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RPE While Cutting

Just curious how you guys train while cutting. Do you change your RPE cutting vs. bulking?

I’ve been going balls the the wall on this cut, and I think it’s starting to catch up with me and I’m starting to lose strength. Should I be leaving a 3-4 reps in the tank instead 0-2?

What program are you doing? Leaving 4 reps in the tank doesn’t seem like a good idea though…

Mike Matthew’s Program: Bigger Leaner Stronger. I’m doing the 4 day Push, pull, upper, lower split.

I’ve been going to just about failure on the last set of pretty much every exercise. I worked good when I was eating more, but I’m thinking it is a mistake while cutting.

Seems there is a version of that program for dropping weight. I’d do that but my guess would be it is less volume rather than less intensity.

If your body adapts to what’s demanded of it would it not make sense to go balls to the wall and heavy as possible? I have no idea, just asking.

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Yes, there are scheduled deloads.

I am just asking in general though. When training in a deficit, do you typically need to stay further away from failure than when in a surplus.

Or would you keep intensity the same and drop volume? If so, then by how much?

In my case my body is not adapting, I am feeling under recovered.

You don’t want to feel under recovered until the end of the training cycle, right before the deload. You may have started out to crazy at the beginning.

RPE doesn’t need to be consistent week to week. You can start out in the beginning, week 1 staying a few reps shy of failure. Then week by week you can crank up the intensity, going a rep or two harder. Up to 100% balls to the wall during the last week or 2. That way you can get some productive weeks of work in without dying off too soon.

You could also do less sets to failure in the beginning, progressing to more sets to failure at the end. You mentioned taking the last set of each lift all the way. You could do something the going to RPE 8 on the first couple lifts, then all out on the last set of the last lift. Next week, go to failure on the last set of 2 lifts. Or whatever cool scheme you can come up with.

The idea is to go from somewhere near the minimum effective dose, and add a little here and there until you reach the limit and deload. All the workouts between the minimum and the maximum are “Optimal” and you want to get as many of those as possible.

Nice explanation. The way I’ve been cutting is that I feel the need to deload after 2 weeks. Sounds like I should play with my RPE a bit like you said and shoot for 4 weeks training before deload, with the last week balls to the wall.

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Remember food! The timing of your meals is more important when you’re cutting than when you’re bulking.

When you’re pounding food your gas tank is always 2/3 full, so pre workout meals don’t matter much.

When you’re cutting and running on fumes you may need to eat something before strenuous sessions to fuel your workout.


Definitely learned that one experimenting. I typically need about 500 calories pre workout.

My training hasn’t been much different. I push the weights just as much as I would when I was actively bulking, but within my ability.

The jumps week to week aren’t as big.

Interesting. And you still are able to add weight every week?

I’m on TRT and am losing strength every week only eating in a 250 calorie deficit.

Trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

There are some days I have to dial back or repeat (kinda like an adhoc deload), but some days I can go above and beyond what’s programmed. Also depends on what the movement.

Surprisingly, post lockdown, and on a cut, bench is the first thing that came up to speed and I’m hitting rep PRs now. Squat came up to speed a while back (too low of reps programmed for rep PRs now), and deadlift is still lagging behind. I did zerchers and conventional tempo deadlift - but 0 benching during lockdown.

I’m 33, natty/no TRT (yet), and was on a 500-700 deficit. Now I’m 250 deficit. I also don’t really do RPE-based training. I’d say everything I do is RPE 6-8 no matter the reps/sets, and I’d hate to do an extra rep on anything.

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I’ve been RPE 8.5 at a minimum on every set. Usually up to 9 or 10 on the last set of each exercise. I hear a lot of “you just need to train hard” and as a perfectionist I just thought that meant give it absolutely everything you have. Sounds like I need to dial that back haha.

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Same here. I give it everything I’ve got all the time lol. No reps left untouched. Could I be making more progress otherwise? Maybe, but it’s not as fun for me to not destroy myself. I’m sure that will change with time.

Yeah lately I just went for rep and volume PRs in previous high rep blocks.
But I just started going into the 3s range for squat and deadlift and 5s on bench, so I feel like the weight progression has been really fast now, and probably will be now that I’m at a 250 deficit.

I seem to have to drop a lot of calories at first to get weight loss moving (silver lining: I seem to have a huge maintenance margin after no longer losing before I start gaining).

Anyway, it only takes ~4 weeks before I’m getting cranky. Like mentioned above, meal timing starts to matter for workouts to not be annoying. I like the intraworkout drinks when cutting, because it gives me an always-there minimum to work with.

For me, it’s easier to gut through volume than intensity when cutting. It becomes like a checklist. When I don’t feel like being there, I can check sets off the list; it’s harder to sack up and really push to failure - too easy to find “failure” before it’s really there.

If you’re going to dial back, my personal preference would be to cut back on the volume, rather than the effort. Doing very hard sets will help you retain your muscle mass, and doing less of those sets will decrease your recovery demands. I would drop pretty much all exercises to 2 straight sets to failure.

You want to go balls to the walls? That’s fine. In fact, I’d rather do that than all the complicated 1-2-3-whatever reps in the tank. How can you even tell that you had a certain amount of reps left in you? That’s my main problem with anything under rpe 10, MAYBE 9.

If you go to the point where you failed midway through your attempted rep, or if you managed to complete your last rep with brain-splitting effort knowing you absolutely can’t even remotely do another one, you know you were at an rpe 10. If your last rep is incredibily hard and painful, but your form is still tight, and you’re unsure an additional rep would be safe, you’re probably at rep 9.

But below that? I know I can’t tell whether I still have 2, 3, or 4 reps in the tank. I call all those sets warm ups, or feeders (à la Meadows).

I actually have a much simpler explanation for that: I’m lazy as fuck. If I’m going to be moving any weight at all, I won’t bother doing stuff that might be in vain. If I’m bothering doing a set at all, I demand that said set will do something good to me, so it better be ball-busting: I don’t want to do any more work than what’ll get me results.

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