The A-Z of Pilates - H is for the Hundred

The Hundred is one of Joseph Pilates’s classic mat exercises, and in a typical classically based Pilates class it usually performed early on as a dynamic warm up for the abdominals and lungs. It is quite a challenging exercise to do it in its truest form, requiring co-ordination of breath with a hundred beating movements of the arms whilst at the same time, engaging the core and extending the legs away from the body at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Luckily it is also a very easy exercise to adapt, but before asking new clients to tackle it, my preference is to set lots of different slow and controlled abdominal exercises over the course of several weeks first of all. This way everyone has the chance to build up the appropriate level of strength over a period of time, to be able to perform any adapted or full version of the Hundred safely and correctly.


When looking through some of my photos and videos from my adventures last summer, I came across a clip of me having a go at a sequence of variations of the Hundred whilst on deck and moored at a marina. Just click on the photograph below to have a look! 


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How to do the Hundred:


Remember, to check with your GP or health practitioner if you have any health medical condition which may affect your ability to exercise, and always practice according to your own level of fitness and ability. 


Lie on your back with the knees bent, hip width apart and with your feet parallel. Your arms are lengthening down by the sides of your body so that there is space between your ears and shoulders. Pull you ribs down towards top of your hips, zipping up the pelvic floor and flattening down the abdominals to create a strong core connection.



  • Float right leg off the floor into a 90 degree tabletop position; the knee is directly over the hip and the shin is level. Keeping the back down and the abdominals engaged float the left leg away from the floor too, so that both legs are now in double knee fold tabletop position.
  • Inhale to lengthen the back of the neck and on exhale nod your head forward and peel your upper back away from the mat in a curl up. Hover the arms just off the mat lengthening towards the opposite wall. Anchor the core connection making sure abdominals are down and not doming upwards towards the ceiling.
  • Dynamic version: Make small controlled beats with the arms up and down, moving from the shoulder and focusing on a downward dynamic of movement. Breathe in for five counts and out for five counts; this is one set of 10. Imagine the arms are wooden posts on small springboards splashing water without flapping from the elbows or wrists.
  • Slow version:  Do not beat the arms. Take a slow breath in for five counts and out for five counts. At the same time hover the arms and lengthen the fingers towards opposite wall and focus on core connection control.
  • Maintain core engagement throughout and focus on keeping pelvis anchored down and still. The shoulder, hip and knees should stay in alignment with the knees and legs stable and the arms long.
  • To finish the exercise, bring your knees towards your chest and then lower your head to mat. Lower your legs back down to the mat one at a time.




1. Perform the exercise with the feet remaining on the floor, hip width apart and with the feet parallel. Maintain your rib to hip core connection throughout, keeping your waist long and your back in neutral, so that the tailbone is lengthened on the floor without curling under. Avoid flexing at the hips and curling the tailbone under, and ‘doming’ the abdominals towards the ceiling.

2. Support the head with one hand behind it and use just one arm to beat. Or support the head with both hands and perform the slow version without the arm beats. 

This entry was posted on January 9, 2018