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This program uses both percentage-based and RPE-based methods for determining what weights you should use, which will ultimately determine your level of effort.


Loads for primary movements (squat, bench press, deadlift) are determined based on a percentage of your one rep max (1RM) for that exercise. The main advantage of using a %1RM approach is that week to week progression is ensured in an objective manner. Nothing is left up to how you’re feeling that day – there is a set weight prescribed in the program, and it’s your responsibility to hit it. This level of precision and structure is good for certain movements because it allows for complete accountability.


Of course, to use a %1RM approach, you must know (or at least have a rough idea of) what your one-rep max is for that exercise. If you do not know your 1RM, it may be tempting to simply test your 1RM – lift as heavy as possible with good form for one repetition. Although this is a seemingly simple solution, testing one rep maxes can be unnecessarily risky, and there are at least two better options to give you a ballpark estimate of this number.



• Warm up by pyramiding up in weight, using an estimated 1RM
• Bar x 15, 50% x 8, 60% x 4, 70% x 3, 80% x 2, 85% x 1
• Do a set of as many reps as possible with 90 percent of your estimated 1RM using a spotter for safety
• Alternatively, you can pick a weight you think you can do about 3-5 reps with, and do as many reps as possible using a spotter for safety
• Plug the results of the AMRAP test into this 1RM calculator to determine your new working 1RM:

Note: If you do the AMRAP tests before beginning the program, do them on its own day and then rest for at least two days before beginning Week 1, Day 1.


In contrast to the objective nature of the %1RM-based method, the scientific literature tends to use two subjective scales for calculating effort: rate of perceived exertion (RPE) and reps in reserve (RIR). This program uses RPE to gauge effort for all secondary and tertiary exercises.

The RPE scale is ranked from 1-10, with 1 implying nearly no effort was used, and 10 implying maximal effort was achieved (training to failure) [34]. I think this can be more easily imagined as RPE9 meaning work at about 90 percent of your maximal effort, RPE8 being about 80 percent of maximal effort, etc.

Another way to think about RPE is as the inverse of “reps in reserve” (RIR). RIR is a scale that attempts to gauge how many additional reps you would be able to complete after ending the set [35]. While research has shown that RIR is not very accurate for newer lifters [36], I think it is a good tool to understand at this point in your training career. So, to clarify, an RPE of nine would mean you had one rep left in reserve. An RPE of eight would mean you had two reps in reverse, etc.

In the program, the last set RPE column (LSRPE) is left blank for you to fill in. The idea here is to reflect on your last set and ask yourself how many more reps you think you could have gotten. It is a useful way to account for how hard you’re working on the final set and how well it matches the target RPE.