“Change Happens through Movement and Movement Heals.” J.P.
The Hundreds in Pilates is a classic exercise that develops muscular strength and endurance for the abdominals while improving breathing and coordination. It is used as a warm up exercise that gets your whole body warm and possibly even sweating because of the pumping of the arms and the controlled breath. There are several modifications to the exercise and many people will need to start with a modified version to build up the abdominal strength and control needed to perform this exercise correctly.
If you are new to pilates start with the upper body flexed up, arms extended by sides and feet on the floor. Start to pump your arms as you inhale 5 counts through the nose and exhale 5 counts through pursed lips. This is what makes Hundreds a great abdominal exercise. You must use transverse abdominus to stabilize the lumbar spine and keep the abdominals flat, obliques and rectus abdominus flex you into the starting position and then hold you there for 10 cycles of 5 inhales and 5 exhales while pumping the arms and keeping the body quiet. If you have never done this exercise it is hard to hold yourself in this position for 10 breath cycles. It is also hard to breathe without letting the abdominals “pop” up into your shirt which would mean you lost your core connection and lumbar stabilization. You have to learn to breathe into the posterior and lateral aspects of your ribcage to make this happen. Another key point is to keep the neck and shoulders tension free as you pump the arms. Once you master this level you can bring your legs to table top. Now you must stabilize the lumbar spine against the weight of the legs. This requires even more abdominal engagement and control. Be sure that the low back doesn’t arch away from the floor and that the ribs don’t “pop” to the ceiling. As you get stronger and need more challenge straighten the legs out to a 45 degree angle only if you can maintain lumbar stability. If the back arches you need to pull the legs back to table top and find your core connection to protect the back. As you continue to develop core strength and control you may be able to lower the legs a little closer to the floor. This exercise should always be performed with precision and control. It should be pain free but challenging. In the beginning you may find it difficult to inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. You could try shortening the breath cycle such as inhale for 3 and exhale for 3. As that becomes manageable try inhaling for 4 and exhaling for 4. Then you could try to inhale for 4 and exhale for 5 or 6 counts. The emphasis on the exhale will empty the lungs more completely and engage the abdominals more deeply.
With regular practice you can become proficient at this exercise and start to reap the benefits of Pilates.