Ratings of Perceived Exertion During Acute Resistance Exercise Performed at Imposed and Self-Selected Loads in Recreationally Trained Women

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Cotter, JA, Garver, MJ, Dinyer, TK, Fairman, CM, and Focht, BC. Ratings of perceived exertion during acute resistance exercise performed at imposed and self-selected loads in recreationally trained women. J Strength Cond Res 31(8): 2313–2318, 2017—Resistance exercise (RE) is commonly used to elicit skeletal muscle adaptation. Relative intensity of a training load links closely with the outcomes of regular RE. This study examined the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) responses to acute bouts of RE using imposed (40% and 70% of 1 repetition maximum [1RM]) and self-selected (SS) loads in recreationally trained women. Twenty physically active women (23.15 ± 2.92 years), who reported regular RE training of at least 3 weekly sessions for the past year, volunteered to participate. During the initial visit, participants completed 1RM testing on 4 exercises in the following order: leg extension, chest press, leg curl, and lat pull-down. On subsequent visits, the same exercises were completed at the SS or imposed loads. The RPE was assessed after the completion of each set of exercises during the 3 RE conditions using the Borg-15 category scale. Self-selected loads corresponded to an average of approximately 57%1RM (±7.62). Overall, RPE increased with load (40%1RM = 11.26 [±1.95]; SS 57%1RM = 13.94 [±1.58]; and, 70%1RM = 15.52 [±2.05]). Reflecting the linear pattern found between load and perceived effort, the present data provide evidence that RPE levels less than 15 likely equate to loads which are not consistent with contemporary American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines for enhancing musculoskeletal health which includes strength and hypertrophy. Women desiring increases in strength and lean mass likely need to train at an exertion level at or surpassing a rating of 15 on the Borg-15 category. This article examined the modification of training load on perceived exertion, but other variables, such as the number of repetitions completed, may also be targeted to achieve a desired RPE. The primary understanding is that women who engage in RE may not self-select loads that are consistent with the ACSM recommendations for musculoskeletal health.

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