Century Sets, Hundreds or 100 Reps
The ultimate plateau busting gym challenge...
There are lots of ways to break through a plateau and improve stubborn bodyparts. You can change your routine, slow the exercises down or concentrate on maintaining perfect form.
There's another option that's so challenging few ever dare to try it. It's the gym equivalent of surfing a monster wave or competing in an ultramarathon.
I'm talking about something called "hundreds" or "century sets." It's a single set that focuses on one bodypart. You're expected to do 100 reps in a set without stopping. That's 100 reps...in a row.
A time tested rule when working with weights is this: If you want to build greater strength, use heavy weights and lower reps. If you want to build greater endurance, use light weights and higher reps. It was first documented in a 1948 study by Delorme and Watkins and has become known as the "DeLorme Technique."
This is a simple way to remember it.
Strength = Heavy + Low.
Endurance = Light + High.
Now research shows there's more to the story. Over the years traditional strength building routines of heavy + low have been mixed in with exercises that had very high rep ranges of 50, 100 and even 150 reps.
One of the earliest studies that looked into the potential for very high reps was done in 1982 by Anderson T. and Kearney J. from the University of Kentucky. It was called Effects of Three Resistance Training Programs on Muscular Strength and Absolute and Relative Endurance.
The first group in the study engaged in 3 sets of 6-8 reps maximum. The second group performed 2 sets of 30-40 reps maximum. The third group performed only one set of 100-150 reps maximum.
As expected, the low + heavy group added the most strength and the high + light group had the greatest increase in endurance. But the surprising finding was the low + heavy subjects ALSO increased their endurance and the high + light ALSO increased their strength.
Over a dozen studies we reviewed came to the same conclusion. Low + heavy will build strength. But if you want even greater gains, you should occasionally mix that in with very high + light rep ranges.
Here's the theory behind why it works. Extremely high reps (like hundreds) increase the number of tiny blood vessels or capillaries that feed the muscle tissue. When you stress a muscle with a set of hundreds, your body responds by increasing the capillary density to that muscle.
The increase in blood vessels or "capillarization" won't actually grow the muscle, but the improved circulation sets the stage for muscle growth when you do train with heavier weights and lower reps.
Want to try doing hundreds?
Start with a weight that you can do 20-30 reps with. Work that until failure, then strip off some of the weight and continue pressing on. Every time you reach failure, strip off a little more weight. Your goal is to make it to at least 70 reps.
Breaks are allowed when you fail, but there's a time limit. When you rest, it shouldn't exceed the number of seconds that match the number of reps you have remaining. So if you fail at 70 reps, you have 30 reps to go and you can rest for 30 seconds. Once you complete 100 reps with the same weight and don't have to stop, it's time to increase the weight.
There are a few rules you should pay attention to.
Rule One: Keep a measured pace and don't move too fast. The lift should take about 1 second and lowering the weight should take about 2 seconds. A full set of 100 will take about 5 minutes total.
Rule Two: Use machines rather than free weights until you're comfortable doing hundreds. If you can, get a friend to spot you and count your reps. With a spotter you're less likely to lose track of where you are and can concentrate on proper form.
Rule Three: Don't do hundreds for more than 2 weeks at a time. Then don't do them again until at least 8 weeks have gone by. Do them too frequently and they'll lose their ability to stress and grow your muscle.
When you're ready for an ultimate challenge, hundreds will be waiting.
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