It’s very motivating to see changes in your fitness or appearance. In fact, there is probably nothing less motivating than hitting the gym week after week, month after month, and NOT seeing any progress.
Lack of progress is one of the reasons some people quit working out. After all, why bother if it doesn’t change how you look, feel, or perform?
In many cases, you can measure your progress in weight lifted or reps performed. So long as your work capacity increases, it’s safe to say you are making gains in strength and muscle mass. Look back in your training diary (you keep one, right?!), and you should be able to see an upward trend in workout performance.
Alternatively, you can use fitness tests to measure your progress. A fitness test is simply a set workout that you can repeat under the same conditions to see how and where you have improved.
CrossFit does this with their benchmark workouts. CrossFitters use these workouts to measure their progress and see how they stack up against other participants.
The good news is you don’t have to join the cult of CrossFit to test your fitness; there is a simple four-exercise bodyweight workout that you can do almost anywhere and anytime that will test your full-body endurance and strength.
So, give the Bodyweight Century Workout and see if YOU pass the test.
What is the Bodyweight Century Workout?
The Bodyweight Century Workout is a calisthenic fitness test that prospective coaches must pass at the end of the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) Workshop. Even if you have no intention of becoming a progressive calisthenics coach, the Century still provides a straightforward way to assess your relative strength and endurance.
The Century comprises four exercises and 100 reps performed as follows:
- 40 air squats
- 30 push-ups (30 knee push-ups for women)
- 20 hanging knee raises
- 10 pull-ups (10 inverted rows for women)
This test is against the clock, and the cut-off time is eight minutes. If you do not complete all 100 reps in eight minutes or less, you have failed the test and will have to try again. While you can pause between exercises, each set must be completed in one attempt.
Here’s a video of PCC founder Al Kavadlo performing the Century:
As the PCC Century is a fitness test and an assessment of exercise performance, each exercise must be done very precisely using the approved PCC technique. Reps not performed correctly are not counted.
Adhering to these guidelines means that a) you can easily compare your workout performance from one attempt to the next, and b) you can also compare your performance to that of anyone else who does the test. Variations in exercise performance will invalidate your results.
40 Air Squat
Target muscles: Quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus.
Air squats are simply bodyweight squats. The term “air” means you won’t be using any additional weight. Squats are the cornerstone of almost every effective training program, so it makes a lot of sense for this exercise to be the first part of the Bodyweight Century Workout.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet between hip and shoulder-width apart, toes turned slightly outward. Your arms can be raised in front or crossed over your chest as preferred.
- Bend your knees and squat down until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Your heels must stay down. Try not to round your lower back.
- Stand back up to full knee and hip extension and repeat.
Target muscles: Pectoralis major, deltoids, triceps.
Push-ups are probably the most widely performed exercise on the planet, rivaling even the mighty bench press. As well as working your upper body, push-ups develop core strength and teach you to maintain full body tension, which is critical for the safe performance of many other exercises.
How to do it:
- Squat or kneel down and place your hands on the floor, fingers pointing forward. Your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Walk your feet back until your legs and body are straight. Brace your core to maintain body stiffness.
- Bend your arms and descend until your elbows are bent to at least 90 degrees.
- Push yourself back up to full elbow extension and repeat.
- Women may do the push-ups on their knees if they wish.
Related: 12 Reasons To Do Push-Ups Every Day
20 Hanging Knee Raises
Target muscles: Rectus abdominis, hip flexors.
This exercise is a test of grip endurance and core strength. Unlike some CrossFit workouts, the PCC Century forbids swinging, and every rep must start from a dead hang. This makes for a challenging exercise that’ll really test your abdominals.
How to do it:
- Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Brace your abs.
- Without swinging, bend your legs and bring your knees forward and up until they are above hip height.
- Lower your legs straight down to minimize swinging, and repeat.
- The arms must be kept straight throughout.
10 Pull-ups / Inverted Rows
Target muscles: Latissimus dorsi, biceps.
The final exercise will be challenging after hanging knee raises as your grip will be fatigued. Still, it’s the last part of the test, so power on through and get it done! Men are expected to do ten full pull-ups, while women can do inverted rows if they wish.
How to do it:
- Hang from an overhead bar using an overhand or underhand grip as preferred. Your arms and legs should be straight. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your arms and pull your chin up and over the bar.
- Descend under control and repeat.
- Kipping and kicking with the legs are not permitted.
- For incline rows, the bar should be set to waist height, and the body kept straight.
How and When to Do the Bodyweight Century Workout
One of the great things about the PCC Century is it’s so straightforward that you can do it almost anywhere and anytime. All you need is a bar to hang from. That said, there are a few occasions when it will be especially valuable.
At the start of a new training block
To be able to measure your progress, you need to know your current level of fitness and performance. A run-through of the PCC Bodyweight Century will allow you to establish your current level of fitness and endurance, providing a benchmark to measure your progress against.
At the end of a training block
Has your current workout program been successful? Repeat the Century and see if you beat your previous best time. If you are able to go faster, it’s a safe bet that you have increased muscle strength, endurance, or both.
As a full-body workout when you can’t make it to the gym
We all have days when getting to the gym is out of the question. Lack of time has a way of derailing even the most enthusiastic exerciser. Taking less than eight minutes, the PCC century is a very time-efficient way to have a quick workout at home.
While the Century won’t build much muscle or fitness, it will probably be enough to hold you over until you can make it to the gym for a proper workout.
As an enhanced warm-up
For fitter individuals, the Century is a good way to warm up and get ready for a demanding workout. If you use the Century as a warm-up, don’t race against the clock but, instead, focus on doing each rep as perfectly as you can. Use it as an opportunity to practice squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and knee raises.
As a workout finisher
Looking for a challenging end to your workout? Why not blast through the Bodyweight Century as fast as you can? This will not only test you physically but mentally, too. Are you tough enough to complete the Century even when you’re feeling dog-tired from your workout?
As a one-month challenge
One-month challenges are very popular right now. Doing something every day for 30 days straight can have a dramatic impact on your physical and mental strength and can help you get lean and more defined. The PCC Century is made for this kind of challenge!
Commit to doing the Bodyweight Century every day for 30 days in a row. Take before and after photos to measure your progress. Do this challenge in addition to or instead of your usual workouts, and don’t forget to post your progress on social media!
The Bodyweight Century Workout – Wrapping Up
Fitness tests can often be complicated or convoluted. Some even require specialist equipment like dynamometers or calibrated cardio equipment. And while tests like that can produce interesting results, they can also be too impractical for regular use.
In contrast, the Bodyweight Century Workout is so straightforward that you should be able to do it in any gym and even at home. All you need is a pull-up bar. This accessibility means you should be able to do this test far more regularly, making it a lot more useful.
Additionally, the Century is not just a handy fitness test but a full-body micro-workout that you can do instead of or in addition to your regular workouts. You could even use it as a warm-up before or finisher after your regular training program.
However you use it, the PCC Bodyweight Century Workout will make a worthy addition to your training. Give it a try and post your times in the comment section below!