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For example;

  • Paused Bench -- 3 sets, 4 reps @ 8 RPE.

My interpretation: perform paused bench press for 3 sets of 4 repetitions at a weight in which you could do two more reps.

However, am I just supposed to guess what weight to start at?

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I would say that it's basically saying "4 reps at your 6 rep max weight". You should have enough experience to know what that is if you're moving on to an RPE training program. Because you're probably not your strongest every training day, you probably want to aim for a weight that you can do 2-4 reps. So start with your 6 rep max and drop it a little for some safety, or start at 6 rep max and if it ends up being RPE 9/10 then drop for the remaining (The downside of the last approach is you may exhaust too much energy and be forced to drop too low).

If it started with weight instead of reps, then that's easy. Just lift until it feels like there's 2 reps left.

  • So, in the same vein of thought, if the weight was too easy (say a 7 RPE) you would increase the weight, right? I'm used to your second method: e.g. load up 165 lb bench and rep to an 8 RPE. – C. Lange Feb 6 at 16:21
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    @C.Lange Yeah. If they feel really light on the first set then you can up the weight in the following sets to maintain RPE. – DeeV Feb 6 at 19:09
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As mentioned by @DeeV, 4 reps at an 8 RPE is essentially your 6 RM. Using this idea, we can take a look at the table "Estimated Reps at Percent of 1 Repetition Maximum" to get a good starting point. This table states that an estimate for the true 6 RM is between 82 - 85% of the 1 RM.

Estimated Reps at Percent of 1 Repetition Maximum"


Another resource from Reactive Training Systems is the following chart:

RPE to Percentage Table

The numbers seem to generally line up when you take the RPE level into consideration. The article itself provides a process for creating your own unique RPE table based on your 1 RM, 4 RM, and 8 RM lifts.

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