Master the Pilates 100 Move

Pilates workouts are renowned for flattening and toning the midsection. The Pilates 100 is one of the most effective and challenging abdominal moves Joseph Pilates ever perfected.

This move uses both upper and lower body weight to generate natural resistance. Don't be fooled by the simplicity of the pose—it's super hard.

How to Do Pilates 100

Begin by lying flat on your back with your legs bent, feet placed on the floor.
  1. Draw your belly button down towards your spine. You should feel as if there's a string extending from your belly button to your spine and that someone is using that string to pull the entire front part of your body towards your back.
  2. Slide your rib cage towards your hipbones. Imagine that you could slip your bottom ribs into little pockets underneath them and that your are pressing forward and down into the ground. This posture is known as the "Pilates Corset" because you're tightly wrapping your ab muscles around your rib cage.

    Your goal is to keep this position for the entire exercise. Concentrate on not letting your ribs fly up or letting your lower back lift off the floor and raise your knees to table top—forming a 90 degree angle with the floor.

  3. Extend your fingertips towards your hips with palms facing the ground. Nod yes to bring your head and the top of your shoulders off the ground sliding your fingertips closer to your toes.
  4. If you are a beginner stay here (level one).

    If you are more advanced straighten your legs and extend them straight into the air (level two). Make sure your lower back is still pressing into the floor and that your abs are tight.

    If you are ready for an even more advanced version of the pose begin to lower your legs towards the floor until your straight legs form a 45 degree angle with your torso and the floor (level three).

    Extend your legs only as low as you can continue to maintain proper form; if you lower back comes off the floor you've gone too far. Your gaze should be on your lower abs—make sure they're not puffed out. If you're doing the exercise correctly just holding this position should feel challenging.

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  1. Begin to move your arms up and down with your palms still facing the floor. Really push the air down with each movement to create resistance. Draw your shoulders down and away from your ears.

    Match your breathing to your arm movements. Exhale forcefully five times while you move your arms up and down then take a smooth five second inhale for five more arm movements. This is one rep (10 arm moves plus 10 breathes).

  2. Repeat 10 times for a total of 100 movements to complete the exercise.

    Modifications

    This challenging move has a lot of modifications—find the version that works for you.

    • If you feel your lower back pulling off the ground raise your legs away from the floor (level two) or bend them into tabletop (level one). You can do this at any point during the exercise to rest. Be careful with your lower back—the work should originate from your abs.
    • The move can also be performed with your feet flat on the ground. Just remember to keep your core engaged and to really press your arms down.
    • If you feel your neck start to strain briefly rest your head back on the ground and then resume the position. You can also perform the exercise with your head down.

    After you complete the exercise draw your knees into your chest to stretch. Roll gently side to side to release your lower back and neck.

    This move is exceptionally challenging and precise. Pay attention to your body while you perform the pose. It should feel difficult but never painful. Listen to your body and take whatever modifications you need.

    See the Pilates 100 demo


Dena Stern is the Content & Community Manager for Exercise.com. She works with a highly trained group of nutritionists, trainers, yoga and Pilates instructors and athletes to provide the best information, tools and motivation related to personal fitness. 

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