Real life superheroes are among us, and they don’t need to fly or have laser vision. Their superhuman capabilities are shown when they push the limits of their physical and mental effort, inspiring the rest of us to push beyond what we think is possible within our own potential.
Physical 100 is a bingeable Netflix series released earlier this year that gives us a peek into the minds and physiques of regular people turned superhuman athletes.
100 of the fittest individuals across a vast array of disciplines living in South Korea compete in a series of challenges meant to test different types of athleticism: strength, endurance, and speed - solo, and as part of a team.
The athletes come from a variety of fields - from traditional bodybuilding and Crossfit to Olympic gold medal winning gymnasts, snowboarders and climbers, to MMA fighters, wrestlers and boxers, fitness YouTubers and cyclists.
While a powerlifter may excel at strength focused challenges, they may not be suited to win a test of endurance and agility. The aim of the series is to find the one physique that is well rounded enough to beat out all the rest, across all challenges.
Physical 100 is about so much more than the physical feats - it's also an exploration of human physical potential, teamwork and the power of a strong mindset.
In this article, we cover some of the key lessons learned from 3 incredible athletes of Physical 100.
Kim Min-cheol: Mountain Rescuer and Ice Climber
Lessons: Intention, Versatility & Being a Real Life Superhero
Kim Min-cheol is a mountain rescuer and national ice climbing athlete who proved victorious in all but one quest.
Compared to some of the other contestants, Kim may have a more unassuming frame - but of all 100, he is a real life Superhero because of his work with the Bukhansan Special Mountain Rescue.
The everyday work he does at his job helped him beat out 99 other contestants, including an Olympic gold medal winning gymnast, in a quest to hang on to a bar the longest. One of the tasks later in the game is the climb an endless rope… something Min-cheol won with ease, appearing to not have even broken a sweat.
Min-cheol’s versatile physique was built from regularly running long distances and climbing mountains while carrying 15kg packs, and his mental tenacity fortified by the high stakes situations of rescuing injured people stuck in precarious places.
It was clear from the beginning that Kim Min-cheol’s motivation for participating in Physical 100 was to give more exposure to both his fields of mountain rescue and the sport of ice climbing. This powerful intention took him all the way to the Top 5, until unfortunately he was eliminated in the first task which favoured brute strength.
From Min-cheol we can learn to challenge ourselves with hybrid workouts to become versatile in strength and fitness, while always having a clear intention for why we do what we do.
Train like Min-cheol
Train for the Mountain: Trail Running
If you want to improve your hiking or trail running performance, you need to strengthen your legs. Focus on heavy compound lifts like squats and deadlifts.
Train for Ice Climbing: Core, Upper & Lower Body Strength
Min-cheol must have a versatile training program for ice climbing as it requires overhead strength to swing a tool, core strength to stabilize while swinging and moving upward and leg strength and endurance.
Make sure your training also includes: Pull-ups, Push-ups, Hanging Leg Raises, Grip strength, Calf Raises, Dead Hangs and Rows.
Jang Eun Sil: National Wrestler, SSireium Player, Crossfit Athlete
Lessons: Perseverance, Leadership
South Korean National Wrestling Team member Jang Eun-Sil quickly became a favourite because of her strength and leadership.
In the second match, which was a one-on-one battle to keep hold of a ball until the timer runs out, Eun Sil was quietly confident as her opponent, a first class sergeant, attempted (and failed) to intimidate her. She ultimately won the match and went on to be selected as the only female team leader in 10 teams.
Eun Sil and her team were often underestimated as the ‘weakest team’ because of the size of their athletes and the amount of women compared to other teams.
This underestimation was a mistake, as her team of underdogs defied expectations and won a grueling sandbag challenge that required teamwork, physical strength, balance and agility. In this challenge, team members must split responsibilities among themselves to build the bridge, move sand into bags, and farmers carry the sandbags across the bridge to dump it into their container. The team with the most sand in their container by the end of the clock would win
Eun Sil’s determination and leadership guided her team of underdogs to success.
The second time she and her team were underestimated was during a challenge to move a 1.5 ton ship. Most other teams did not believe her team would even be able to move the ship by an inch… and while Eun Sil’s team did lose, they only lost by a 2 minute margin to the team that was considered the strongest.
Often, Eun Sil would take the less glamorous tasks because she knew her other team members would excel at the other roles. She never faltered, and continued to be a strong cheerleader for her team, never letting morale down, and encouraging everyone to keep going.
From Eun Sil, we can learn to strengthen our will and bring determination to every challenge. We learn to be knowledgeable and encouraging of our peers’ strengths - because by working together well, we can achieve far greater things than we could imagine.
Train like Eun Sil
In Photo: Better Body Air Bike
Shim Euddeum: YouTube Creator, Powerlifter
Lessons: Focus & Determination
Shim Euddeum is a Fitness Youtuber and former Fitness Model with 1.2 million subscribers. She shares content mostly on at home routines one can do with only minimal equipment. In the last few years, Euddeum started powerlifting and recently competed.
On Physical 100, Euddeum surprised viewers several times with her strength, proving that we cannot underestimate anyone by size or gender. She did pretty well during the first hanging challenge, beating the majority of competitors to be among the top 10 remaining and the last woman among her group.
Euddeum’s true shining moment came during the redemption round. After losing a challenge, 25 participants had a chance to come back by holding a weight 40% of their bodyweight up by rope for the longest they possibly could. As each competitor slowly dropped off one by one, she remained steadfast and rock solid, showing sheer focus, stillness and determination and completing the challenge. Euddeum won another chance to stay in the game.
Euddeum’s fitness journey started when she was involved in a serious car accident that made her realize the importance of maintaining her health. She started pilates as a way to rehabilitate herself, and continued to develop her athletic abilities ever since. Euddeum is currently training as a soccer player.
From Euddeum, we learn to develop extreme focus during high stress situations. This focus will help us overcome situations even when others underestimate us.
Train like Euddeum
Humility, Teamwork & Sportsmanship
The athletes mentioned above are only 3 of 100 incredible individuals. There is so much more to say and admire about the athletes featured in Physical 100.
Professional MMA fighter Choo Sung Hoon’s leadership, strength and high performance despite being one of the oldest contestants showed that age should not stop us from pursuing the best version of ourselves.
Jung Hae Min’s quiet confidence throughout the series, his athleticism not given a spotlight until the last 5 rounds. His physique showed that being a professional cyclist requires immense power - not just in the lower body, but all around.
It was also very interesting to see the teamwork dynamics particularly between Yun Sung Bin and Kim Sik.
Yun Sung Bin is an Olympic Gold Medalist in skeleton racing, an intense sport requiring athletes to ride a small (3' long) sled down a frozen track - face down, headfirst, at speeds of up to 130km/hr. It's one of the most dangerous winter sports, for which Sung Bin is the first Korean gold medalist. Fellow Physical 100 contestant Kim Sik was also his coach.
During a major task selection where each team member had to choose a grueling ‘Punishment’ in the theme of Greek mythology, Kim Sik deferred himself to take the most dreaded task. “The Punishment of Atlas” required athletes to hold a massive boulder over their head longer than all of the other competitors.
Kim Sik did this because he believed that Sung Bin would outperform him in ‘Punishment of Sysiphus’ - a task that required rolling a massive boulder up a hill continuously.
Upon failing a challenge, no one blamed anyone else but themselves. From this we learn to take responsibility for our actions and to focus only on what we can control.
Becoming Your Ultimate Self
All of these athletes have dedicated themselves to pushing the boundaries of physical effort, all persevering through the challenges they face along the way. Instead of giving up, they used those challenges as opportunities to grow and become stronger.
Through this series, we learn that the human body and mind are capable of incredible things if we are willing to put in the work and put ourselves past the point of comfort. That failure is not a reason to give up; it's a chance to learn and improve. And we learn that being a superhero doesn't require superpowers; anyone can exhibit superhuman capabilities by building discipline, focus, and a desire to push past our limits.
Next time you feel like giving up on your fitness goals or taking too many consecutive rest days, get inspired by the athletes of Physical 100.
Whether you’re a lifter, a runner, cyclist, or hiker, you have the potential to be a superhero in your own right. The only competition is you.
How far can you evolve yourself?