Thoughts On Netflix’s Physical: 100

7 min readFeb 23, 2023


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Over the past several Tuesdays I’ve been indulging in a guilty pleasure, watching physical specimens competing in ridiculous competitions. I found Physical: 100 (terrible name, in my opinion) to be an upgrade from American Ninja and its derivatives. I grew up watching American Gladiators and wanted to see how this Korean show measured up. It’s not as interesting or exciting as AG was, but I found some aspects of the concept highly intriguing.

  • I had no idea who anyone was but to watch the contestants reacting to each others entrance was actually pretty cool. They knew who almost everyone was and the whole idea that some famous and clearly impressive individuals were going to be competing hyped the whole thing up. The idea of the pottery torsos was a nice touch.
  • Throughout the show the competitors demonstrate a level of respect towards each other that I as a Westerner am not aware of. I don’t recall anyone getting angry at another contestant. The defeated took their losses well and few of the winners showed open pride. The way they politely asked for another to compete with them was eye opening. I have never seen this level of respect in Western sports. It made me sad how uncivilized we are in comparison. I can’t imagine a Western version of this show having anywhere near the level of common respect and admiration.
  • The pre-quest hanging for dear life was a good idea. It immediately showed the advantage a lighter physique had over the heavier and how superheavy contestants, though they were extremely powerful, could not handle their own weight as efficiently as the others. I was impressed with how long some of the women lasted. I thought the advantage they received for lasting so long was poor compensation for the suffering they put their bodies through.
  • The first quest, holding the ball, was poorly conceived and executed. First off, several contestants got injured, completely destroying any chance they’d have in the future quests. Second, there were a number of no-contest bouts, where one hugely strong person was against a weak person. The no-contest bouts were boring and annoying to watch. Every fighter had a clear advantage that had nothing to do with their physique as demonstrated by how easily the two wrestlers dominated their opponents. I felt annoyed when the bearded male wrestler threw around his giant opponent. Unless you are also a wrestler you simply can’t compete with that and that wrestler didn’t even compete well in any of the other contests. Several of the other people were overmatched as well, such as the female bodybuilder Chun-ri, whose physique was wasted when she had to compete against an MMA fighter. She was beaten so easily it’s like, why even bother being on the show? They could have come up with a better way to dwindle down the contestants instead of have half of them be immediately ejected. Huge waste of many good physiques.
  • The sand-moving quest wasn’t very entertaining and should be eliminated alongside the first quest. I thought it wasn’t creative enough and didn’t challenge the physiques in a unique way, but at least they didn’t have them do a tug-of-war.
  • The in-between quest where they had to hold up their pottery torsos was good because they all had to hold up the same percentage of their weight. There should have been more things based on the individual’s percentage of weight. Because of how well thought-out this quest was we were able to see a lightweight woman hold her own weight better than huge guys.
  • The ship-moving quest was the most exciting. Everyone had to go all out in this quest and it was genuinely interesting to see how the teams worked differently on the problem. The team that should have been the strongest almost lost to the team that was clearly the weakest simply because of the decisions they made. It was incredibly impressive that the weakest team almost beat them and I was routing for the underdogs.
  • The Greek inspired quests should have been done earlier. First, in fact. Everyone should have been able to choose which of the challenges they were going to try and then have 2 groups of 10 compete for every challenge. It would have been interesting to see if the arm-wrestling champion would have been able to hold up the 50kg rock as long as the strongman. There were a lot more physiques that could have competed more impressively and equally with each other. Sadly, a missed opportunity. I did enjoy seeing the hunky this-guy-will-clearly-win lose at this point. He was the only one who was becoming a bit annoying. It was also funny watching the massive bodybuilder dude barely be capable of holding the 50kg rock above his head. He had to sit there for hours waiting for the other guys to drop theirs. One wonders what went wrong there, maybe his posture in holding the rock was completely off or his muscles weren’t trained for that kind of situation and worked against him, possibly due to lack of range of motion or his limbs were too short.
  • As for the last quests, they were okay but I was disappointed that some of them seemed to clearly handicap certain body types. The slender guy who dominated in everything he competed in had no chance against heavier dudes in a tug of war and the heaviest dude had no chance in a battle of agility. Maybe the mountain climbing guy could have had a chance at winning if he were able to make it past that first round.
  • And at long last we were able to find out who the winner was. I thought the last match of pulling the infinite-rope was a decent task. It combined strength, endurance and mentality. It was also a close contest which was exciting. I admit that I had no idea the crossfitter guy was going to win the whole thing. I didn’t even know who he was until he was opting for the rope climb (what a mistake that would have been) over the jogging contest. He definitely deserved the win. He had to do more work than the others and his physique was well-balanced. Now we all have to admit the superiority of Crossfit. The thing about the guy, though, and I wonder if others got this same vibe, was that he was a bit awkward, like the kind of guy who was too serious or could take things personally. It was all in his look, which struck me as a combination of ‘I’m about to cry’ and ‘I’m about to hit you’. We all know the hunky guy would have won those last competitions. I noticed he wasn’t in the last audience group. I also noticed the big bodybuilder guy looked extremely bored and defeated. He shouldn’t be, though, that slow-mo clip of him sprinting for the leather ball was absolutely terrifying.
  • I had a lot of difficulty figuring out who people were and what happened to some of the competitors, where they had been eliminated. I thought the medalist-gymnast was going to do well and then he sort of disappeared or was overlooked when it came to the groups of 5 and stopped getting camera time or I no longer noticed it if he did. There were tons of competitors you didn’t even notice because the 50/50 competition eliminated them too quickly. They also only gave us short clips of most of the competitions and I didn’t like that. One wishes there was extra footage available to watch each match instead of having them curated for us. I thought that diminished many of the competitors and without those competitors the show wouldn’t be what it was.
  • Only a couple of people were annoying by the end of it, the vast majority of competitors were likeable. It was fun to listen in to what they were saying when they were watching each other compete.
  • I wish we had an idea of how much time they had to rest in-between quests. Some of them looked like they put everything into winning a quest and that could have affected their performance in the next quest.
  • I didn’t care for the parallels to Squid Game. I watched and enjoyed Squid Game but I did find the setup of the show to add to it. If you’re going to do something like that you should have it set up so the contestants couldn’t actually know what happened to the losers, make it almost seem like they died/disappeared. Create optical illusions, like fake holographic spikes underneath the competitors when they were hanging on for dear life, or fake sharks in the water, or somehow cover the water element in a way that they can’t see what happens to someone when they fall, where they fall into an inky blackness and hear no sound. If you’re going to get Hollywood about it, go all the way.
  • I’m glad they didn’t do much background story for anyone. Western shows like this tend to be bogged down with sob stories and details no one cares about.
  • I almost felt inspired to workout when I watched the show. Instead, I settled for fantasizing about myself dominating every competition.

Lastly, I think it would be cool to have almost the same exact show but with high-profile competitors in the US. I think we would all love to see our top athletes and famous fitness personalities compete in a similar way. The interest would come from actually knowing the people involved in the competition. I came away from this show highly impressed with the Korean fitness scene and their athletes. The ultimate Physical: 100 would be to hold this identical contest in 100 different nations and then have the winners from each competition be involved in a whole new competition. One can dream.




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