A male athlete undergoing APRE training with a personal trainer.
For years, people have hammered out exercises in a familiar pattern, with the most popular being three sets of 10. As common as such aspects of strength training is, a different protocol referred to as autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise or APRE for short has started to gain popularity with experienced coaches and athletes as well as beginners.

APRE offers flexibility, leading to results that often out-pace most of the older training models. It also helps safely return athletes to previous loads and beyond after any setbacks. If you’ve been thinking of implementing APRE training, here is everything you need to know.

What Is APRE?

Autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise (APRE) refers to an auto adjustment of load. It’s a way for coaches to fully maximize their programs without having to put in extra work. The more extended response for what an APRE truly is includes an exercise program that adjusts load on the fly and moves forward by focusing on repetition limits. The program focuses on strength, hypertrophy, or endurance in athletes by using repetition maximums. Then, auto-adjusting the prescribed load or repetitions that follow.

An athlete is prescribed the total percentage and repetition schemes throughout their warm-up sets based on a repetition-max test chosen by a coach. The following loads are then adjusted accordingly to the results of those sets. Essentially after the warm-up, athletes are given an amount of weight they can add or subtract from their assigned program weight. If their warm-up shows they are underperforming from their expected maximums, they are able to reduce the weight as needed to stay safe. Further, if the athlete completes more than expected, the program can be adjusted.

When a session is complete, any newly recorded maximums can be used in future programs. Even in purely strength-based 1RM programs, an APRE approach has been shown to improve an athlete’s 1RM more over an extended period.

When Should You Use APRE?

An APRE program is an ongoing process. It is best for both the coach and athletes. This works particularly well in a group setting (like coaching a whole team). It keeps things more manageable for coaches and keeps it customized for athletes. It also allows you to work within an athlete’s limit at any given time. This way, your athletes aren’t over-straining or under-working.

Our bodies already autoregulate based on how we feel, so using APRE is taking advantage of that concept and applying it to strength training. Instead of telling an athlete to hit 70% of their 1RM from 3 weeks ago, you can work within their limit of the day, whether that is better or worse than a past assessment.

APRE is not an advisable training program for beginners and requires some foundational training. If you have an athlete who is a beginner in training, it’s better and safer to start them with more straightforward methods before advancing them to APRE.

How Does APRE Relate to 1RM?

You can use a 1RM (predicted or tested) for working sets. It is taking your current or most recent 1RM and regulating past it. 1RM is usually derived by testing an athlete’s strength before starting a new program and after they’re through with it. This allows the coach to identify if the athlete is improving their strength or not. APRE uses a lot other than 1RM and can be used with RPE. Using RPE is another tool to use in APRE, such as 3- or 5RMs, and can be used as a reference to keep track of the changes in the athlete’s muscle strength as a function of the training program.

RPE refers to the rate of perceived exertion and measures how intense an activity really is. With RPE, you can tell the effort an athlete requires to complete the prescribed volume of sets and reps. The RPE scale runs from 0 to 10, with 0 signifying no exertion. If an athlete is reporting a high RPE, auto-adjust the next set load or rep count. You can also increase their rep count based on their RPE if they are recording a low score.

A man doing APRE training reps with his coach cheering him on

Repetitions in Reserve

An alternative tool to use in APRE is repetitions in reserve or RIR. RIR is related to RPE but is a subjective measure of an exercise where the numbers correspond to the reps an athlete has remaining in the tank. RIR allows you to be able to quantify the number of repetitions that are still achievable before failure. The RIR uses a scale similar to that of the RPE but is a more practical method of regulating daily training load. Using an RIR scale allows coaches to accurately track their athletes’ progress in terms of load and intensity, especially for advanced athletes.

How Does APRE Relate to Velocity-Based Training (VBT)?

Velocity-based training refers to a training method that uses technology to keep track of the movement speed during exercise. It’s a valuable tool for strength training for coaches and trainers. VBT typically uses technology such as laser optic devices, linear position transducers, and wearable accelerometers to measure movement speed during an exercise. With VBT, the coach and athlete are aware of their exercise performance. Thus, the coach provides targeted feedback such as lifting barbells quickly to achieve better and faster results.

If your goal is to move a prescribed load at a certain speed or tempo, you can adjust as needed with VBT. This can be used in explosive programs. If you are using biometrics or finding a way to increase the rate of force production, you can adjust to fit the needs.

While some training variables such as rest, frequency, and volume are easy to test, others like intensity aren’t. For instance, if two athletes with similar strength levels performed a 70% of 1-RM back squat, but only one of them lifted the bar with a high movement velocity, while the other didn’t, the subsequent intensities would not be the same.

What Is the Value of APRE Training?

  1. It allows you to adjust on the fly while focusing on the big picture. You take in an immediate performance, and you can avoid pushing beyond where you should be.
  2. You can add difficulty and adjust up if the athlete is having a particularly powerful day. Because you can use this to increase gains, you are able to improve more quickly and see results sooner.
  3. You can push harder than planned if the athletes are able to. However, you are also able to adjust down, so there isn’t injury. In both cases, you will see improvement faster than if you were to use a rigid structure.
  4. Additionally, APRE easily implements the rep schemes for the athlete and the coach. Thus, making it a time-saver for coaches who have a lot of the responsibility of developing their athletes.
  5. APRE is a practical approach to regaining lost strength following a period of detraining. Sports coaches benefit the most as sometimes they have to train athletes without knowing whether they finished training or not. With such an athlete, APRE is excellent for the first 4 to 6 weeks as it helps them regain their lost strength.

How Do You Use APRE With CoachMePlus?

The best way to use APRE with CoachMePlus is in a 1RM or 3RM test during the warm-up program. This allows the program to automatically adjust the weights for the rest of the program. Right now, CM+ is able to adjust load/weight on the fly automatically in the following ways:

  1. Coach assigns a “test set” – 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, etc.
  2. The following sets are assigned a percentage of the 1RM calculated from the Test set
  3. The athlete then performs the test set
  4. After they do the test set, the CM+ calculates that athlete “new” 1RM
  5. CM+ then uses that new baseline to calculate the remainder of their working sets. Optionally, you can do more than one test set to customize your athlete’s program load further

Start APRE Training Today

Autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise is a great training program best used when an athlete is coming off a layoff. This is because it offers a great way to return them back up to their previous training levels without risking injury or strain. It gives each athlete a chance to move at their own pace and not an expected rate that may be too slow or too fast for them.

If you like to learn more about how CoachMePlus can help, schedule a personalized demo with one of our experts today.