What is your Bench? Who cares? What is your Deadlift? Who cares? What is your Squat, your Military Press, your Curl? Who cares? Who Cares? Who Cares? Your raw score don’t mean dick. Your gains are the only thing that matter and your gains come from when you exert your body properly. If you do it with a 5-pound weight or a 500-pound weight, the point is the same: totally break yourself down. Don’t worry about the numbers. They will grow, I promise. You keep track if you enjoy that kind of thing. I do. However, do not focus on them. What you are going to focus on is your Rate of Perceived Exertion or RPE.

RPE requires a few tricky things. First, you have to be honest with yourself. Are you really totally out of gas or are you just tired. Where are you in your lifts? Being honest with oneself is a lesson that the iron will teach you and the sooner you learn it the better. Second, you need to drop your ego. Guy next to you moving some huge weight and looks cool? Not your problem. Your focus is inward. You aren’t working on his gains you are working on yours. Finally, you need real focus. You need to put your full attention and concentration into every lift. Your mind-muscle connection has to become so solid that every single time you move your body an inch you have total focus on every muscle, both major and supporting, that is moving, how it is moving and the exertion you are putting out for each one.

So how does RPE work?

RPE is the subjective scale on how much energy you feel you have exerted and it works on a scale of 1-10. 10 RPE means you could not, under any circumstances, do another lift in the set. Zero. You got nothing left. If you tried, you would drop the weight. So if you are doing 3×20 and the very last lift of the very last set was absolutely all you had left it would be 3×20 @10 RPE. RPE measurement will be the last lift (or only lift if you are going for a 1RM). If you feel you MIGHT have another lift but you honestly are not sure then it is 3×20 @ 9.5 RPE. If you think you absolutely had one more in the tank then it is 3×20 @9 RPE. If you might have had 2 in the tank but aren’t sure 8.5 RPE. Absolutely could have hit two more 8 RPE and so on and so forth.

Mark all your lifts down with the RPE you hit and change your weights accordingly. If you are supposed to hit a 9 RPE and you only hit a 7 RPE add weight. This takes some trial and error, but you will absolutely get the hang of it so long as you PAY ATTENTION.

RPE is going to be far more important than the actual weight on the bar.