How to Avoid Back Pain During Pilates

No-Back-Breaking Pilates: The Hundred

You might be avoiding the essential Pilates exercise the Hundred because it strains your lower back. But don't give up! We might be able to help you fix this problem possibly caused by tight hamstrings. Or you could be overextending your lower back by forcing your legs to straighten. Weak ab muscles and tight hip flexors could also be the culprit. It's difficult but crucial to constantly pull your belly button to your spine to activate your deeps abdominal muscles throughout the exercise. Yeah, it's hard but your back will thank you.

As your hamstrings and hips loosen up and your abs become stronger the Hundred will start to feel easier. Easier on your back that is; it's always going to be a killer ab exercise, which is why we love it so. Do be sure to work within your range of motion when doing the exercise and only straighten and/or lower the legs if the low back can remain glued to the floor.

See a step-by-step guide to protecting your back during the Hundred.

The Hundred

  • Start on your back, and hug your knees into your chest. Ab engagement is key to protecting your back so press your low into the ground and pull your abs to your spine. These two actions will keep the spine rounded. Maintain this position throughout this exercise.
  • Lift your legs to a table top position, with the hips and knees to 90 degrees, feet flexed, and thighs stacked over hips. Only straighten your legs if you can keep your abs engaged and lower back pressed to the ground.
  • Tuck your chin and lift your head and shoulders off the ground.
  • Pump your arms up and down in a small range of motion. Inhale for five arm pumps and exhale for five arm pumps. If you experience neck strain, alternate turning your head from left to right every 10 beats.
  • The stronger the upper abs, the less tension you'll feel in your neck. Ideally, the bottom tips of your shoulder blades should be off the mat. Continue to stay lifted. If your abs are strong enough, try straightening your knees and lowering your legs, but stop before you feel your lower back lifting off the floor.
  • Continue this pumping and breathing pattern for a total of 100 beats. When completed, slowly lower your chest and head to the floor, and hug your knees. Release your neck by rolling your head from side to side.

Once you have mastered the basic position, try the advanced variation. So . . . do you love the Hundred, or what?

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