100 Rep Challenge


by Jim Wendler T-Nation

I love challenges, even if they can be somewhat pointless or don’t really mean anything. There’s something amazing about setting out on the hard path, struggling like mad, and reaching the final destination.

Still, many people shake their head at those who do that and ask why anyone would subject themselves to such “trivial” things. They’re missing the point – the work and the perseverance required to reach the goal is what really matters. These things harden the body and the mind. They teach you resolve and how to fight through mental and physical pain.

Challenges also give you the opportunity to test your limits. How far are you willing to go? Do you have what it takes to go on when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel?

More importantly, these challenges, if hard enough, teach us that anything is possible. I’m not so ignorant to think that one day I’ll grow wings and fly, but sometimes when an obstacle seems too tall to climb over, I can draw on the strength built through these “trivial” challenges. In other words, these things build momentum that can carry over to real life.

The Challenges

The performance goal of the 100 Rep Challenge is simple: complete all the workouts listed below. Not a day or rep missed. We’re not looking to “Increase Your Bench Press 30 pounds in 2 weeks!” or “Add a Half-Inch to Your Arms in 1 Workout!” We’re training hard work, mental fortitude, and work ethic.

This workout wasn’t haphazardly put together on a napkin. I’ve combined strength work, conditioning work, and hypertrophy work in a manner that allows you to target each area over a 6-week period.

I’ve used many of these 100-rep exercises during my rehab and over the years. However, it wasn’t until Paul Carter and I took the time to brainstorm about how to incorporate them into a proper training program that it all came together.

The 100-Rep Challenge is something special. The strength work comes with the heavy barbell lifts. The conditioning work comes with Prowler pushes and the 100-rep work. The hypertrophy work comes with the 100-rep work.Ê Each has the proper attention given.

You’ll be outrageously sore during this time. Expect it and embrace it. It’s only 6 weeks; hardly a lifetime and something you should demand from yourself.

If you’re unfamiliar with simple recovery methods, T Nation has dozens of articles to help you. This isn’t a time to cut out sleep, stretching, or mobility work. This isn’t a time to be “cutting”; cutting is for people that don’t have the discipline to eat right the majority of the time.

This training will allow you to earn the right to eat hearty. And it will force you to learn about recovery.

The 100-Rep Workout is great for hypertrophy – you’ll be tapping into a rep range most never venture into. It’s also terrific for strengthening your tendons, and will give you an outrageous pump (yeah, I said that!).

Your body will change in these 6 weeks – your arms, traps, and hamstrings will grow, and your conditioning will also improve.

Enough with the small talk, let’s get to the training.

Training Week Overview

Monday: Lower Body Weight Training
Tuesday: Lower Body 100
Wednesday: Prowler Walk
Thursday: Upper Body Weight Training
Friday: Upper Body 100
Saturday: Prowler Walk

Notice that there are two days devoted to strength, two days devoted to conditioning, and two days devoted to hypertrophy.

100-Rep Work

The following exercises will be used exclusively for the 100-rep work. It’s not hard to do, just do 100 reps in one set.

There are only three exercises per day and trust me, this will be all you’ll need. Don’t feel compelled to add more exercises; just do them as prescribed.

If you feel any of the weights are too heavy for your current level, simply do less. The weights listed are what most people who have 5 or more years of training can handle. They aren’t easy but they’re doable. And if you have any doubts, stop having doubts. You must expect more from yourself.

Upper Body 100

Front Plate Raise. This is done with a full range of motion, i.e., until the hands/plate are over the head. Using this range of motion greatly taxes the upper back and shoulders. Weight used = 25-pound plate.

Barbell Curls. Weight used = 45-pound barbell.

Kirk Karwoski Rows. Weight used = 135 pounds (barbell plus two 45-pound plates). Straps are not allowed.

Lower Body 100

One-Leg Squat. Also known as a Bulgarian squat. This is done with one leg in front and the back foot up on a bench. Weight used = bodyweight only. Finish all reps on one side before switching. You’ll do 100 total reps – meaning 50 reps per leg.

Hamstring Curl. This is done with 10-20 pound ankle weights. Lie on the floor or on the bench. Do both legs at the same time.

Sit-ups. Lock your feet under something stable, cross your arms on your chest and do a sit-up.

100 Rep Notes

You’re free to substitute any exercise you wish, but I can only approve of the ones listed above. These were picked for a variety of reasons, namely to target weak points, target areas people want and need to develop, ease of performing 100 reps, mobility, and the simple challenge of getting better.

You can rest during the 100-rep set but you can’t put the bar down and you can’t make the exercise “easier” during this time (i.e., lying down during a rest period during the sit-ups). If you’re in doubt of what constitutes rest, you’re probably doing it wrong.

At the top of the front plate raise, squeeze your traps and upper back. Use as straight of arms as possible.

Karwoski Rows are explained in the Yoke article I wrote for T Nation here.

Your form will probably get sloppy; that’s to be expected. Still, you must try to maintain some integrity during the set. The weight is light enough that you won’t get hurt, but the point of doing the exercise is to exhaust and annihilate the muscle, not to just get the reps.

You’ll be sore – expect it.

You can rest as much as you want between exercises. Don’t bring a stopwatch – we’re in the weight room, not on a track.

You must learn how to relax your mind during these sets – don’t focus on the pain. You have to learn to dissociate yourself from reality.

I usually attack the first 50-60 reps without stopping, take a short break and catch my breath (not really), then hammer out sets of 10 reps. This makes it easier to handle, mentally. It also helps greatly if you have someone counting the reps for you. You’ll invariably lose count as your mind starts to wander away from the pain.

Weight Training Overview

Week 1


Exercise Sets Reps
A Squat * *
B Good Morning or Straight Leg Deadlift 3-5 5-10
C Hanging Leg Raise 3-5 10-15
* 5/3/1 sets and reps


Exercise Sets Reps
A Bench Press * *
B Standing Press 5 10**
C T-Bar Row or Dumbbell Row 5 10-15
* 5/3/1 sets and reps
** you choose the weight

Week 2


Exercise Sets Reps
A Deadlift * *
B Good Morning or Straight Leg Deadlift 3-5 10-15
C Hanging Leg Raise 3-5 10-15
* 5/3/1 sets and reps


Exercise Sets Reps
A Standing Press * *
B Bench Press 5 10**
C T-Bar Row or Dumbbell Row 5 10-15
* 5/3/1 sets and reps
** you choose the weight

Lifting Notes

This is a six-week program; lifting will be done twice per week. Since only two exercises are done per week, you’ll only go through one 5/3/1 cycle in the six-week period.

In other words, the first two weeks will be 3 sets of 5 reps, the third and fourth week will be 3 sets of 3 reps, and the final two weeks will be the 5/3/1 week.

No substitution of any exercise. If you substitute, it’s no longer the program.

The “5 sets of 10 reps” of the bench press and press are done with approximately 50% of your Training Max. This is just a baseline number and can change. The important thing is to push yourself and get the required reps.

Hanging leg raise can be done with bent knees or straight legs (or a combination of both).

You’re welcome to push the last set hard on the 5/3/1 sets – this is up to you and how you feel for that day. I’d recommend pushing the sets hard but always leaving 2-3 reps “in the tank.”

Prowler Notes

The Prowler is done for both conditioning and strength. You’ll perform 6 Prowler trips of 40 yards on Wednesday and Saturday. I highly recommend you walk when doing the Prowler. The slower work will force you to use full steps and strengthen your legs.

Pick three weights for the Prowler – heavy, medium, and light. For example, I use the following weights: Heavy = 270 pounds, Medium = 180 pounds, Light = 90 pounds. You’ll need to adjust these weights for your strength level, bodyweight, and the surface on which you push the Prowler.

Wednesday: 2 trips of 40 yards will be done with each weight; light, medium, and heavy. In my case, I’ll do 2 – 40-yard walks with 90 pounds, 2 – 40-yard walks with 180 pounds, and 2 – 40-yard walks with 270 pounds.

Saturday: All 6 trips of 40 yards will be done with the medium weight.Ê For example, I’ll do 6 – 40-yard walks with 180 pounds.

No rest periods are given because it doesn’t matter. Get the work in – this is about getting the legs stronger. The conditioning will improve.

Final Thoughts

If you’re unsure about the challenge, I highly recommend spending the next 4 weeks incorporating a few of the 100 rep lifts into your current training to see how you fair. This will give you some time to get used to the breathing and the soreness. But if you feel you’re ready, jump in; don’t just toe the water.

Once you make the commitment, I want you to take 36 blank sheets of paper. On each paper, write down each workout. So each workout has it’s own page. Write the complete workout you’ll do each day.

Write it, don’t type it. Writing it gives it personal meaning and realness; it’s something tangible. It becomes reality. Go get a small, 3-ring binder and put these pages in it. Label the binder, “100 Rep Challenge.” Now leave your phone in your car or gym bag – the binder is all you need.

Leave a space at the bottom for you to make notes – write down what you ate, how much you slept, and what you did to improve your recovery for the next session. Be proactive in all departments. This binder will give you accountability for all areas of your training and helps you see what you need to improve on and what you excel at.

Yes, this 6-week challenge sucks, but it will teach you a lot about yourself and you’ll develop the mental and physical granite that many of us seek from the iron.

Now get at it!

Thanks to Paul Carter for his valuable input and friendship.

Source: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=5356827

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