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puppy lying in Pilates hundred position

Pilates Exercise Dive: The Hundred

exercises matwork pilates

What do that cute puppy and Julie Andrews have to do with The Hundred? Well, the puppy - besides being adorable - is in a pretty perfect 100 curl and Ms. Andrews said, I mean sang, "let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start".

Did you know that the first exercise in Joseph Pilates original 34 exercises as laid out in his manifesto Return To Life, is The Hundred?

In every single Pilates session you should do some version of The Hundred (unless of course your session is very rehab centred, in which case it might not be appropriate). Sometimes you might even do two sets depending on the mood of your teacher😈

So why is The Hundred the first exercise when it’s so dang hard? I mean have some mercy Mr. Pilates!

Let's dive in. The Hundred is designed to:

  •  warm up your body by vigorously pumping the arms and increasing your blood flow to bring oxygen rich blood to your muscles, lungs and heart so they can function effectively.
  •  help you figure out how to hold up the weight of the legs from the strength of the pelvis and torso. (i.e. your ‘core’ or ‘powerhouse’)
  • teach you how to hold up the weight of the shoulder girdle and head from the upper abdominals and deep flexors of the neck.
  • show you that it's possible to move your arm easily in the shoulder socket with out being too floppy or too stiff. 
  • bring you deeply into focus by the rhythmic nature of the pumping and breathing.
  • streamline and organise yourself to your midline. (remember Centring is a Pilates Principle)
  • perhaps allow you to notice any alignment imbalances as you gaze down at your body.

Hey not a bad list for something that takes a total of somewhere between 30 & 45 seconds to complete! Knowing that makes me very happy 👇

(me in my old studio taking the 100 position) 


Okay so what’s with the name? Why is it called The Hundred?

As mentioned above you pump your arms which you then connect to your breathing pattern: You breathe in for five pumps and out for five pumps ten times which, voila = one hundred.


 How is it done? 

The full Hundred starts with you flat on your mat and as you roll up to the tips of your shoulder blades lifting your head and upper back up into your Hundred Curl, you simultaneously lift your feet two inches (5 centimetres) off your mat and then start pumping and breathing. Let’s be honest though, this can be extremely challenging if we haven’t understood what the exercise is for or if we don’t have the strength to perform it safely.

So, how do we build that strength? If you feel like the full version might not be an appropriate way for you to perform your Hundreds, how can you work up to feeling as though it’s doable? How can you move towards a fuller expression of the exercise the way that Joseph Pilates designed it? 


Well, let me help. I've made a tutorial that starts with the full version and then offers a number of modifications and ways of moving yourself closer towards it. Click here to check it out. If you want more than that, check out my whole Video On Demand Library😉



Here's a photo from Joseph Pilates' manifesto Return To Life, as I mentioned The Hundred is number one of his original 34 exercises:

Do you see where it says it's an Introductory Exercise? Plus, he was 60 when these photos were taken!

Is the end goal really for you to do The Hundred as Mr. Pilates described?

Well, actually, umm no!

Your goal should always be to challenge yourself by pushing the edges of your envelope and seeing where you can take your self in your Pilates practice.

Remember that pushing yourself has to be linked to really paying attention to what’s going on with you in the moment. Have you been a little under the weather? (speaking for myself, yes) Are you dealing with an injury? How was your sleep over the past week, etc. etc. etc.


Always be wise and listen to your body, it's your best teacher (after me of course😉 )

My hope is that you’ve gained some insight after reading this.

Be Well, xBec 


The opinions expressed and contained above are provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice. Rebecca Forde & Dragonfly Pilates & Movement disclaim all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this post. 

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