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The Pilates Hundred Breathing Pattern – 5/5 vs 4/6?

The Pilates Hundred is the signature and the first exercise of the classical Pilates mat sequence presented in Joseph Pilates book, Return to Life Through Contrology.Personally, I love the Hundred as it challenges your core stability since you have to maintain a constant position of spinal flexion while holding your legs off the mat and balancing the pumping motion of the arms.

It is also a challenging exercise to teach. I find juggling the count of the breath patterns (Inhale 2, 3, 4, 5, exhale 2, 3, 4, 5) and offering cues that are more meaningful for the students a challenge. There is so much more you can focus while teaching this exercise that will help students perform this exercise more effectively than just focusing on counting the breathing pattern for them.

My all time favorite cue that I’ve come across is “Imagine you are bouncing two balls with the back of your upper arms”. I have seen clients improve the pumping motion of their arms instead of slapping their arms up and down too rigorously.

There has been discussion about the breath pattern for this exercise with some teachers finding their students having issues with uncomfortable breathing and even “gasping for breath”.

The major change is the breathing from 5 inhales and 5 exhales to 4 inhales and 6 exhales. This is the result of recognizing that most people doing the Hundred do not release the breath fully on the exhale, preventing them from taking in enough air on the inhale.

Check out this article from The Method Pilates for more information.

I have attended classes that practice a 4/6 or a 3/7 breath pattern and I do find the 4/6 breathing more comfortable to execute the Hundred.

Will be great to hear your thoughts and own experience with the Hundred exercise!

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