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How to Use Reps in Reserve (RIR) to Avoid Injuries and Overtraining

Last week we talked about how to use the RPE (rating of perceived exertion) scale for strength training. It is used to rate how difficult a lift felt by the last rep. Below is a recap of that scale.

10: At your max, no reps left in the tank

9.5: Could not do more reps, but could do slightly more weight

9: One rep in the tank, but it’s a grind

8.5: Could definitely do one more rep, and maybe two

8: Challenging, but two reps left

7: Three reps left in the tank, a weight to move with a power focus

6: Four reps in the tank, a weight that can move quickly

5: A weight for warm-up

4 & below: Very light weight that can be used for mobility/recovery/etc.

a performance physical therapist works with an adult male on a calf exercise for rehabilitation of pain and return to the gym.

Once you know about RPE, it is important to learn about RIR as well. RIR stands for reps in reserve. RIR was created by Mike Tuchscherer for use with powerlifting. RIR is similar to RPE because it is also used to measure the intensity of a lift by describing how many more reps you believe you could do before failure.

I like to think about RIR working inversely with RPE.

At a 10 RPE, you have 0 reps in reserve

At a 9 RPE, you have 1 rep in reserve

At an 8 RPE, you have 2 reps in reserve

At a 7 RPE, you have 3 reps in reserve

At a 6 RPE, you have 4 reps in reserve

And so on…although at or below a 5 RPE it can be difficult to tell exactly how many you have left in the tank.

One of the big benefits from incorporating reps in reserve in your strength training is that it can help you avoid overuse injuries from overtraining. Constantly training at a 10 RPE/0 RIR can set you up to develop injuries. Plus, as we looked at in a blog post a few weeks ago, you don't need to train at max effort to get great results in the gym.

Similarly to RPE, it is best to use RIR after you have some experience weight lifting. It is still a subjective measurement of how difficult a lift felt.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about RIR/RPE, or the world of rehab and performance physical therapy. My passion is helping folks stay in the gym so they can continue lifting and meet their performance goals. If you need a little guidance to get out of pain and get back to the activities you love, click here to schedule a free discovery call.

Take care,

Dr. Sieara



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