Analysis by Nkoya Dove BSc(Hons) MCSP HCPC
Start position: Lie on your back with knees and hips bent to 90° (table top position). Arms rest on the mat by your side with palms facing down.
Exhale: Draw the abdominal wall in and roll the head and upper trunk of the mat into the chest lift position, arms raised approx 6-8 inches (15-20cm) from the floor with palms still facing down. Advanced: extend the legs out straight to approx 60° hip flexion. To further progress this lower the straight legs closer to the mat.
Inhale: Pump the arms up and down for a count of 5, co-ordinating the breath with the arm movements – inhale for 5 arm pumps, exhale for 5 arm pumps. Repeat this cycle 10 times, or for 100 pumping motions or until you lose form.
Movement and Muscles
Stabilisation: tranversus abdominus, serratus anterior
Trunk flexion: rectus abominus, obliques
Hip flexion: iliopsoas, rectus femoris
Shoulder flexion: anterior deltoid, pectoralis major
Shoulder extension: posterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi
Do’s and Don’ts
DON’T allow the lower back to arch or the abdominals to dome; try to maintain a stationary deep C-curve of the trunk throughout the entire exercise.
DO imagine lengthening the arms away from the torso but avoid rounding the shoulders forwards.
DO ensure that the breath is coordinated with the arm pumps using a controlled, unforced inhale and exhale.
DON’T progress the level of the exercise until you have the abdominal strength and control to do so.
DO imagine a small ball tucked under the chin to maintain good posture and alignment through the neck.
A personal favourite of mine, the Hundred is one of the fundamental exercises from the original 34-matwork series devised by Joseph Pilates. It specifically builds strength through the abdominals and hip flexors and because of the endurance component can result in a real burn! However, due to the attachments of the hip flexors onto the lumbar spine and the front of the pelvis, there must be adequate strength through the deep abdominal stabilisers to prevent the pelvis from tilting forwards and the lumbar spine from arching. The specific breath pattern used within this exercise also helps to build awareness and control of the breath, helping to prevent against a build up in tension throughout the body. It is the perfect exercise to retrain those who have a tendency to hold their breath during abdominal strengthening exercises. The added component of upper limb movement further increases the difficulty level and challenges stability through the trunk and shoulder girdle. To top it all off, the Hundred is a great exercise for monitoring improvements as you can use the number of repetitions that you are able to complete without loss of form as a marker, before progressing the level of the exercise by altering the position of the legs.
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