Exercise Intensity Scale

To figure out the intensity level of your workout, use the scale below, modified from the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Scale:

Exercise Intensity Scale


Very, Very Light


Very Light


Fairly Light


Somewhat Hard

<– Target Strength Training Level


Very Hard

If you still aren’t sure how to rate the intensity of your exercise, ask yourself these questions after each exercise (from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

    1. Were you able to complete two sets of 10 repetitions in good form?
      No: Reduce the weight to an amount that you can lift 10 times in good form; rest for one or two minutes, then repeat for a second set.
      Yes: Please continue to question two.
    2. After completing 10 repetitions, do you need to rest because the weight is too heavy to complete more repetitions in good form?
      Yes: You are working at the proper intensity and should not increase weight.
      No: Please continue to questions three and four to determine how to safely increase the intensity of your workout.
    3. Could you have done a few more repetitions in good form without a break?
      Yes: If you can do only a few more repetitions (not the entire next set of 10 without a break), then at your next workout you should do the first set of repetitions with your current weight and your second set with the next weight up. For example, if you’re currently using one-pound dumbbells, use two- or three-pound dumbbells for your second set.
    4. Could you have done all 20 repetitions at one time, without a break?
      Yes: At your next session, use heavier dumbbells for both sets of repetitions.