The Borg Scale Rating of Perceived Exertion was developed by Dr. Gunnar Borg in 1982 as a system for athletes and exercisers to subjectively rate their exertion during exercise or physical activity. Originally a scale from 6-20, the scale was reworked in 2010 to a 0-10 scale, with 0 being a resting state and 10 being a maximum effort. Below is a brief description on how the scale and ratings should be used.
- 0: This is a complete resting state with no activity.
- 1: Really easy. This is similar to a walking pace or slower. Low intensity and super light weight. Little to no exertion.
- 2: This is low intensity, sustainable pace activity. Light loads.
- 3: This is about a 50% effort. There is some exertion, but the pace or intensity is manageable. Loads are manageable.
- 4: Sort of hard. This is about 60% effort. The pace and intensity is still manageable, but more taxing. Loads are manageable demanding on CNS (central nervous system).
- 5-6: This is about 65-75% effort. The pace and intensity is difficult to maintain. Pacing and work-to-rest ratio is key. Loads are somewhat heavy but still manageable.
- 7-8: Really hard. This is about 75-85% effort. The pace and intensity is going to be really difficult to sustain. There will be resting in longer workouts. Work-to-rest ratios will be crucial. Weight is becoming challenging.
- 9: Really, really hard. This is about 85-95% effort. The pace and intensity cannot be maintained for long. Workload must be broken into intervals (work-to-rest-ratio). Loads are challenging.
- 10: This is anywhere from 95-100% effort. The pace is a sprint and the intensity is not sustainable. Recovery is needed between efforts. Loads are at or just under 1RM (1 repetition maximum).
This scale is a great tool to use when doing strength work, which includes Olympic lifting. Maddox Method’s strength and Olympic lifting protocols call for percentages as a starting point. This means that you should start at the given percentage and build up from there. This scale can help when making adjustments to the percentages. For example, if a 20 min EMOM of 1 squat snatch is programmed at a starting percentage of 70% but the weight feels too light when reaching that weight, you should start at a heavier weight (higher percentage) that day. This would allow you to get more lifts at heavier weights, increasing your overall load and volume for the session.
It can also work the other way. Let’s say you are coming back from a significant amount of time off from working out and the percentage feels too heavy to sustain. You can use the Borg scale to lighten the workload and volume. What we want to avoid is consistently starting at a low RPE when performing lifting sessions. If you are consistent with your training, you should always aim to start your session in that 5-6 rating on the scale. What that means is that you are starting at about 70% exertion.
You might be lifting 70% of 1RM, rather than 70% exertion. Let’s say that you have a snatch of 200 lbs. If you are doing a 20 min EMOM, you should not be starting your EMOM at 95 lbs. You should start your EMOM around 135-155 lbs. depending on RPE. The closer you are to your 1RM for the majority of your lifts, the more strength and strength endurance you will build. If the goal is to get stronger and more explosive, challenge yourself, and use the Borg scale as a guide for where to start your session and how to progress and build through each lifting session.
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