How to find your projected topset using RPE

One of the most asked questions around the RTS forums is how do I determine my topset if I’m using RPE? It’s true that when we use RPE we’re autoregulating so we don’t know 100% what weights we’ll be hitting but we can extrapolate our topset from last week’s performance so that we’ll at least have a plan going into the workout.

RPE Chart
Source: http://reactivetrainingsystems.com

Let’s use a hypothetical situation as an example. Last week Joe squatted 500×5 @9. This week he’s slated to work up to a triple @9. This is what Joe should do to find his projected topset:

  1. Find x5 @9 on his RPE Chart¹. According to that chart, x5 @9 correlates to 77%
  2. Divide his topset by that percentage: 500/.77 = 650. This is his e1RM from last week.
  3. Find this week’s prescription on the RPE Chart. x3 @9 = 85%.
  4. Multiply last week’s e1RM by this percentage: 650*.85 = 550. His projected topset will be 550×3 @9

So Joe’s projected topset will be 550×3 @9. But how does he know if he’ll be able to hit that topset? This is supposed to be autoregulated! What Joe should do is two work-up sets at -10% and -5% from his projected topset². These sets will allow him to “calibrate” his topset for the day. So it’ll look similar to this:

495×3 @7
520×3 @8
550×3 @9

Using these calibration sets, by the time he does 520×3 he should know whether or not 550×3 @9 is in the cards for that day. Maybe 520×3 is more like an 8.5. He can subtract some weight from the topset. Or maybe 520×3 is a 9. He can stop there for the day. Maybe he’s having a really good day and 520×3 is more like a 7.5 and he should aim for 560 or 565.

This approach works really well to hone in on your topset. It also adds some extra volume that you might not have otherwise done. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you should try and hit the projected topset or to add weight to it. Keep in mind the initial projected topset should be considered your “maintenance” weight as it’s calculated off of last week’s e1RM, ie. your e1RM won’t change if you only hit the projected topset.

Now, if you’re new to an RPE based program and don’t have date with which to extrapolate, I’d suggest you work up in a similar way with moderate jumps until you hit your prescribed RPE.

Notes:

  1. For best results you should customize your RPE Chart

  2. I picked this up from Mike T.

Autoregulating the Texas Method Part 1: The Basics

This is the first article in a series on Autoregulating the Texas Method.
Click Here for Part 2: Fatigue Management
Click Here for Part 3: Template and Exercise Selection
Click Here for Part 4: Periodization and Final Thoughts

The Texas Method is a popular program for intermediate trainees. The typical setup involves a 5×5 volume day on monday and a heavy set of 5 on Friday. There are a multitude of modifications that can and are made to this program. Many are detailed in Justin Lascek’s ebooks as well as the latest edition of Practical Programming by Mark Rippetoe and Andy Baker. There isn’t much, however, on how to adapt this program for autoregulation. While I’ve written about this in the past I thought I’d give my current thoughts on how to approach this.

Why Autoregulate?

Autoregulation adapts the programming based on the level of fatigue (among other factors) the lifter has on a given day. One of the biggest difficulties in utilizing the TM, in my opinion, is how to progress the volume day. Many lifters develop a natural sense of when to increase the volume vs the intensity weight. Others find it more difficult to know when to change it.

Using autoregulation, specifically the RTS-style developed by Mike Tuchscherer, we can adapt the Texas Method and listen to our body systematically rather than increasing based on rules of thumb.

Example Template

Monday

Squat w/ Belt x5 @8, repeat 4-6%
Bench (touch and go) x5 @8, repeat 4-6%
2″ Deficit Deadlifts x5 @8, repeat 4-6%

Wednesday

2ct Pause Squat x4 @9 4-6%
2ct Pause Bench x4 @9 4-6%

Friday

Squat w/ Belt x3 @7 x3 @8 x3 @9 4-6%
Competition Bench x3 @7 x3 @8 x3 @9 4-6%
Deadlift w/ Belt x3 @7 x3 @8 x3 @9 4-6%

Commentary

For those unfamiliar with notation and terminology used above I would recommend you check out the resources on the Reactive Training Systems website. On Monday we’re using repeats to get some volume at lower intensity. This will be similar to the training effect already utilized by the Texas Method. I utilized 4-6% fatigue (Medium) as a baseline but it’s conceivable that some weeks you should push the repeat set up to a 10. For those unadapted to deadlifting multiple times per week you could start out with working up to a topset @9 with no dropset or you could sub in some kind of row.

Wednesday involves some pause work although there’s no reason you couldn’t include other variations. Friday has you work up in triples with the intent of doing a pyramid of @7, @8, and @9. Those first two sets will tell you whether you should go for a PR or not. You should err on this side of going for that PR. However, if the first two sets are more like @8 and @9 you should stop there.

Who would benefit from this?

The limitation of this program is obviously it was developed for a generic lifter. It will need to be customized for each individuals scenario. Conceivably, someone who is already using the TM with success and wants to begin autoregulating their training could use something like this to do so.

Disclaimer

I have not tested this variant on anyone. It is my personal opinion on how to work autoregulation into the TM. If you wish to try it I’d be happy to hear from you. If you would like to discuss how you might adapt this to your current state of development I’d be happy to discuss it with you.

The Difference Between Linear Progression and Linear Periodization

There seems to be some confusion when it comes to the difference between linear progression and linear periodization. Perhaps this is me just being pedantic but this is how I see the two:

Linear progression refers to the routine adding of weight to the bar on some sort of repeating interval (daily, weekly, monthly). This happens a lot in beginner programs like starting strength, 5×5, etc.

Linear Periodization is a planned linear inverse relationship between volume and intensity. For instance, at the beginning of a macrocycle you start out doing sets of 8 and near the end you’re doing singles. The weight has gone up and the volume has gone down.

Clearly these two concepts are not mutually exclusive. With linear periodization you will probably have some sort of linear progression. Intensity is going to go up ergo weight goes on the bar. However, linear progression does not imply linear periodization. If you linearly progress a 5×5 program you’re adding weight to a topset or sets across, therefore intensity AND volume are increasing.