A heuristic is a mental shortcut, a way to cut through the noise, get an answer, and go. I like having mental shortcuts when programming because it’s easy to get caught up in the myriad ways of training. How many reps should you do and how many sets? At what weight should you do them and what exercises should they be? Should you train twice per, three times per week, or more? Should you train your entire body each session or should you break the movements up across different days? How do we adjust for the unknown, for random occurrences in life that are stressful and that can impact how your training goes? Here are a few charts I use when programming that help cut through some of the clutter. They give you a starting point. They’re not perfect, but they can help avoid paralysis through analysis.
The chart above shows reps along the top and RPE on the left axis. With this, you can use a percentage, an RPE and/or a rep range to get an idea of where to begin.
Prilepin’s chart was originally used for Olympic weightlifting, but the gist is there. A range of reps, sets and a percentage are provided to give you an idea of the intensity and volume of your lifts.
If you’re stuck, get a general idea, implement it, and see how it works. If it doesn’t try again.