Pilates Exercise | The Hundred | The Core Counts!

Personal/Fitness Training Blog

Founder of the Pilates Method, Joseph Pilates, has been hailed as being light years ahead of his time. The brilliance in his exercises is simply remarkable.

Joseph designed a series of many highly effective warm-ups but the one we will be dissecting and analysing here is called The Hundred.

True to its name, The Hundred requires you to coordinate your breath with the pulsing movement of your arms 100 times while your torso is in a constant chest-lift position and your legs are in perfectly poised 45-degree angle.

With your abs, arms legs and diaphragm working hard, your blood will be pumping in no time! This is the very reason why The Hundred is a much-loved and ever-so-popular classical Pilates warm-up.

With this exercise comes the motivating challenge of getting you to hold out to the finish – to the last breath… To the 100th breath…

 Here’s how

  • Begin supine.
  • Draw in your abdominal muscles, with a scooping in and upwards movement as if you were trying to get your belly button to touch your spine.  (This concept can be simply phrased as ‘naval to spine’.)
  • Before beginning your breathing sequence, ensure  your pelvis is in neutral (not tilting up or down but rather parallel to the sky allowing a little space between your lower back and the mat).
  • Place one leg at a time (to avoid unnecessary strain on your back) into tabletop position.
  • Legs are adducted (together) in this position with toes gently pointed reaching out of the heel.
  • Arms are extended at your side with palms facing downward.
  • Pull your shoulders far away from your ears. (Envisage a giraffe with a long neck – this imagery works well as a visual cue.)

Breathing sequence

  • Inhale: Prepare. As you draw your spine into the mat this will take you out of neutral spine. You must do this in order to protect your back as your legs will be moving away from your core.
  • Exhale: Lift your head and chin off the mat as eyes gaze down to your naval. Bring your chin to chest as you raise your arms off the mat. Extend your legs out as low as possible without compromising the neutral lumbar pelvic position. Stabilise the scapulae at all times.
  • Inhale: For five counts, pulse your arms vertically in time with breath, keeping your abdominals contracted.
  • Exhale: For five counts, pulse your arms vertically in time with your breath, deepening the abdominals contraction with every count.  (Perform 10 reps of 10 breaths totaling 100 pulses).
  • Inhale: Hold the position.
  • Exhale: Return to starting position.

Body benefits

  • Strengthening  of your abdominal muscles (large group of muscles located in the front of the abdomen – between the ribs and the pelvis, consisting of the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques and tranverse abdominis).
  • Strengthening of the lower trapezius.
  • Strengthening of quadriceps and hip flexors.
  • Increase in circulation.
  • Trunk stabilisation.
  • Aids in coordination of breath.

Points to ponder

  • Maintain scapulae stabilisation throughout exercise.
  • As a rule never compromise good form. To ensure this does not happen, do not lower your legs too low.
  • To support a weak neck use a bosu ball, deflated ball or interlace fingers and place hands behind your neck. This will give the desired support for your neck, but the latter will increase difficulty for your abdominals.
  •  To increase difficulty forthe abdominals place a small Pilates ball or Pilates circle between your ankles. Another option would be to lower and lift legs in time with the breathing sequence.
  • Decrease difficulty for individuals with lower back problems/weak abdominals by placing both feet on the mat, slowly graduating through each leg level position. The five leg levels are:

– Level 1: Knees bent and feet flat on the mat.
–  Level 2: Lift both legs into tabletop.
–   Level 3: Legs  at 90 or 60 degrees.
–  Level 4: Extend one leg to 45 degrees, the other either flat or in table top.
–  Level 5: Both legs extended out to 45 degrees.

True to Pilates ideology and classical style this warm-up will test the core, build stamina and require complete mind body connection. On Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Comprehensive Pilates Certification, you’ll gain in-depth Pilates knowledge and skills. So if being a Pilates instructor is something that is your life’s ambition, follow this link.