You’re missing out on a boat-load of info first if you’ve skipped the last 3 articles in this series, so I’d recommend to start at part 1 and work up to this article;

Part 1 | The Principle of Overload – HERE.

Part 2 | Muscle Gaining Targets – HERE.

Part 3 | How Much to Grow? РHERE.

So this Part 4 instalment is going to dive into another aspect of training that I rarely see done right for your Typical Guy/Girl that want’s to build muscle.

It’s all well and good Knowing that you need to Produce Overload to progress,

It’s cool knowing how much Muscle you can expect to gain as the Months go on (If you’re doing this right),

To Train mostly the compound movements followed by accessory and isolation work (More on this later in this article series) to get in More Volume to grow.

But going back to Part 3 of this series and Volume, let’s say you’re starting at 10-12 sets per Muscle Per Week group for Week 1 of your new training block,

How HARD do you work for those sets?

Do you do ‘easy sets’ and bang out the reps you’re programmed to do with a weight that’s not that challenging?

Do you go until you can’t do anymore?

Etc. etc. – you get the idea, how do you know how hard to work?

And that’s exactly what this article will dive into without being so technical that you can’t understand it, well I hope so anyways, so lets’ dive in ūüėČ


Again if you’re weight training under a year or so, anything you do will produce overload to progress. Coming to the gym week after week and just doing more (if that’s weight and/or more sets or reps) you’ll progress.

And even if you’re 3-4 years weight training, the first question I always aim to find out is, what did that training look like? But that’s a whole other topic that we won’t get into.

What I’m getting at is this, in terms of the bigger picture – are you Progressing Overall?

Are you lifting more weight than you did 2-3 Months ago?

Are you able to lift that weight for more reps than you did 2-3 Months ago?

Are you Progressing?

Because even if you’re not working at a range we’ll say ‘hard’ enough to get the maximum from all this, if you’re progressing at least – you’re on a winner.

But if you want to really maximise things (More Strength, More Muscle), read on.


Before we go any further, you better understand what I mean by ‘pushing hard’.

The technical term for it is Intensity, and no, by Intensity I don’t mean it’s the high intensity Glute pump workout you see on Instagram every day¬†🙈,

By Intensity, I mean the ‘weight’ you use.

(Jason breathing Deep before some high rep Squats)

You don’t need to get hung up on this too much right now but let’s say you can Squat 100kilos for 1 Rep with good quality form (Your 1 Rep Max).

You probably could just about get another rep, but your form would probably be shit or you might fail that rep too so,

That would be 100% of your 1 Rep Max.

If you want to work at 70% of your 1 rep max for Squats, that means you’d be training with a load of 70kilos, make sense?

But, what if I say to you, that you need to do 3×8 this week on Squats, then 3×8 for walking Lunges?

If I don’t give you a rough idea of a percentage to work at (we don’t really bother with this at Doc Fitness BTW) – how do you know what weight to use then?

And because we’re not Powerlifters or Weight lifters, this is where we use the R.P.E scale…


RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion, and I’ve got this straight from Mike Tuchscherer’s book. (1)

It’s used mainly for Powerlifters & Bodybuilders to get the most from their training Intensity based on how they’re feeling, but we still use it with most of our Clients to Judge ‘how hard’ a typical set ‘is’ out of 10.

So essentially, what would you rate a ‘set’ out of 10.

The higher the number, the harder the set.

And the beauty of this too is that, it bases your training ‘Intensity’ (I.E: Weight you use) based on your condition (how you’re feeling) that day.

If you feel like 💩, you’ll know how to tweak the weight or reps that day based off this RPE thing. More on that in a minute.

Anyhow, before I blab on any further, here’s what the RPE scale looks like – we put this nice one together for our clients here at Doc Fitness;


Now here’s the thing, unless you’re super interested in this stuff and experienced (2) – you’re probably not going to be ‘really’ working according to the RPE scale, accurately anyways.

What I mean by this, is;

  • You’re not a powerlifter.
  • You’re here probably to shift some weight, feel better & build some muscle (tone up)
  • You just want to progress in the gym and get Stronger,
  • So again, remember the fundamental goal here – are you Progressing overall?

This is just a chance for you to ‘get more’ from your training so don’t get hung up on it too much, remember the context with all this stuff, because way too many people get hung up on this when you don’t need to.

So another way to look at it, is ‘Reps left in the tank’ ~ for example, 3×8 at an RPE of 7-8 on the Squat for example could mean, you’ve 2-3 quality reps left in your tank.

Meaning you did your 8 reps, but definitely could have got 2 or even 3 more reps.

Then you can tweak it up or down based on how the set went,

If you only got 6 reps at an RPE of 8, the weight is too heavy, but if you got 12 reps at an RPE of 8, the weight is too light Рso hopefully that makes sense, if not, re-read over that again. 

The idea here is that you’re taking away what I mean by ‘reps in the tank’ so here’s a simple graphic to drive it home, I hope.

And yep, that’s all the depth I’m going to go into on this right now, if you want to look into it more, I’ll have some references at the end from Guys like Mike mentioned above, Bryce Lewis & The 3DMJ Guys that explain it a lot better than me. (3,4)

Plus, I came across this graphic too lately which shows you that based off Emoji’s from the Guys over at


In Part 4 of this Series, I’ll tie this all together so it makes sense even more, but at least you now know that if you see a program that calls for some range of sets and reps (I.E: 3×8, 5×8, 3×12 etc.)

If you’re working in around an RPE of 7-8 and some weeks 9, you’re doing mighty.

Now that you’re aware of this, it’s just a STARTING POINT, like this whole series. It’s just a starting place for you to progress from, start implementing and learning as you go.

Start factoring an RPE of 7-8 into your training for a few weeks & see how it goes,

Only add weight to your exercise once you’re happy you hit your sets and reps for your RPE targets,

For example if this week you did 3×8 at 70kilo squats at an RPE of roughly 7,

Next week you could aim to add 2.5-5kilos but still have it that you won’t go over an RPE of 8.

Now, that’s enough for one Article – thanks for reading this far and if you’ve any questions – the best place to get me is on Instagram Direct Messanger here:¬†


Keep up to date with Weekly Videos, Blogs, Upcoming Coaching Programs & whatever random thoughts I might have that week for Progressing you forward ūüôā¬†


1: Tuchscherer, M. (2008) The Reactive Training Manual: Developing your own custom training program for Powerlifting. Reactive Training Systems,

2: Zourdos, M. et. al. (2016) Novel Resistance Training-Specific Rating of Perceived Exertion Scale Measuring Repetitions in Reserve. Journal of strength and conditioning research 30: 267-275, 2016.

3: Lewis, B. Website – The Strength Athlete,

4: 3D Muscle Journey Website – Drug Free Bodybuilding & Powerlifting,