I've learnt the RPE scale based on reps-in-reserve (e.g. 8 = 2 reps left, 9 = 1 rep left, 10 = max).

If someone were to ask you for an RPE for a timed exercise, such as holding a plank for 1-minute, how would you determine your exertion level?


Three options come to my mind:

The simplest - and probably least helpful - variant would be to just use a normalized Borg scale, which is basically the origin of the RPE tables for strength training. However, terms like 'moderate' 'hard', 'very very hard' are pretty vague and the 1:1 mapping onto strength excercises seem a bit off. At least I wouldn't describe any RPE 7 sets that I do as 'very hard'

I heard from a lot of people that use bar velocity as a gauge for RPE instead of the 'RPE 8 == two reps left in the tank', as described here, for example. The blog post talks about gauging RPE for the big lifts. But personally, I found the velocity cue very useful for high-rep bodyweight excercises like timed pushups or burpees. It obviously doesn't work for planks (although I could imagine you could utilize the amount of muscle tremor as a cue for establishing RPE).

Finally, something untested, but it might be worth a try. Use your normal RPE table, but read the percentages as '% of time until muscle failure' instead of reading them as '% of 1RM':

  • Take a strength-specific RPE-Table like this one and just look at the first column: enter image description here

    taken from http://dimeperformance.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Table-2.jpg

  • Do a set of planks until failure (let's hope you're not that guy), take note of the time. This is your 100%, or RPE10 time

  • A few days after, do a set of planks for 91% of the time you did before, take note how it feels, how much your muscles tremble etc... Now you know what RPE 8 feels like.
  • continue doing this for other RPEs.
  • Eight hours and fifteen minutes?!
    – C. Lange
    Mar 9 '20 at 15:12

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