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How to Do Pilates 100s

Back to Basics: Pilates 100s

The Pilates method is full of wonderful ab exercises, and the 100s is no exception. Often considered a warm up exercise, the 100s challenges your abs but also challenges your breathing coordination. It helps to get the blood circulating through your body to prepare you for the workout to come.

  • Start lying on your back with your legs in table top position (hips and knees at right angles). Engage your deep abs to round your lower spine into the floor. Make sure you are not "pooching" your abs, which means you are just working the top layer of abs – a definite no-no in Pilates.
  • Exhale and lift your upper back off the floor, until the bottom tips of your shoulder blades are just off the floor. Reach your arms toward your feet. Your arms will be about two inches off the floor.
  • Pump your arms up and down with a small range of motion, keeping your elbows straight. Inhale for five arm pumps and exhale for five pumps. That completes one set or cycle. Repeat cycle nine more times for a total of 100 pumps.

Do maintain your upper body position — don't roll back and don't rock. Your abs are working to stabilize your torso against the pumping action of your arms.

Do keep space between your chin and your chest. Imagine you are holding a medium size orange with your chin. If you don't have an orange to experiment with, try using your fist.

Do keep your low spine on the floor by scooping your deep abs for the entire exercise.

You can experiment with using a percussive exhale, which feels a little like the yogic Breath of Fire. To do this focus on your deep abs contracting and pulling toward the spine to force the breath. After inhaling smoothly for five arms pumps, coordinate five short exhales with the five arm pumps left in the set.

To add more challenge to your abs, straighten your legs toward the ceiling. As you become stronger, challenge your abs by lowering your legs toward the floor. Only lower your legs as long as you can maintain the connection of your spine to the floor and your deep abs. Work towards lowering your legs down to a 45 degree angle.

I love the 100s and think they are a great endurance ab exercise. I have had clients curse me, literally, when informing them we are about to do the 100s. If you have done them, share your feelings, love or hate, in the comment section below.

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Join The Conversation
NotABot NotABot 4 years
LOL, Tidal Wave and MartiniLush - I always figure legs at the 45-degree angle comes next year. :-)
kia kia 7 years
I love these!
kia kia 7 years
I love these!
rpenner rpenner 7 years
I'm excited to try these! They seem super tough
allinavhcnerf allinavhcnerf 7 years
i like this. i've done this before. i feel the burn right away :P i have a question though, which part of the abs does it work out?
allinavhcnerf allinavhcnerf 7 years
i like this. i've done this before. i feel the burn right away :Pi have a question though, which part of the abs does it work out?
MartiniLush MartiniLush 7 years
Fit, great tips - my neck also gets sore when doing this exercise!
MartiniLush MartiniLush 7 years
I love this exercise - it really tones and strenghtens your abs! I am also still working up to doing it with my legs at a 45 degree angle!
Fitness Fitness 7 years
GreenSkittlesGal - The stronger your abs become the easier this exercise will be on your neck. Mentally focus on your upper abs and bottom of the ribcage supporting your neck. Make sure you are up high enough, when you sink back your neck muscles will feel more strained. To release your neck, look to the right for one set of 10 and then the left for one set of ten. Also keep doing the exercise, but lower your head for 10 or 20 counts. You can also support you head with one arm while pumping the other. Good luck!
Fitness Fitness 7 years
GreenSkittlesGal -The stronger your abs become the easier this exercise will be on your neck. Mentally focus on your upper abs and bottom of the ribcage supporting your neck. Make sure you are up high enough, when you sink back your neck muscles will feel more strained. To release your neck, look to the right for one set of 10 and then the left for one set of ten. Also keep doing the exercise, but lower your head for 10 or 20 counts. You can also support you head with one arm while pumping the other. Good luck!
GreenSkittlesGal GreenSkittlesGal 7 years
Fit, my neck hurts like crazy when I do these. Any tips?
lizs lizs 7 years
Brings back fond memories of the gym last night...this is always my first ab thing, but I hate thinking of it as a warm up - it's tough!
aimeeb aimeeb 7 years
Wow these sound killer.
aimeeb aimeeb 7 years
Wow these sound killer.
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
I still can't do them with my legs at a 45 degree angle!
Puzzle2397 Puzzle2397 7 years
I've been doing this exercise for a while now, but I don't think I've been doing it as properly as I should have been. So, thanks for the detailed explanation. While not my favorite exercise, I have never (and would never) curse my instructor for making me do them, since I do them of my own free will!
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