It's only fitting that we kick off our mat exercise series with the first exercise in the order. Joseph Pilates did not do anything without purpose or intentions, his method is very methodical.
The Hundred promotes circulation, improves coordination of movement with breath, and centers the mind and body while connecting to the Powerhouse. It's only fitting that this is referred to as the Pilates "warm-up".
The Powerhouse is the area of our body that powers the movement. It's explained as a 4-inch band that wraps around the middle from the hips to the ribcage, back to front. The Powerhouse also includes the buttocks and inner thigh muscles, supporting it above and below. It's important to remember that the Powerhouse is referring to a concept and not an anatomical location.
There are important principals in Pilates that we will cover in later posts but for now, let's get you moving with this introductory level exercise!
Use caution when experiencing neck or back problems, building blocks are explained further in the post. As always, exercise should not be painful to your joints.
To begin, lie on your back with your knees bent, legs together, and feet flat on the floor. Lengthen your spine and place your arms and palms down along your body. If you're feeling comfortable to advance the exercise, you may extend your legs out on the mat.
Next, bring your chin and your knees toward your chest and reach your arms along your sides. While doing this, you are lifting your shoulder blades off the mat as your reach forward.
Stretch your legs to the ceiling and lower them out to a 45 degree angle, keeping your lower back on the mat. Heels should be together, toes about 4 inches apart in Pilates Stance, wrapping your legs lengthening them out of your hips. If you are following along with the advanced level, you may raise your legs straight from the mat to the working level (ideal is 45 degrees).
Breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts, pumping your arms up and down 6-8 inches. Imagine bouncing a super ball under your palms.
This exercise is repeated for 10 full breaths, equaling 100 pumps, thus the name, the Hundred.
Building Blocks for the Hundred:
- Keep your feet on the floor or knees bent.
- Keep your head down or supported by a rolled up towel. If you do this, pump your arms more shallow or not at all if it pulls on the neck.
If you feel it is too challenging and you are unable to keep your body in the proper position or it's causing pain, utilize the building blocks to help! Building blocks are not to be seen as a negative thing. They are intended to allow us to improve our body's physical health without doing any harm due to pain or improper positioning.
When I began my Pilates journey, getting out of bed each morning was a very painful endeavor. I initially learned Pilates with every basic building block there is. With time and determination, I am now able to do all of the exercises with the full ideal form and execution! Without building blocks, Pilates would have been far too painful and I would have never made it to this point. (Have I mentioned that "this point" is a life without back pain?! Something that I believed for 12 years would never happen).