In this post I want to tell you about what is RPE and how it can be used in training.

There have been few modified versions of RPE scales but in this post, we will focus on the original 15-point Borg RPE scale.

Ok, so what is RPE?

It stands for Rating of Perceived Exertion and is subjective feel of how hard your body is working. It is based on the physical sensations a person experiences during physical activity, including increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue.

Original Borg RPE (introduced by Gunnar Borg) scale is a 15-point scale to measure physical activity intensity levels.

The numbers in the scale are from 6 to 20 and I will show a table later in the article to explain in more detail how can you describe your exertion with those numbers.

The reason why it starts with 6 is because it is designed to give you approximate estimate of actual heart rate during activity.

Therefore, it is mainly used in aerobic training (low to moderate intensity activity such as walking, running, rowing, cycling etc.).

To find out your HR you need to multiply your RPE by 10. For example, if you rate your RPE at 12 that should indicate the HR of 120 BPM. Of course, this is only approximate reading and many factors such as age or fitness level could have impact on the actual HR reading. But researches show, that in healthy people Borg scale can give good estimate to describe activity intensity.

The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion is also the preferred method to assess intensity among those individuals who take medications that affect heart rate or pulse.

As you exercise you can rate your perceived exertion using several anchors. These include a rating of 6 perceiving “no exertion at all” to 20 perceiving a “maximal exertion” of effort

It is important to remember that there is a slight difference between the 15-point Borg scale and other modified RPE scales with ratings 0-10. To get a better understanding of the difference between the two I will explain and show the aforementioned table below:

  • The original Borg scale has a range from 6 to 20 (with 6 being no exertion at all, and 20 being maximum effort). This scale correlates with a feeling of how hard a person is working and can be used to estimate heart rate.
  • The modified RPE scale has a range from 0 to 10 (with 0 being no exertion and 10 being maximum effort). This scale corresponds just to the feeling of how hard a person is working.

Comparison of two before mentioned RPE scales: Borg 15-point and modified 10-point.

In the next post I will explain in more detail why the other RPE scales with a range from 0-10 have been designed, why they are better for resistance training and how they can be used together with a RIR (Reps In Reserve) method.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!