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Research Quest on testing muscle capacity

Research Quest on testing muscle capacity
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Here is an interesting new theory on increasing muscle strength that was only created in 2016.

Instead of training with a percentage of your 1 rep max, there’s some evidence that using an RIR-based RPE scale might be superior.

What is an RIR-based RPE scale?

RIR stands for “repetitions in reserve” and RPE stands for rate of perceived exhaustion.

The idea is that due to differences in genetics and training background, the amount of reps at a specific one rep max percentage can vary greatly between individuals (Richens and Cleather, 2014).

So if I can do 5 reps at 70% of the weight of my heaviest squat, you might be able to do 10 reps at 70% of the weight of your heaviest squat.

You might think that as a practitioner, you’re prescribing an individualized program by using a percentage of their 1 rep max but you still might be under-loading or overloading your athlete.

So how do we improve this?

Researchers then suggested that we ask each athlete how hard was that set so that we can get an RPE rating out of 10 to help figure out if the intensity was too high, too low, or just right (Goldilocks would approve).

Yet there was another problem. We’re terrible at estimating how hard or how easy something is.

Three studies (Shimano et a., 2006; Pritchett et al., 2009; Hackett et al., 2012) found that when participants exercised until they could not do another single rep and went to muscular failure, they would rate the exercise anywhere between 6.8 - 9 out of 10.

There’s still too much individual difference for us to feel confident that our prescriptions are specific and accurate.

In comes a researcher named Zourdos, who in 2016 proposed that athletes are quite adept at their ability to gauge how many more times they would be able to lift a weight, or basically, how many repetitions that had in reserve.

In 2016, Helms and colleagues found that it was more accurate than a traditional 0-10 RPE scale for assessing intensity.

In 2017, Hackett and colleagues found that both men and women were able to determine how many times they would be able to lift a certain weight within an accuracy of 1 rep.

Should we be using RIR-based RPE scales rather than 1 Rep Max percentages?

My answer is no.

If you’re trying to regain strength in an injured athlete, I would suggest using all 3 methods. Assign according to their 1RM, then get their RPE out of 10 as well as how many more reps they think they have in store.

Top 10 Research Quests from Research Raconteur

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