Woman doing crunching exercise in activewear against back drop with knees bent and arms extended out

Strengthen your core to improve your posture with the pilates hundred exercise

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The pilates hundred is the best core exercise to ease back pain, according to a personal trainer.

Over the pandmic, we accumulated a lot of unexpected things: an ever-growing loungewear collection, a drawer stuffed full of face masks (not the moisturising variety) and a selection of new body aches that never existed before. 

From low back pain to rounded shoulders, we all faced some sort of discomfort as a result of spending more time at home. And being back to our regular work and workout routines hasn’t eased the pain. 

The good news is that it doesn’t take any complicated solutions. In fact, you just need this one exercise in your core-strengthening arsenal, according to personal trainer Adrienne Herbert. Even more good news: it’s not crunches.

“If I had to choose one move for overall health and posture, it would be pilates hundreds,” Adrienne says. You may not have heard of this core move before, but you should get to know it as it comes with big results.

“It’s not just about working your abs – it actually works the deeper core muscles too,” says Adrienne. “It strengthens the muscles around your spine and opens your chest. It’s a really good anti-desk exercise that I do a lot right now, given that I’m doing a lot of writing and virtual calls.”

Woman sitting on green yoga mat in activewear doing abdominal crunch exercise pilates hundred with bent knees and straight arms.
Core exercises for better posture: pilates hundred

How to do the hundred ab exercise

The exercise involves coming into a ‘dish’ shape on the floor and pulsing your arms up and down 100 times. Yes you read that right – 100 times. 

  1. Lie on your back and lift your head and upper back off of your mat, so that only the base of your shoulders is touching the ground. 
  2. Lift your legs off the floor and bend the knees into a 90° position, so your calves are parallel with the floor.
  3. Place your arms by your sides and extend them out towards your toes. 
  4. Pulse your arms up and down by just a few inches, exhaling as you press down.
  5. Keep the movements dynamic but controlled while maintaining tension in your arms. 

Pulse the arms for 100 reps. You can do this in 10 sets of 10, or do as many as you can and then rest for a few seconds before jumping straight back in. 

Variations for the hundred ab exercise

Leg placement is the easiest way to change up the intensity of this exercise. To make pilates hundreds more challenging, keep your legs straight and lift your feet a few inches off of floor. The closer the legs are to the floor, the harder it is. Make sure they aren’t so close that you end up losing form by arching your back. 

For an easier variation, bend your legs so your knees point towards the ceiling and place your feet on the floor a hands-width away from your bum. 

Training notes for the hundred abs exercise

It’s a challenging move, so making sure your form is perfect is crucial. The two most common mistakes include: 

Dropping the head back

Letting your head fall back and your chin point towards the ceiling will put make you strain through your neck, shoulders and back. Make sure you keep your chin tucked in towards your chest.

Arching through the spine

Arching will put pressure on the lower back rather than the abdominals and could cause more pain that it solves. Instead, draw your belly button in towards your spine so your spine is imprinted in your mat.

For more workout tips and tricks, sign up to the Strong Women Training Club

Images: Getty

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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