There are a variety of autoregulation tools available to give you feedback on how to modify your training, I’ve found these to be efficient, relatively simple, and affordable considering some of the tools listed are available even as free apps for most phones.
RPE – RPE stands for rate of perceived exertion, it was a concept originally developed for cardiovascular exercise with a scale ranging from 1 -20. The RPE score could be used when multiplied by 10 to be an approximation of one’s heart rate. Using RPE is a valuable autoregulation tool because it provides more precise feedback on how you felt on a particular lift. If you keep a journal as an example, writing down that a certain weight for a lift felt “hard” is more ambiguous than using an RPE scale that says the lift was a 7 or an 8 as an example.
In strength circles, RPE ranges from a scale of 6-10 to work well (anything 5 and below is assumed to be warm up weights).
10 = Maximal effort, no reps lift.
9 = Last rep is difficult but you still had enough left for one more rep.
8 = Weight is too heavy to move bar fast but you could do 2 to 4 more reps.
7 = You can move bar fast (speed weight) if you apply maximal effort, could do 5 to 8 reps more.
6 = Bar moves quickly with only moderate amounts of effort (light speed work zone), could do over 8 reps more.
Use for autoregulating: intensity and volume
Technique – This refers to the crispness of your movement and how close you are to your textbook version of a particular lift. Take into account your balance, range of motion, and overall coordination. It’s important to make note of a few things: a) with especially heavily loads as many of the most successful lifters have proven over time certain technique rules don’t apply as strongly (some elite powerlifters round their back to deadlift) b) textbook technique is a relative term while there are some fundamental basics to a squat, different lifters squats will look differently.
Because the variation between judging technique can leave room for interpretation, I like using a scale up to 5.
5 = rock solid technique, you’d show a video of that lift to a novice to teach them.
4 = a good lift but a slight mechanical adjustment can be made.
3 = completed the movement basics but a few mechanical adjustments need to take place. 2 = poor form, several mechanical adjustments need to be made.
1 = bad lift
Use for: autoregulating: exercise selection
Velocity Trackers – This is helpful for providing objective feedback to know that you’re working within the right range for your intended goals. It’s one thing to feel like you moved the weight fast but it’s another to know that you’re moving it at 0.7 seconds when you should be moving it at 0.3 seconds for a specific lift.
Use for: autoregulating: intensity and volume
Heart Rate Tracking – You can autoregulate using heart rate tracking in two important ways. 1) Your morning heart rate variability – before you even step foot in the gym you’ll have an idea if you’re more sympathetic or parasympathetic. 2) Monitoring heart rate zones during training – If you start keeping track of what your average heart rate zone is during your workouts and your time it takes to return back to that zone after a hard set you’ll better be able to autoregulate a workout and ensure you’re recovering from each set properly.
Use for: autoregulating: intensity, frequency, and rest intervals