Reps in Reserve (RIR): A Comprehensive Guide

What does RIR (Reps In Reserve) mean?

RIR means “Reps in Reserve” = how many more reps could you do before muscular failure.

3+ RIR (or RPE < 7) = More than 3 Reps In Reserve = more than 3 repetitions away from failure
3 RIR (or RPE 7)
= 3 Reps In Reserve = 3 repetitions away from failure
2 RIR (or RPE 8)
= 2 Reps In Reserve = 2 repetitions away from failure
1 RIR (or RPE 9)
= 1 Rep In Reserve = 1 repetitions away from failure
0 RIR (or RPE 10)
= 0 Reps In Reserve = 0 repetitions away from failure/max effort 

This concept is closely related to the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), a scale introduced by Gunnar Borg and later adapted for strength training by Mike Tuchscherer. RPE assesses effort and fatigue, where an RPE of 8 equates to 2 RIR, indicating two reps could be performed before failure.

Why RIR Matters

  • Progressive Overload: Central to strength training, progressive overload necessitates continuously challenging your muscles to ensure ongoing growth and improvements. RIR facilitates this by helping you gauge the right weight that offers a challenge without leading to overexertion.
  • Fatigue Management: Training to complete muscle failure in every set can quickly deplete your energy reserves and negatively impact your performance in subsequent sets or workouts. RIR allows for a more sustainable approach, helping maintain energy levels and performance consistency across your training sessions.
  • Injury Prevention: Pushing to failure increases the risk of compromising form, potentially leading to injuries. By incorporating RIR, you’re more likely to maintain proper technique throughout each exercise, significantly reducing the risk of injury.
  • Training Longevity: Consistently training at or near failure can lead to burnout and overtraining, hindering long-term progress. RIR supports sustained progress by preventing excessive fatigue and promoting recovery.

Implementing RIR in Your Training

Incorporating RIR into your routine is straightforward:

  1. Determine Your RIR: Decide how many reps you want to leave in reserve. This might vary based on your training phase, goals, and the specific exercise.
  2. Select Appropriate Weights: Choose weights that allow you to reach the desired RIR. This might require some experimentation and adjustments.
  3. Monitor Your Progress: Keep track of the weights you’re lifting and the corresponding RIR to ensure continuous progress.

Conclusion Reps in Reserve is a powerful concept in strength training that prioritizes intelligent effort over maximal exertion. It champions the idea that stopping short of failure can lead to better gains, longer training careers, and fewer injuries. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced athlete, incorporating RIR into your training regimen can significantly enhance your strength training efficacy and enjoyment.