Achieving the Full Hundred

A word about modifications. Modifications (namely, regressions) are vital to an instructor’s ability to cater to clients of varying abilities and most importantly to keep clients safe and prevent injury.  But at what point are they actually hindering progress instead of just keep clients safe?  If you always have your clients do The Hundred in a tabletop position, will they ever progress to the full exercise?  If you always have a client perform Single Straight Leg Stretch with a bent leg, will their hamstrings ever lengthen?

As instructors, we have a duty to keep our clients safe, while, at the same time, managing expectations of improvement.  Without progress, clients can become disheartened and unmotivated, and often miss the subtle benefits they are achieving along the way.  We walk a fine line trying to balance a client’s needs with his or her goals.  Don’t get me wrong, “Safety First” must be the motto, but how do you know when a client is ready to progress?  Let’s look at a tactile cue that can help us understand how far a client has to go.

Today we’ll focus on The Hundred – a quintessential Pilates movement that gives clients a real sense of satisfaction when they can attain the full exercise.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash

Stand at the feet of your client while he prepares for the exercise in tabletop.  Ask him to extend his legs to straight and to rest on your thighs with the balls of the feet in a “Pilates V” – like the first position of footwork.  Adjust the distance you are standing from the client so that his feet are able to just contact your legs at a reasonable angle (the legs 45 degrees from the floor is a good place to start).

At this point, the client should begin the exercise.  During the 100 counts, ask the client to lift first just one leg and perform a whole set of breath (5 counts in, 5 out) and then switch to the other leg.  If this goes well ask for both legs to lift for a whole set of breath.  As the client proves to himself and you that the elevated leg position is sustainable, increase the breath cycles to 2 and/or move your body away slightly to bring the legs closer to the floor.  Continue this, over time, until the client can lift both legs from resting on floor to a sustained elevation of a few inches from the floor for the full 100 counts.

You can substitute your legs for a wall or box or chair if you have a larger group, but if you are able, the information you receive from the client’s contact with your body will be valuable in assessing how much you can safely push your client– How often do they rest their feet back down, even for a second?  How heavilyare they resting their feet on you?  And so on…

Setting Up for Supine – Don’t Drop the Box

Setting up properly for many supine exercises (Dead Bug, Femur Arcs, Arm Arcs, Side-to-Side, modifications for Hundreds, Chest Lift, Criss-Cross and others), requires the legs to be in a 90-90, or table-top position.  This is pretty self-explanatory – 90 degrees at the knees and 90 degrees at the hips or, the shins are the table and the thighs are the table legs.  The challenge comes when we call on the client to maintain this position throughout the exercise.

As the client focuses more on the movement and the effort required to perform it, he or she often struggles to maintain positioning.  As the repetitions increase, heels drop towards the floor and knees creep closer to the face, effectively disengaging the lower abdominals and inner thighs.

Sure, all of the exercises can be performed without these engaged, but to get the maximum benefit from each exercise, stability and periphery muscles need to be employed.  So let’s keep that 90-90.

Here’s a cue to help out: have the client imagine a large cardboard box underneath the crook of his or her knee as they are in table top.  Maintaining the perfect 90-90 will keep the box in its place.  Dropping the heels or pulling the knees closer to the face will squash the box.  Raising the toes towards the ceiling will cause the box to fall.  Have the client focus on keeping the box in its place during the entire exercise.

If you have an appropriately sized box in the studio, you could even put it to use to illustrate the correct positioning at the start.


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