Work distribution influences session ratings of perceived exertion response during resistance exercise matched for total volume.J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jul; 28(7):2042-6.JS
Session ratings of perceived exertion (SRPE) are sensitive to changes in total work volume and work rate during resistance training. This study examined the influence of work distribution (varied load, set, and repetitions [reps]) on SRPE in 2 resistance exercise trials matched for total work volume (sets × reps × percentage of 1 repetition maximum [% 1RM]) and work rate (total work volume/time). Participants completed a low load/high rep (LLHR) trial (2 sets × 12 reps × 3-minute recovery at ∼60% 1RM) and a high load/low rep (HLLR) trial (3 sets × 6 reps × 1.5-minute recovery at ∼80% 1RM) of the bench press, lat pull-down, overhead press, upright row, triceps extension, and biceps curl. A 2-minute recovery separated each exercise in both trials. Session ratings of perceived exertion and recovery heart rate (HR) were recorded 20 minutes after exercise. Preset and postset RPE and HR were higher for HLLR vs. LLHR (3.1 ± 1.6; 104 ± 15 b·min-1 vs. 2.1 ± 1.3; 98 ± 10 b·min-1) and (5.5 ± 0.9; 139 ± 14 b·min-1 vs. 4.4 ± 0.9; 131 ± 12 b·min-1), respectively. Session RPE was higher for HLLR (5.7 ± 1.4) vs. LLHR (4.3 ± 1.4) with no difference in recovery HR. Session ratings of perceived exertion was greater with higher load despite matched total volumes and work rates. Higher preset acute RPE and HR in HLLR may indicate differences in recovery between sets. Higher postset acute RPE and HR in HLLR indicated increased difficulty of individual sets in HLLR, which likely contributed to SRPE differences. Practitioners can be confident that SRPE accurately reflects changes in training load when the number of sets, reps, and loads are altered within routine training.