Changing ‘The 100’ To Reflect New Research
What’s the Problem
Let’s take a look at one of the classic breathing patterns in the mat exercises. Why? Because new research suggests that we can make improvements to one of the most classic of all the Pilates exercises, ‘The 100’. And, curiously, anyone who teaches Pilates for any length of time, knows that ‘The 100’ gets the most complaints, and often these complaints involve uncomfortable breathing.
Here’s a solution!
This article borrows from one I first wrote for ‘The Method Pilates’ over a year ago.
We all teach ‘The 100’ and it’s one of Joe Pilates’ original 34 exercises. We have always taught this exercise by pumping our arms 5 times on an inhale and 5 times on an exhale, just as Joe taught and even demonstrated in his famous 1945 book, Return to Life Through Contrology. Since his time, scientific research has revealed new information about human breathing patterns, and if we heed this research we can improve the effectiveness of this exercise.
Joseph Pilates Demonstrating ‘The 100’
We have taught the 5/5 pattern for decades without question. At the same time, ‘The 100’ has become the most controversial of all the mat exercises judging from comments on forums and social media where Pilates students and teachers alike complain about the breathing pattern. I recall that one instructor was so troubled by ‘The 100’ that he formally called for illuminating it altogether!
Several research studies point to a solution. One study of marathon runners discovered that the body at rest breathes in a particular pattern – a 1:2 inhale:exhale ratio – but when the body is doing long distance running, breathing changes to a 3:2 ratio. Another study indicates that ‘lateral breathing’ – the special breathing we all do naturally in Pilates when our core is strong and belly breathing is restricted – causes us to receive slightly less oxygen.
Another study found that when we inhale through the nose and mouth together rather than one or the other, there’s more oxygen intake. And yet another study explored the not-yet-fully-understood action of our breathing and found that contrary to common sense, shortness of breath is not caused by the lack of a full inhale but rather just the opposite, an incomplete exhale.
So how can we apply these findings to ‘The 100?’ First, our natural breathing pattern is never 5:5 regardless of what we do, whether it’s resting or exercising. So let’s change our instruction. Instead of a 5:5 breathing pattern let’s encourage one that reflects our natural breathing. Mine is 4 pumps on my inhale and 6 on my exhale. I have seen some students do 3 pumps on thier inhale and 7 on their exhale. What’s yours?
Reactions So Far
MethodPilates teachers recently stopped using the 5:5 pattern and instead teach students a more comfortable 4:6 inhale:exhale pattern. Other teachers are beginning to instruct their students to explore and discover their own natural breathing patterns within the 10 arm pumps. Some even encourage variations in the pattern as the intensity of the workout changes. These minor alterations are proving effective in the relief of breathing discomfort during ‘The 100.’ I hope this article encourages you to try this more natural and comfortable – and research-supported – pattern as well.
There’s a rule in science that the simplest solution is often the right one. I think that’s the case here – such a minor change in the way we breath in this exercise has made all the difference for me. Try it for yourself.