Session-RPE is an easy and effective method of monitoring training load

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When it comes to preparing athletes for competition, the effective monitoring of training load is the one of the most important factors in assisting the coach’s efforts to make improvements. One method that has been widely used is session-RPE (session-rating of perceived exertion) which is the subjective monitoring of the load placed on an athlete. It is calculated by multiplying the session intensity by the duration to provide a measure of load in arbitrary units. The importance of assessing training is summed up by George Beckham who stated that two of the most important questions that a coach should be asking about his or her players are:


“how are they handling the training loads”

and

“are they ready to perform?”

It’s not enough to simply throw training at athletes and assume they will/can handle it. The training loads that we, as coaches, can give to an athlete have to adhere to the Goldilocks principle: training loads have to be high enough to elicit adaptation, but not so high they result in overtraining

Athlete responses

Having established the need for monitoring, the desire is to find a system that can monitor the combination of volume of training and intensity, along with calculating how well athletes will recover. In light of this requirement, Session RPE has been recognized as an excellent method of calculating training load. Session-RPE requires the athlete to provide responses after undertaking exercise along with details of training duration. It is often measured on a 0-10 scale with an athlete giving an evaluation on their training exercise ranging from 1 (very, very easy), to 7 (very hard) up to 10 (maximal).

 

Studies highlight values of session-RPE

The resulting data allows the coach to calculate the training load by multiplying training intensity and duration and the value of this approach has been verified through a number of studies in a variety of sports. One such study, carried out by Wallace, Slattery and Coutts, entitled ‘The ecological validity and application of the session-RPE method for quantifying training loads in swimming highlights the value of this approach.

The study analysed 12 well trained swimmers where training load was then calculated for each session using the session-RPE, HR-based methods, and session distance. They concluded that:

The results of this study suggest that session-RPE may provide a practical, non-invasive method for quantifying internal TL in competitive swimmers

It was a similar outcome when the method was used by Carlo Minganti,Laura Capranica, and Romain Meeusen in ‘The use of session-RPE method for quantifying training load in diving. Six elite divers were monitored during six training sessions within a week and the findings pointed to the fact that session-RPE is useful for monitoring internal training load in divers. These findings were backed up by further research entitled ‘Use of RPE-Based Training Load in Soccer’ by Franco M IMpellizzeri, Ermanno Rampinini, Aaron J Coutts, Aldo Sassi and Samuele M Marcora  where 19 young soccer players were analysed. The researches came to the following conclusion.

The results of this study show that the session-RPE can be considered a good indicator of global internal load of soccer training. This method does not require particular expensive equipment and can be very useful and practical for coaches and athletic trainer to monitor and control internal load, and to design periodization strategies

Value of monitoring

One of the real values in the session-RPE method is the subjective input from the athlete and this is a point argued by George Beckham.

Session RPE is a good way to assess the difficulty of a session for a given athlete, because it is a representation of how difficult the session was in the absolute sense, filtered through the perception of the athlete. It’s also a pretty accurate representation of actual work done and the physiological/psychological stress experienced during a training session. The athlete’s perception is really important here – if the athlete is exhausted, an easy session might have a very high RPE, whereas if the athlete was feeling great, that same session might have a lower RPE

Many Benefits of Session-RPE

In practical terms, the benefits of using session-RPE to monitor training load are many.

For example, it allows a coach to monitor training loads compared to intended loads, making it a simple way to check the implementation of training as planned. Also by monitoring daily training loads, this method can help reduce training monotony and assist in preventing over-training and illness.
It assists in detecting athletes who are not coping with training, and helps ensure that athletes returning from injury are not progressed too quickly. Session-RPE can also be used in monitoring the loads of different groups within a team. The value of the session-RPE method is summed up by Aaron Coutts, Lee Wallace and Katie Slattery in ‘Monitoring Training load’, when they state:

“Training load can be monitored in many different ways, however, we recommend the session-RPE method for quantifying training load because it is simple to use, easy to understand and relatively easy to implement. From a sports science perspective, a valid and reliable record of training load allows the effectiveness of different training to be assessed. It can be used to ensure that both sufficient training loads are implemented and that excessive loads are not. Finally, over time and with some practice, accurate monitoring of training load will enable the coach to better understand the best training methods for individual athletes. Ultimately, this may lead to improved performance in competition”.

Metrifit provides a simple and effective method for athletes to record their session-RPE as part of its complete athlete monitoring package.

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References

The Use of Session-RPE Method for Quantifying Training Load in Diving by Carlo Minganti, Laura Capranica, Romain Meeusen, Maria Francesca Piacentini

Quantify your workouts with session-RPE by George Beckham

Use of RPE-Based Training Load in Soccer by Franco M. Impellizzeri, Ermanno Rampinini, Aaron J. Coutts, Aldo Sassi and Samuele M. Marcora

The Ecological Validity and Application of the SessionRPE Method for Quantifying Training Loads in Swimming by Aaron James Coutts