For many trainers, a big task for new clients with weight loss goals is to promote more activity to expend more energy. Training a client for 2 or 3 hours a week and not holding them accountable to complete homework just isn’t going to cut it if we’re trying to promote long term weight management.
The Rating of Perceived Exertion on a scale of 1 to 10 is, in my opinion, the best way to get clients to understand their bodies and to progress their cardio-respiratory levels to full capability.
Here’s the programming I use:
When dealing with a vast array of clients, it’s difficult to come across a program that you can plug them all into. Heart rate monitoring can be ineffective due to the equipment needed and can be rendered inaccurate by some medications. If you allow clients to develop a sense of intensity, however, then you can use it as a marker for progression and give the client ownership of the program.
Editors Note: Learn about rest-based training here:
The RPE scale starts by developing an aerobic base that’s critical for sedentary individuals. The first stage can be done with no assessments, where you’re having the client strive for the ability to sustain 30 minutes of an intensity of 3 or 4, about like walking your dog.
After your client can establish this 30-minute bout without rising over an intensity of 3 or 4, then they’ve completed the aerobic-base training and can proceed into the weekly progressive RPE Point System Program.
A general guideline for this program is to make sure you progress by no more than 10% on a weekly basis to mitigate the chance of injury. But before beginning the RPE program, I recommend you perform the Ventilatory Threshold to establish your clients VT1. Finding the VT1 threshold will serve as metabolic marker to make sure you’re training in the proper intensity.
There are four stages of progression and the ventilator thresholds should be reassessed periodically to stay current with the client’s current physical capability. The stages go in order –
- aerobic-base training
- aerobic efficiency training
- anaerobic-endurance training
- anaerobic power training
You should reconnect with the client periodically to make sure you’re guiding the program towards the client’s goals as they increase their capabilities.
Phase 2 will be the introduction of intervals going from an RPE of 3 or 4 and increasing the intensity levels to reach an RPE of 5 or 6. This will also be the point at which the client will be able to use fat as fuel and to provide variety to the program.
When you implement intervals you can progress from using a work to rest ratio of 1:3 to an advanced ratio of 1:1. This is what a week could look like using the RPE program as well as using frequency, intensity, and a point system:
|Frequency x Duration x Intensity (RPE)|
|Frequency||Duration||Intensity (RPE) Ratio 1:3||Total points|
|Week 1 goal:||3||x20||x5||=300|
This week shows that your client has progressed enough in phase 2 to add in intervals. We can see that the ratio is 1:3 work-to-recovery (hard-to-easy). For this week the goal was to reach 300 points with only a guideline to follow, and the following week the duration will be increased by a maximum of 10%.
The client can make the program his or her own and is more likely to find exercise enjoyable. To take the enjoyment level a step further you could even have the client set a playlist for 20 minutes where you’d instruct them to increase the intensity level every time they heard the chorus of the song and maintain that intensity until the chorus is over.
Phase 2 is where most clients with weight loss goals will stay for many years, unless they decide that they would like to pursue endurance-performance goals and are committed to 7 or more hours a week, at which point they can progress into phase 3. Only highly fit and competitive clients with specific goals will reach phase 4, but these phases are another article altogether.
The Rate of Perceived Exertion Point System Program is a great way to give the client easily attainable goals that they can accomplish on a weekly basis. With it you’re able to instill regular aerobic endurance, which is the greatest success in long-term weight loss for overweight individuals.
Combining this program with two days of resistance training will allow the client to reach their weekly required energy expenditure of at least 2000 calories and set them up for long-term success.