March Exercise of the month: the 100’s

The 100’s is a great warm-up for the abdominals, shoulder and torso musculature.

Pilates is full of wonderful abdominal exercises and the 100’s is one of them. If you have been coming to my classes you will have noticed that we do the 100’s in every single class, without fail. It’s that good.

So… what’s so good about the 100’s? In this article I explain why we do this great exercise and how.

Why do the 100’s?

The 100’s is a warm-up exercise for the whole abdominal musculature, the back and shoulders, and for the breath as well: it challenges your deep and superficial abdominal muscles while challenging your breathing coordination. This gets the blood circulating through the whole body and prepares it for the exercises to come.

Things to remember about the Pilates 100’s

The 100’s should be done with legs up in table top or diagonal ONLY if the abdominals are strong enough to sustain an “imprint position” in the pelvis throughout the whole exercise. “Imprint” in Pilates is when the whole abdominal belt is engaged, tilting the pelvis back and lengthening the lower back towards the mat. Until this level of strength is achieved, the exercise should be done with feet down, and pelvis in imprint.

The head and shoulders can be up above the mat, or down resting on the mat if this position puts any strain on the neck and shoulders.

The arms should be long and just a few centimeters of the mat, with the shoulders relaxed and gently held down away from the ears. The arm movement throughout the exercise is a quick pumping movement: the arms move a few centimeters up and down about 100 times!

And the breath is coordinated with the arm movements, with each breath in or out taking as long as is needed for 5 arm pumps.

As always in Pilates, the belly should be scooped in, not letting the middle abdominals bulge out, and the breathing should be happening in the ribcage – forcing it to expand and deflate like an accordion.

Why use bands and balls?

You will also have noticed that I sometimes ask you to use a band across your shinbones while doing the 100’s, or to hold a ball between your feet. This is to increase the intensity of the work out for one part of the body, and help you focus on that aspect of the exercise.

With the band, the shoulders and arms need to work a little harder encouraging you to increase your effort to stabilise your torso as well.

With the ball, the inside thigh muscles have to be engaged to hold it in place, which encourages a deep contraction in the pelvic floor and the deep abdominal muscles.

What do you think of the 100’s? Do you like it? Or hate it? Have you got a favourite version? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook and Instagram pages!

And in March, maybe try and pay more attention to how you do this exercise and ask yourself: how is my imprint? Are my abs bulging out? Are my shoulders relaxed?

And of course… have fun doing the 100’s!

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