“If you are new to strength training, it will take a little bit of time to figure out your baseline,” Arrington tells mbg. “If you’re comfortable with the movement pattern, figure out your RPE (rate of perceived exertion). On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being maximum effort, it’s a subjective measure of how hard the exercise is,” she explains.
Arrington recommends working in the medium-high repetition ranges as a beginner to help master the technique and form. “Generally speaking, two to three sets of the exercise should be a solid start. If we used a medium-high range of 12 to 15 reps, aim for your RPE to be six to eight. There’s no need to hit 10s,” she says.
When strength training, Arrington says to frequently check in with your body and make sure your form is strong. “How do you know if your form is solid? If you feel the energy in the muscles intended without adverse sensation and manipulation from other body parts,” she says. For example, if you’re doing a squat, you should feel the tension in your glutes, not your back.
As for choosing the right weights, the last two reps should feel extra challenging, but not so much that your form falters. If you crank through all your reps with ease, it may be time to try slightly heavier weights.
Ultimately, it’s about tuning in to your own body to know when it’s time to level-up your intensity: “There are principles but no rules when it comes to strength training.”