4 Ways to Measure Your Client’s Exercise Intensity

There’s an artwork to managing your shopper’s train depth.

Push too exhausting, and so they’ll lower the session quick out of frustration—and by no means return. Push too little, however, and your shopper will fail to make the mandatory physiological diversifications (each cardiovascular and muscular) wanted to attain their health objectives.

To make issues extra sophisticated, you may’t merely have a look at depth on a “session-by-session” foundation.

It’s worthwhile to tackle a high-level view of your shopper’s train depth spanning weeks, or probably months, to make sure they’re coaching in a method that provides their physique the time it must restore and recuperate. 

Even after you’ve developed an acceptable exercise program on your shopper, how are you aware—for certain—in the event that they’re exercising on the supposed depth?

Reply: By measuring their exercise depth. This text reveals you ways.


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What Is Train Depth?

First issues first. Let’s cowl the fundamentals of train depth.

Within the strictest sense, train depth is outlined by the quantity of vitality required to carry out the bodily exercise per unit of time.

Normally, although, the better method to consider (and clarify) the idea of depth is a measure of how exhausting the physique is working throughout bodily exercise. Train depth is often measured as low, average, or vigorous. Listed below are just a few examples of every:

  • ¨ Low-intensity train: Strolling slowly, driving a motorcycle, lifting mild weights
  • ¨ Average-intensity train: Mountaineering, brisk strolling, biking, water aerobics
  • ¨ Vigorous-intensity train: Operating, swimming, leaping rope

Is Extra Depth At all times Higher?

To reply the query: In no way.

Along with restoration and damage considerations, there’s additionally the truth that there is no one-size-fits-all depth prescription. How exhausting you make your shopper go will rely on a number of components, together with their health objectives, how they prefer to work out, how their physique feels, and many others.

A basic rule of thumb is that you just shouldn’t be having your shopper do greater than two to a few high-intensity exercises per week.

Tips on how to Measure Train Depth

Listed below are the methods to measure your shopper’s train depth—within the order of least accessible to most accessible.

Oxygen Consumption

In train physiology, oxygen consumption is the golden normal for measuring train depth throughout cardio (i.e., “wants oxygen”) train.

The upper the oxygen demand throughout a selected session, the upper the depth. That stated, this measure of train depth is not sensible.

Along with accessing a medical facility or a lab, you will additionally have to get your shopper to carry out the train whereas respiration right into a mouthpiece that collects info on impressed and expired air. You’ll be able to deal with this info as “good to know.”

Coronary heart Charge

A extra accessible method of measuring your shopper’s train depth is by taking a look at their coronary heart charge (e.g., in the event that they’re sporting a health tracker or smartwatch).

Given the physique would devour extra oxygen as depth will increase, that’d additionally meant that, generally, the upper your shopper’s coronary heart charge, the extra they’re difficult themselves. Extra particularly, you may observe and information your shopper’s train depth by calculating their Goal Coronary heart Charge (THR) vary:

  • ¨ Average-intensity bodily exercise: Your shopper’s goal coronary heart charge ought to be between 64% and 76% of their most coronary heart charge.
  • ¨ Vigorous-intensity bodily exercise: Your shopper’s goal coronary heart charge ought to be between 77% and 93% of their most coronary heart charge.

That’s nice. However how would you recognize what your shopper’s most coronary heart charge is? Properly, there’s a basic components (i.e., the “Fox components”) you should use for that: Merely subtract your shopper’s age from 220.

For instance, for a 35-year-old shopper, their estimated most age-related coronary heart charge can be calculated as 220 – 35 = 185 beats per minute (bpm). Placing all of it collectively, which means you’d need your shopper’s coronary heart charge to stay inside the vary of:

  • ¨ 118 to 140 bpm for moderate-intensity bodily exercise (185 x 0.64 and 185 X 0.76)
  • ¨ 142 to 172 bpm for vigorous-intensity bodily exercise (185 X 0.77 and 185 X 0.93)


Drawbacks to Utilizing Coronary heart Charge

That stated, there are just a few drawbacks associated to utilizing coronary heart charge as a measure of your shopper’s depth.

The primary is that, as with most formulation utilized in health, the Fox components isn’t all that correct. In actual fact, analysis reveals that utilizing the components to calculate coronary heart charge might offer you numbers which might be method off—possibly by as a lot as 12 bpm up or down. That’s an enormous hole.

What about different formulation? Are they higher?

Properly, not precisely. Different formulation used for calculating the utmost coronary heart charge, together with the HUNT and Tanaka formulation, are liable to overestimating the utmost coronary heart charge for ladies.

Within the worst-case situation, you possibly can find yourself pushing your shopper dangerously near their precise most coronary heart charge—whereas nonetheless believing that they’re squarely within the “moderate-intensity” zone.

One other con related to counting on coronary heart charge as a measure of depth is that it fails to contemplate the numerous variables that may increase or decrease your shopper’s readings on any given day.

For instance:

  • ¨ Sleep: Research present {that a} lack of sleep, a actuality that many adults worldwide wrestle with, will elevate the guts charge by 5 to 10 bpm.
  • ¨ Stress: Excessive-stress ranges could cause a quick heartbeat or coronary heart charge. This examine, as an illustration, discovered that office stress can increase coronary heart charges by 4 to six bpm.
  • ¨ Climate: When your shopper workout routines in chilly environments, their coronary heart charge might lower (in comparison with their common readings)—which may trigger you to underestimate the precise depth of their exercise.

Lastly, you must also remember that some drugs (e.g., beta-blockers) can alter your shopper’s response to train. So, it’s best to at all times advise your shopper to see their physician for a medical check-up earlier than tweaking their train depth and even earlier than beginning them on a brand new routine.

Charge of Perceived Exertion

As talked about earlier, as a result of coronary heart charge is an absolute quantity, it fails to seize how your shopper is actually feeling in that second (e.g., degree of fatigue).

Fortunately, there’s a greater strategy to decide your shopper’s train depth. Bonus: It additionally occurs to be probably the most user-friendly methods to measure exercise depth. And it is none apart from one thing referred to as the Charge of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale.

The RPE scale ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 being resting and 10 being most effort.

So, the concept with the RPE scale is to commonly examine in along with your shopper—and get them to charge how exhausting they’re engaged on a scale of 0 to 10. That will help you get a way of what the numbers imply:

  • ¨ 0 and 1: Mainly being immobile
  • ¨ 2 to 4: Low to average depth
  • ¨ 5 to 7: Average to exhausting depth
  • ¨ 8 and better: Exhausting to vigorous depth 
  • ¨ 10: Most capability (your shopper can’t probably push themselves any more durable)

That stated, do be aware that RPE may be powerful to guage precisely when your shopper is new to train.

In the event that they’re not conversant in how their physique responds to train—by way of how totally different depth ranges make them really feel bodily and mentally—then it’s exhausting to make an correct evaluation.

When You Ought to Use the Speak Check As a substitute

You can assist a shopper new to health get a greater grasp of what the RPE numbers appear and feel like for them by means of one thing referred to as the speak check.

With the speak check, all of your shopper must do is take note of how breathless they’re. 

Right here’s how their breathlessness “interprets” into the RPE scale and, in flip, train depth:

  • ¨ In a position to transfer and speak simply: 1 to three; low depth
  • ¨ Speaking begins to require effort however continues to be sustainable: 3 to five; average depth
  • ¨ Speaking will get uncomfortable: 5 to 7; excessive depth
  • ¨ Unattainable to get out greater than a phrase or two at a time: 7 to 9; approaching the utmost depth

Drawbacks of RPE

Sadly, RPE’s biggest power—i.e., subjectivity—additionally occurs to be its weak point. Meaning your shopper’s perceived effort received’t at all times be an correct illustration of how exhausting their physique’s really working.

In the event that they discover a explicit train (e.g., Bulgarian cut up squats) uncomfortable, they’ll most likely give it a better RPE score even when their effort isn’t equal to that tolerance degree.

Plus, different components like whether or not your shopper enjoys a selected coaching technique or exercise routine and the way nicely they tolerate discomfort can affect how exhausting a exercise feels to them on any given day.

A great way to get round this could be to determine a “baseline” of your shopper’s tolerance.

As an example: Perhaps they at all times charge energy sled pulls as an eight on the RPE scale—regardless that you recognize the depth corresponds to a average jog on the treadmill, which they report as a 5. On this case, you recognize which you could nonetheless afford to push up their depth on the ability sled pulls (not less than just a bit). 

Repetitions in Reserve (RIR)

To date, all of the depth measurement strategies we’ve talked about are higher fitted to conditioning train. What in case your shopper primarily does power coaching?

Then you should use one thing referred to as “Reps in Reserve” (RIR)—which refers back to the variety of reps your shopper has left within the tank after finishing a working set. Or, in different phrases, what number of reps they really feel they might have achieved earlier than reaching technical failure, the place they’re unable to do one other rep with correct kind.

So, how would you recognize the best RIR on your shopper?

Properly, based mostly on analysis, there seems to be an efficient—but secure—RIR vary for gaining muscle and power: between 1 to three reps.

Research present that this can be a “candy spot” of kinds. That is the place your shopper would have the ability to practice with the depth wanted for muscle hypertrophy with out going to failure too typically, which limits the overall quantity they will do of their exercises and will increase their danger of sustaining accidents.

Which means? You need to have your shopper finish most of their working units 1 to three reps shy of failure. 

That stated, you ought to be further cautious when utilizing this technique of measuring train depth with shoppers who’re new to power coaching. That’s as a result of newbie lifters are likely to underestimate their true failure level—typically by as a lot as 5 reps (or extra).

In fact, there’s no higher method to assist your shopper familiarize themselves with their true failure level than to allow them to go to failure.

Simply be aware that your high precedence ought to at all times be security (e.g., arrange the security bars on the squat rack in case they lose management).


Whereas measuring your train depth isn’t as simple or well-defined because it sounds, it’s nonetheless a good way to assist your shoppers assess simply how exhausting they’re coaching. This may be invaluable once they’re making an attempt to trace their progress.

For shoppers simply beginning out, remind them to view these train depth measurements in a holistic method. Think about different components, particularly ones they cannot quantify akin to stress ranges, to allow them to higher respect how all the things is linked.

And most significantly, keep in mind that many of those strategies are subjective, which suggests arriving at extra “correct” measurements will take time and expertise. So, they’re going to should be affected person and hold training.


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