How to Do the Pilates Hundred Exercise for Better Breathing

How to Do the Pilates Hundred Exercise for Better Breathing

Pilates is a wildly popular form of exercise suitable for a variety of fitness levels, and as with any fitness practice, you’ll want to begin with a solid warmup. One of the best and most-likely starting exercises at the beginning of any Pilates class is called the Hundred — here’s what it is, and how to do it properly.

 

What Is the Hundred in Pilates?

The Hundred exercise “combines dynamic breath and is one of the only fast-paced movements in Pilates designed to build heat at the beginning of a session,” says Helen Phelan, a trainer, health coach, and the creator of Pilates Rebels at Project by Equinox.

The Hundred resembles a crunch, if you held the contraction at the top and added in arm pulses. “It’s called [The Hundred] because you do 10 sets of 10 repetitions of arm pumps while holding a flexed chest lift position,” Phelan says.

It’s a great warmup because it builds heat quickly, spiking the heart rate and activating the core.

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How To Do The Hundred Exercise

Here’s a guide to the move from Sonya Simpson, Certified Trap Pilates® Instructor and owner of AlterEgo Pilates & Fitness Studio:

  • Start lying supine (on your back) on the mat. Legs should be in a tabletop position, which here means that your thighs are vertical, your knees are bent, and your shins are horizontal.
  • Engage your abdominals and lift shoulders, curling the spine, and lifting your head off the mat. Keep your lower back in contact with the floor — don’t arch your back.
  • Inhale, pumping arms by side as they are lifted off the mat, making sure fingers, hands, and arms are straight. Inhale for one, two, three, four, five breaths with the first five arm pumps, and then exhale one, two, three, four, five breaths with five more arm pumps. After you complete ten, you’ll immediately continue to the next round.
  • Repeat ten times to reach that magic number: 100.
  • Upon the tenth set, inhale, increase your curl, and reach your arms past your hips. Hold. Then exhale and release back to lower yourself to your starting position. In other words, don’t flop down.

If you’re new to Pilates and can’t yet execute this exercise with proper form, start with fifty, then gradually work yourself up to the hundred.

To make the exercise more challenging, extend your legs straight out and off the mat — this can be toward the ceiling or at an angle, depending on your core strength (at an angle is harder).

“Some common mistakes include the feet being below the knees and not in a table top position,” says Simpson.

And don’t forget to breathe, adds Phelan. Breathwork is an intrinsic part of the exercise.

 

What Are The Benefits of The Pilates Hundred Exercise?

“Pilates Hundreds teach you to coordinate your breath with movement, ultimately enhancing body awareness through mindful, intentional movement,” Phelan says.

It also helps develop “core strength, stamina, integration, and circulation throughout the torso,” adds Simpson.

Core strength is a central component of Pilates, which emphasizes proper alignment, muscle balance, and stability (all of which call for a solid core), making this warmup particularly foundational for good Pilates practice.

Because it can be easily modified, it is also a warmup that can be suitable for any physical condition, body type, or need.

Now that your body is adequately warmed up, you’re ready for a challenging and effective Pilates workout!

Chelsea Frank

About

Chelsea Frank was born and bullied in Los Angeles, CA. When she's not performing stand up comedy or crying while doing squats, Chelsea writes about all things health, beauty, and travel. Her work has been featured in Shape, Uproxx, TripSavvy, The Daily Beast, Thrillist, and Reductress, among others. Fun fact: she's traveled to over 50 countries and has gotten sick in pretty much all of them!