One of Pilates most popular exercises is “The Hundred.” It is a challenging exercise that in classic Pilates is used as a warm up for the abdominals and lungs.
Do this exercise on a solid surface – think the floor, not a couch or a bed – you will likely want to use an exercise mat or a couple of towels for padding
- Begin lying flat on your back, arms extended next to your body with palms down and bring one leg at a time, into table top (create a 90 degree angle between your shin and your thigh).
- Imagine sliding your shoulder-blades down your back, like you are trying to put them in your back pockets.
- Squeeze your legs together and slightly point your toes while imagining reaching your finger tips past your toes
- Curl up – Bring your chin toward your chest. Leave enough room for a tangerine to fit under your chin (this makes breathing easier). Lift your shoulder-blades so that only the bottom edge is touching the floor and glance toward your mid-thigh
- Modifications – If you do not lift your head for this exercise and a pillow is not contraindicated you can put one under your head and neck to create a bit of a curl up with support. If you can lift your head but it is difficult and a bit achy, try lifting for 5 reps and resting for 5 and work up to 10 lifted, 10 resting, etc. Build up slowly until you can hold your neck up for the full count of 100. (If you have chronic neck issues and you don’t do hundreds often, you may not ever reach 100. Listen to your body and if you aren’t sure, assume the pain is NOT a good pain and discontinue the exercise.)
**If you have issues with your neck and lifting it exacerbates those issues, skip curling up**
- Reach your legs out long to about a 45 degree angle. If you are able to, lower the legs a couple of inches for the last 10 reps. The straighter and lower your legs are the greater challenge will be to your low abs
- Modifications – If you low back is straining try raising your legs. You can lift them as high as nearly 90 degrees to protect the low back. If that is not provide enough relief, bend the knees and bring them back into tabletop.
** If you have issues with your low back you may want to keep your legs in tabletop at least until you build up more core strength. As your legs reach out and lower the potential to strain your low back increases.
- Take a deep inhale to prepare.
- On an exhale (this can be one long exhale or percussive exhales) begin to raise and lower your arms as if you are moving them up and down through thick mud or peanut butter. Do this for 5 counts
- Inhale for 5 counts, continuing the movement
- Repeat until you reach 100 or you can no longer hold the position without straining. (The exercise should be challenging and your stomach may hurt as you do it the way your biceps do when you do a lot of bicep curls, but you should not feel pain/intense tension. Your neck may be sore from lifting it because you don’t usually hold it up this long. The pain should be similar to that of your biceps when you work them hard. You can begin by only lifting part of the time. You should not feel significant discomfort in your neck/shoulders or hip flexors. If you do, rest and/or discontinue the exercise.)
When you are done, pull your knees in toward your chest so that you are essentially in a little ball and rock from side to side to stretch out your low back a bit.
Watch the video to see it in action: