When Jim Stoppani offers advice, the strength training community takes notice. After all, the former science editor at Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines has written thousands of articles on exercise, nutrition, and health while winning awards for his groundbreaking research. Stoppani also has over 575,000 followers on his Facebook page. In the second edition of his bestselling book, Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength, he details hundreds training and why skilled strength trainers will benefit from it.
Stoppani stresses that hundreds training is an extremely hardcore method that incorporates very high repetitions—100 reps per set—which is why it is only for those with at least one full year of consistent strength training experience. The reason it benefits experienced lifters is the way it incorporates both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Slow-twitch muscle fibers tend to be used for endurance activities; therefore, higher reps tend to train those fibers best. Stoppani points out that because the weight is so light and the reps so high with hundreds training, the slow-twitch muscle fibers are thoroughly trained in the beginning of the set. But since most muscles are close to 50 percent slow twitch and 50 percent fast twitch, it's a good idea to use techniques that train both types of muscle fibers.
“With hundreds training you will hit the slow-twitch muscle fibers during the first 60 reps or so. After that, your muscles will have to call on the fast-twitch muscle fibers to help out the fatigued slow-twitch fibers,” says Stoppani, a PhD who has been the personal nutrition and health consultant for numerous celebrity clients, including LL Cool J, Dr. Dre, Mario Lopez, and Chris Pine. “Doing this many repetitions causes biochemical changes in the muscle, which aid in muscle growth. It also leads to greater growth of blood vessels that feed the muscle fibers to enhance the delivery of blood, oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to the muscle cells. This environment increases the growth potential of the muscle fibers.”
The catch with hundreds training is that the weight a person uses to complete 100 reps is around 20 to 30 percent of a weight used for 10 strict reps. “For example, if you use 50-pound dumbbells for 10 reps on dumbbell curls, you will use 10- to 15-pound dumbbells when you do hundreds training,” Stoppani explains. “Your goal is to perform at least 70 reps before you stop for a quick breather. That is, you should fail before you reach 100 reps. If you can do all 100 reps with a given weight, without stopping, then the weight is too light and you will need to increase it for the next workout.” He says your mark for increasing the weight is when you can get 70 rest-free reps or more with a weight.
The best way to use hundreds training, according to Stoppani, is to train each muscle group twice per week, such as following an upper- and lower-body training split. The only difference is that you can do up to three exercises for larger muscle groups like the chest, back, and quadriceps because you perform only one set of each exercise with hundreds training. “Try hundreds training for two to four weeks,” Stoppani suggests. “It is very intense and will be difficult to follow for any longer. Then follow it with a standard mass training that uses heavy weight and low reps.” Another way hundreds training can be used is to sporadically train one muscle group or the entire body for just one or two workouts as a way to change training style and shock the muscles for added growth.
Stoppani offers a sample set of hundreds training in the new edition of Encyclopedia of Muscle & Strength. The book is a comprehensive guide offering 381 exercises and 116 ready-to-use workouts featuring the most popular training equipment, such as free weights, TRX, BOSU, kettlebells, and body weight.