How to Do the Pilates Hundred

The Hundred
Ben Goldstein

The hundred is a classic Pilates mat exercise. You will be asked to perform it during the beginning of almost any Pilates class you take.

The hundred is a dynamic warm-up for the abdominals and lungs. It requires that you coordinate your breath with the movement and be strong and graceful at the same time. It is challenging, but the hundred is an easy exercise to modify. See the tips at the end of the exercise description for modification ideas.

Steps for the Pilates Hundred Exercise

  1. Lie on your back with your legs bent in table top position with your shins and ankles parallel to the floor.


  2. Exhale: Bring your head up with your chin down and, using your abdominal muscles, curl your upper spine up off the floor to the base of your shoulder blades. Keep the shoulders sliding down and engaged in the back. Your gaze is down into the scoop of the abs.

    Stay here and inhale.

  3. Exhale: At the same time, deepen the pull of the abs and extend your arms and legs. Your legs reach toward where the wall and ceiling meet in front of you. You can adjust them higher if need be, or lower for more advanced work.

    Your legs should only be as low as you can go without shaking and without the lower spine pulling up off the mat.
    Your arms extend straight and low, just a few inches off the floor, with the fingertips reaching for the far wall.

  4. Hold your position.

    Take five short breaths in and five short breaths out (like sniffing in and puffing out). While doing so, move your arms in a controlled up and down manner—a small but dynamic pumping of the arms. Be sure to keep your shoulders and neck relaxed. It is the abdominal muscles that should be doing all the work.

  1. Do a cycle of 10 full breaths. Each cycle is five short in-breaths and then five short out-breaths.

    The arms pump up and down—about a 6-inch to 8-inch pump—in unison with your breath. Keep your abs scooped, your back flat on the floor, and your head an extension of your spine, with the gaze down. Breathing big is important. Breathe into your back and sides. If this is unfamiliar to you,  practice your lateral breathing.

  1. To finish: Keep your spine curved as you bring your knees in toward your chest. Grasp your knees and roll your upper spine and head down to the floor. Take a deep breath in and out.

Tips for the Pilates Hundred

  • To modify the hundred: You can keep your legs in tabletop position. You can also do the exercise with your knees bent and the feet flat on the floor, lifting only the upper body.
  • People with upper back and neck issues can do this exercise with the legs extended or ​table top but the head down on the floor.
  • To make the hundred more challenging: Lower your legs, but do not lower your legs past where you can control the movement. Don't let your spine peel up off the floor as you lower the legs.
  • Continue to refine your form and improve your Pilates hundred.