You might not have heard of “hundreds”. This once popular training tactic actually peaked in the mid 90’s, popularized by people like Mr. California Tom Touchstone, then seemed to fade into memory in part due to the fast growing popularity of Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty Training System. But make no mistake, if you want to shake up your training, really challenge your muscles, dial in your intensity, and spark a change in your physique, employing “hundreds” as they are called is a perfect way.
Basically, as the name imply’s, the goal is to do a set of 100 reps. The catch is that you are not expected to train so light as to get 100 continuous reps, but to use enough weight to really test your physical and mental desire. There will be controlled breaks within that set of 100 reps that actually make this training style more challenging than you would at first think.
To perform a set of hundreds, choose an exercise and then select a weight that’s about 30% of your 10 rep max (not your 1 rep max!). For example, if you can do 100 pound leg curls for 10 reps, you would choose 30 pounds for your set of 100’s. Now, with proper form and full range, do as many reps without stopping as possible. Don’t worry if you can’t get all the way to 100 before the first break. If you can then you’ll need to use a bit more weight next time. Commonly, the first break will come in the 45-55 rep range. So, lets say you did 55 reps before you had to stop. You still have 45 reps left to reach 100, so that means you get 45 seconds of rest before you resume. Lets say your second effort yields you another 23 reps. Now you have 22 reps left to reach 100, so you get 22 seconds of rest. You try again and you’re able to do 14 reps before you are forced to stop. You have nine reps to go, so you get 9 seconds of rest and then you’re right back at it. This continues until you reach 100 reps total.
Ideally, you want to have no more than 3-4 breaks throughout the entire set. The challenge is that each break gets shorter as your reps get closer to 100. You will never fully recover during the pauses and the physical pain and fatigue will demand that you mentally push yourself. Your muscles will be burning and pumped. If you are training a larger body part, your breathing will be fast and your heart will be pounding. You will not be thinking about talking or texting or who else is in the gym. You will find yourself completely focused on pushing through the pain and getting this set behind you. You will have put in an all-out effort, experiencing momentary muscle failure several times within a minute. This is max intensity training! This is 100’s!
It’s best to use hundreds on only one set of any exercise, and no more than 2 sets per any one body part. It’s ok to train multiple smaller body parts with 100’s during one workout, but training large body parts with more than a couple of 100’s sets will be very draining. It’s great to target any stubborn body part you might have. The extremely high volume forces the recruitment of lesser used muscle fibers as the first responding fibers fatigue. When used on a major exercises like deadlifts, there will be a tremendous conditioning and metabolic effect, not to mention how taxing it will be. Since you will be reaching momentary muscle failure multiple times within a set, care must be taken to avoid any dangerous exercise situations like getting stuck on the bench, leg press, squats, etc.
You can add in 2 or 3 sets of 100’s during an entire workout and really change the whole tone of what you are doing. They are a great intensity and mental focus tool. They offer a nice change of pace when you find either your results or intensity lacking. Don’t overdo these at first. I remember training my fitness pro friend Tanya Merryman and just one set of 100’s leg curls made her sore for a week. She even had to cancel teaching some of her group exercise classes. :) (She’s an off-the-charts elite athlete and actually did the entire 100 reps without stopping!)
As you continue to look for ways to improve, you must be open to assessing how you are doing and seeking out ways to get better. Incorporating 100’s may be a throwback in time, but this a training tactic that can catapult you forward into some of the best workouts you’ve ever had.
Photo: Terry Goodlad Model: Rachel Cammon