“Fail” of the Century
Can you survive a grueling 100-rep set? Push your muscles to the century mark with this advanced training technique.
First things first — the idea of doing a 100-rep set is completely arbitrary. There is no scientific research revealing 100 to be some sort of magic number for muscle growth. So why would we even recommend stretching a set to 10 times its typical limit? What’s the point? Because attempting to rep through an arduously long set will pretty much guarantee you won’t stop short — that “arbitrary” number is so inflated, it becomes a mental game and you can’t help but press past your strength and endurance limits.
Grinding Out Growth
Though 100-rep sets are an extreme milestone, they actually do incite adaptation. “They can absolutely benefit muscle growth, which comes with excess stimulation to any given muscle,” says Angelo Grinceri, health coach, movement practitioner, New York City-based trainer and author of Intrinsic Strength Training( intrinsic strength train ing.com). “Most 100-rep sets will cause you to train to absolute failure, and if you’re used to only doing sets of eight to 15 reps, you’re in for a real treat.”
There are two ways to execute these “century” sets: Doing all 100 reps with the same weight, then pausing for five to 10 seconds as needed mid-set as you reach failure to allow for the slight muscle recovery needed to continue; or performing them as a long dropset, lowering the weight by 10 to 20 percent each time you hit momentary failure, which allows you to increase intensity by handling heavier loads on the front end (i.e., instead of being limited to a weight you can do for 100 reps, you start with a weight you can only lift for 10 to 20 reps). The style you use depends on your preference, and both are effective ways to challenge yourself mentally and physically.
Compound Your Results
Although a 100-rep set can be done with any exercise, Grinceri prefers moves that call on multiple muscle groups at once. “These long sets are best used for compound exercises — squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups — because they tax your ability to push through a long period of work,” he explains. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use the technique for isolation exercises such as biceps curls and leg extensions, and Grinceri advocates the technique for burning out a specific muscle group. (See the “100-Rep Shoulder Burner” box for an example.) “Always include one or two warm-up sets of 15 to 20 reps, especially if it’s an isolation exercise, then focus on crushing that 100 reps to reach absolute failure,” he says.
The 100-rep technique can be an inefficient way to train because it naturally limits the amount of weight you can lift and the variety of movements you can handle in one workout, so don’t use it excessively — every fourth or fifth workout for a bodypart at most. There is one exception: “If you’re training for an event that requires muscular endurance, such as a marathon or Ironman competition, consider doing a four- to eight-week bout of 100-rep training earlier on in a training cycle,” Grinceri suggests. “If the focus of the program is body composition, use this rep scheme every four to six weeks to shock the muscles.”
Training to failure will incite adaptation and elicit major growth.