Have you ever done a grueling 100 repetition scheme for an exercise, without stopping? Go ahead and take a two-minute break from reading this and try to do 100 bodyweight squats. I’ll wait…and no half squatting! Get your butt as close to the ground as you can. Can you do it? Odds are if this is something you don’t ever do you will experience a good amount of delayed onset soreness (tomorrow or the day after) and a lot of pain right now. Typically most gym-goers follow the traditional dogma, performing rep ranges anywhere between 1 to 20 repetitions per set of an exercise. Research has shown differing rep ranges can correlate closely with one’s exercise goals. The long-standing rule of thumb for rep ranges is as follows (but not set in stone – nor the whole story):
1-3 Reps of 85-100% of 1rep maximal load is good for power building
4-8 Reps of 70-90% of 1 rep maximal load is good for strength
8-12 Reps of 60-85% of 1rep maximal load is good for hypertrophy (building muscle size)
12-20 Reps of 20-60% of 1rep maximal load builds muscle endurance
The above scale is a traditional approach to strength and conditioning based on a plethora of research. You must also take into consideration the number of sets, speed of movement, rest intervals, types of contractions (isometric, concentric, eccentric), active or passive rest, time under tension, range of motion, specificity, level of proficiency, training volume, among several other factors to appropriately design an effective routine. These variables play an equal if not greater role in creating your desired end result.
FACT: All rep ranges have the ability to produce strength, power, hypertrophy and muscle endurance.
Depending on your goals it may be prudent to cycle through all the rep ranges and differing variables and find what works best for you. Remember not to stick too long to any one static program to avoid stagnation, plateau or even worse injury. This is where the principle of variety takes hold. Change your workout semi-regularly so you don’t over-stress any part of the body. Doing this will keep your interest in training long term and potentiate your fitness goals. But don’t change your workout program willy-nilly. Incorporate periodization instead. This is the systematic planning of a physical training routine that involves progressive and undulating cycles throughout the year. The aim is to reach your goals and attain peak performance by a specific date. Throwing in a cycle of 100 rep exercises might help shock your body into the next level. Some benefits of 100 reps are:
Improved capillarization: an increase in the number of capillaries over the muscles which escalates blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients so you can participate in the exercise longer.
Increased muscle pain threshold: so you can work harder.
Increased muscle glycogen reserves: your muscle cells increase their hydration and protein synthesis (grow!).
Improved nutrient uptake: the target muscle groups ‘learn’ to absorb more nutrients in future workouts.
Increased muscular endurance.
Strengthened ligaments and tendons around the joints.
Research into the potential benefits of super high rep low weight exercise has shown not only the expected increase in muscular endurance but also a boost in maximal strength! It was concluded that “human skeletal muscle makes both general and specific adaptations to a training stimulus and that the balance of these adaptations is to some extent dependent upon the intensity and duration of the training protocol used.” All systematic resistance training improves muscular endurance and strength to varying degrees; 100 rep scheme will improve overall strength and endurance. However, I would not recommend staying at one particular rep range for any significant period of time. Depending on your goals it is generally a good idea to intermittently add this super high rep cycle into your training program. Occasionally I like to do this type of workout when I don’t have too much time but need to get a quick session in. This sample workout might take a total of 10 minutes or less:
100 Squats with 45lb bar
100 Bench Presses with 100lbs
100 Standing vertical rows with a resistance band
100 Military presses with 10lbs dumbbells
Another alternative is to do your regular workout and substitute one exercise with a 100 rep movement. Play around with your training variables and find what works best for you, always remembering to take rest days between workouts, eat well and stay hydrated so you can get the most out of your routine.