Pilates isn’t always thought of as the most muscle-shaking, ab-quaking workout ever, but there are some moves that seriously challenge this notion. If you haven’t already, meet the Pilates 100, one of the method’s classic core exercises. And there’s a reason it’s been a mainstay for so long: This abs move seriously puts your muscles to the test.
“The Pilates 100 helps to strengthen and sculpt the abs because it helps engage the transverse abdominals, which basically means the deepest set of muscles you have in your lower belly,” says Kit Rich, an L.A.-based trainer, Pilates instructor, and Lucy Activewear pro. Plus, it definitely brings the Pilates vibe to whatever workout you’re doing. “This one move encompasses all Pilates principles: concentration, centering, control, breathing, precision, and flow,” adds Rich.
To make the most of this move, do it before your other core-focused exercises (just like you would in a Pilates class), says Rich. “It’s a warm up for the abs and a great connection for mind and body,” says Rich. Plus,”the pumping of the arms helps get the blood moving in the body.” Ready to kick off your abs workout with this simple but challenging move? Here’s how to do it.
- To get into position, lie on your back with your knees bent, then lift your feet off the floor into table top position (your knees should be stacked above your hips and bent at a 90-degree angle, your lower legs parallel to the floor). Point your toes, squeeze your heels together, and extend your legs straight and forward to about a 65-degree angle—for more of a challenge, you bring your legs a bit lower to the ground.Lift your head and shoulders off the mat and extend your arms by your side. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
- With your arms straight out by your sides, begin pumping your arms up and down using your triceps, inhaling through the nose for five pumps and exhaling out of the mouth for five pumps for a total of 10 times. “This is why it’s called the hundreds,” says Rich. How fast your arms move will depend on how fast you’re breathing, and every individual (and instructor) is different, says Rich. (If you’re just starting out, she recommends a medium to fast pace, as shown.)
- Now for a few form notes: With every inhale, imagine the belly button is pulling in towards the floor (this is called the Pilates scoop), and with your exhale try to pull in even deeper, says Rich.Keep your shoulders wide and slide your shoulder blades down your back.
- You can modify if you need to, too: “If you have a sensitive back, keep knees bent in table top position,” says Rich. “If you have a sensitive neck, feel free to keep your head down.”
Chances are, you’ll start feeling the burn way before you hit 100.