Fine-Tuning Training Intensity: Reps in Reserve in CrossFit


Following our discussion on Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), another equally valuable method to manage training load and optimize performance in CrossFit is Reps in Reserve (RIR). RIR, like RPE, is a self-regulated training tool that focuses on quantifying how many repetitions an athlete feels they could still perform before reaching muscular failure. Integrating RIR into CrossFit workouts can complement RPE usage, aiding athletes in achieving precise training intensities for maximal gains.

Understanding Reps in Reserve

Reps in Reserve (RIR) is a concept that asks athletes to estimate the number of possible repetitions remaining in a set before they cannot perform another rep with proper form. It’s important to remember these are quality-focused reps that are being quantified intrinsically. For example:

  • 0 – No more reps can be performed. Trying to gain one more rep would fail or compromise your lifting position.
  • -1 – Only one more rep could be completed with good form. This is a lot like an RPE of 9.
  • -2 – Two more reps could be completed, and so forth on denotation.

This method is highly effective in strength training, where managing fatigue and understanding one’s limits are crucial for progressive overload without injury.

Benefits of RIR in CrossFit

Tailored Intensity

RIR allows athletes to adjust the weight or scale of an exercise according to how many reps they feel they safely have left in the tank. This tailoring can lead to better management of workout intensity and volume, crucial in a varied sport like CrossFit.

Enhanced Recovery

Using RIR can help prevent overtraining by ensuring athletes do not push to failure too often, which can be taxing on the nervous system and require longer recovery times.

Complements RPE

While RPE measures effort and exertion, RIR provides a more specific measure related to fatigue and capacity. Both methods can be used together for a nuanced approach to training—RPE for assessing overall exertion and RIR for managing specific set and rep schemes. Pairing these efforts can improve your set-to-set efforts, leading to greater consistency and greater gains in the long term.

Implementing RIR in CrossFit Programming

Incorporating RIR into CrossFit involves a few practical steps:

  1. Educate Athletes: Teach athletes about RIR and its benefits, ensuring they understand how to estimate their reps in reserve accurately.
  2. Practice Makes Perfect: Start with simpler exercises to help athletes get used to gauging their RIR accurately on an anecdotal level.
  3. Integrate with RPE: Use RIR in conjunction with RPE to plan workouts. For example, if an athlete reports an RPE of 8 and RIR of 2, adjustments can be made to align both metrics for optimal training loads and repeatability.
  4. Regular Monitoring: Regularly check in with athletes about their RIR during workouts to adjust and scale programming as needed and prevent fatigue accumulation.


Reps in Reserve (RIR) is a powerful tool that complements Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) in fine-tuning the intensity and volume of CrossFit workouts. By integrating RIR into your training regimen, you can enhance both the safety and efficacy of your workouts, leading to sustained improvement and peak performance.

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