey, A, Cronin, J, and Zourdos, MC. Rating of perceived exertion as a method of volume autoregulation within a periodized program. J Strength Cond Res 32(6): 1627-1636, 2018-The purpose of this investigation was to observe how a rating of perceived exertion (RPE)-based autoregulation strategy impacted volume performed by powerlifters. Twelve (26 ± 7 years, n = 9 men, n = 3 women) nationally qualified powerlifters performed the back squat, bench press, and deadlift 3x per week on nonconsecutive days in a session order of hypertrophy, power, and then strength; for 3 weeks. Each session subjects performed an initial top set for a prescribed number of repetitions at a target RPE. A second top set was performed if the RPE score was too low, then subsequent back-off sets at a reduced load were performed for the same number of repetitions. When the prescribed RPE was reached or exceeded, sets stopped; known as an "RPE stop." The percentage load reduction for back-off sets changed weekly: there were 2, 4, or 6% RPE stop reductions from the top set. The order in which RPE stop weeks were performed was counterbalanced among subjects. Weekly combined relative volume load (squat + bench press + deadlift), expressed as sets x repetitions x percentage 1-repetition maximum was different between weeks (p < 0.001): 2% = 74.6 ± 22.3; 4% = 88.4 ± 23.8; 6% = 114.4 ± 33.4. Combined weekly bench press volume (hypertrophy + power + strength) was significantly higher in accordance with load reduction magnitude (2% > 4% > 6%; p ≤ 0.05), combined squat volume was greater in 6 vs. 2% (p ≤ 0.05), and combined deadlift volume was greater in 6 vs. 2% and 4% (p ≤ 0.05). Therefore, it does seem that volume can be effectively autoregulated using RPE stops as a method to dictate number of sets performed.

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