Try the Pilates the Hundred Exercise 3 Different Ways

Pick Your Favorite

Woman tries Pilates hundred
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Did you know you can test your own Pilates level and style at home? Try one exercise three different ways and you'll be able to choose the right type of Pilates class for you. 

Workout styles are individual and personal.  Walking into a Pilates class can be a shock. Depending on the instructors' content and delivery, you may find Pilates too challenging or too simple. In a prior article, I suggested there are often three types of exercisers; Gainers, Maintainers and Re-trainers. Identifying your type can help you to build your personal program more efficiently and effectively.

Using one move, delivered in different ways, you can figure out what's right for your body. For those of you that have tried Pilates and for the many more that haven't, a simple test drive will reveal your personal Pilates preferences.  Keep in mind that your exercise preferences don't always stay the same and may well change over time.

The Hundred

Let's look at the Hundred. This is the first exercise in the Classical Pilates system on the Mat. There are as many ways to perform the Hundred as there are instructors. I've selected three for you to experiment with and determine your personal favorite. 

What to do with this information? Let it guide you in your selection of a teacher and a class. Try all three before deciding on your preferred version. Describe your favorite variation to a potential teacher to help guide your lesson. If you are trying out classes or working out at home, look for an instructor or online resource that includes moves similar to your chosen variation. 

The teacher in me would be remiss if I didn't give you one valuable tidbit. Beware. Your favorite exercise may not be the one that is truly best for you. Sometimes we shy away from the approach that is the biggest challenge.

Now, move on to the test drive.

Variation 1

This variation of the Hundred is straight from Joseph Pilates' book Return to Life. If you are generally fit and looking for an athletic and vigorous workout, this is your variation. Focus on your entire body being fully active.  All the major muscles groups are fired up and working simultaneously for maximum workload.

Step 1: Lie flat with legs and arms stretched out long. In a single motion contract your abdominals to pull your head, arms and legs up off the Mat. The legs may rise up to 45 degrees or remain low. 

Step 2: Begin vigorously pumping the arms up and down in time with your breath. Time your arm pumps so that five pumps equals one inhale and the next five pumps equals one exhale. Repeat ten full cycles until you are at one hundred pumps or ten full breaths.

Step 3: Finish strong. With complete control, lower the legs first and then the head and arms.

Move on to the next version. 

Variation 2

Depending on your body's needs and your area of focus, the Hundred can address your form in your abdominal curl and your capacity for breath control.  In this variation, be sure to focus on the quality of your movement as well as the coordination of the breath and the movement. If you are a careful mover and can focus on details while moving, this one is for you.

Step 1: Lie on your back with legs together and bent. The feet remain flat. Inhale to prepare.

Step 2: Exhale and contract your abdominals to begin a curl up bringing yourself into a solid abdominal curl and reaching your arms just above the mat. Lower yourself smoothly back down with an exhale. Repeat this step two more times.

Step 3: On the third curl up, hold the position. Begin pumping the arms up and down in a rhythmic tempo. Synchronize your breathing with the pumping of your arms. Inhale for five pumps and exhale for five pumps. Work your way up to one hundred pumps. No matter what, keep control of your abdominals. Be sure to hold the arms rigid while you pump and work the legs together tightly.

Step 4: Hold the final position, curling up a bit higher before lowering down to your start position. 

Move on to the final version.

Variation 3

The abdominals may be the most underused or misused group of muscles.  Retraining your core to serve your body in all of your daily activities is a great foundation for improving your general posture and fitness.  If you are looking to connect deeper to your core, you will enjoy this version. 

Step 1: Lie flat with your knees bent and feet flat. If you like, place your hands on your abdominals to help you feel your muscles working correctly. Gently tighten your Abs to begin and without changing your posture, or your spine or your pelvis, float one leg up to "tabletop" or a 90/90 angle.

Step 2: Float the other leg up to join the first leg. Breathe naturally. Once again, without any change in the torso, float one leg down just above the mat. Do not rest the foot back on the mat. Begin alternating legs, keeping both legs moving slowly past each other, one raising up while the other moves down.  Your abs must remain tight and your spine must remain still the entire time. Time your breath to coordinate with your legs. Take five counts to inhale and raise a leg up, then five more counts to exhale and lower a leg down.

Repeat 10 Sets.

Step 3: With total control, float both legs down to your starting position on the mat.

You're done! 

Like all three versions? Even better. There will always be a Pilates workout you'll enjoy. 

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