15-Week Peak Program Using RPE

TAGS: RIR, RPE training, tony montgomery, RPE, programming, peaking, powerlifting, training

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By now, many of you are familiar with the term RPE for powerlifting. It originally started out as a measure of fatigue in a running environment from a scale of 6 to 20 by Borg. Now it is condensed to a scale of 1 to 10.

From a powerlifting perspective, I like to teach people that RPE runs synonymous with reps in reserve (RIR). They both can guide how many reps you have left before you hit a failure point, so if the set calls for five to six reps at an RPE of eight, that means you will stop two reps shy of failure.


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The reason I prefer RPE is that it allows you to learn your body on a daily level so that you can adequately build and work on the intent of the day. A huge downfall of percentages is that it’s based on 100 percent of your absolute best lift, so every day you come into the gym, you need to be at 100 percent for the desired percentage to be accurate, and nobody comes into the gym peaked at 100 percent, especially toward the middle or end of any training cycle. So if you’re never at 100 percent in the gym, you clearly can’t lift with percents based on that. This may also ruin the intent for the day.

Let’s say your objective for that training day is speed work at 65 percent, but your 65 percent feels like 80 percent, and your speed work looks more like a heavy triple than an actual fast bar movement. Lifters who are zealots about percents will stay the course, and the bar will get slower and slower each set instead of listening to their body and backing off that day to get actual speed work in.

If you’re a smart lifter who did your first set, and it felt heavier, you would know to back down. That may be a sign to deload in the next week or so. You can learn so much by listening to your body and adjusting each day because let’s face it, every day will present a new obstacle to overcome and to be able to continually progress you have to know the dynamics of your body inside and out.

The intent of every session is to never miss a weight now that will take time and a lot of practice and a lot less ego lifting, but by implementing RPE to match your percent and to work on never missing reps, it will take your strength and longevity in this sport through the roof.

Here are some great articles that dive deeper into the basis and reliability of RPE/RIR-type training. This is a program, so I don’t want to bore you too much with the science. Just give them a read some time to get a full understanding.

To download the program as a PDF, click here.

Click images to view at full size.

Week 1 

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Week 2 

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Week 3

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Week 4

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Week 5

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Week 6

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Week 7

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Week 8

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Week 9

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Week 10

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Week 11

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Week 12

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Week 13

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Week 14

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Week 15

tm 15 week prep rpe 15

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