The 100: The Longer Answer


100 Long Answer (2)I love it when Pilates students ask great questions! This week, a Level 3 student asked in class: which is more advanced, the 100 on the mat or 100 on the Reformer?

I think this student was wanting to do whatever version is “more advanced.” At the same time, I was thinking hmmmm, “I bet what you really want is the version where you feel the most work.”

Here’s the rub: more advanced and the version where you feel the most work aren’t always the same thing!

Since everyone in class was on a Reformer with the handles already in had, my Short Answer was: pick whichever version feels harder for you and let’s get moving.

I’ve always got a longer answer that I want to talk about. Here goes!

For me, I consider the Mat exercises as your ultimate test.

  • What can you do with your own body, without any props or tools or machines?
  • Can you control the position and the movement?
  • Can you manage the most challenging of positions?
  • Can you add movements that are more difficult to control?

The hundred on the mat is an Open Kinetic Chain exercise, meaning: the arms and legs reach forward in space without having something to push against. Students work to scoop the powerhouse in and up toward the head, while reaching the arms and legs in the opposite direction. Creating that 2-way reach boosts the muscle action in your powerhouse.

Open-chain exercises are always more challenging for your brain and your body — your central nervous system has to figure out how to push without actually having anything to push against. If it’s harder for your brain, your body will find it more challenging to perform. In Pilates, we’re also picky about you controlling where your appendages are moving, which makes open chain exercises even harder.

Ironically, I find this challenge fun. But, I think that’s a good thing in my line of work.

The obvious difference in moving your 100 to the Universal Reformer is that you’ve now got the handles in your hands. So, that seems like we only changed one thing —- your arms now have something to push against.

Having something to push against makes this more of a Closed Kinetic Chain exercise.* The sensors in your hands now have feedback – they can feel you pushing on something. Your brain now says “yeah, the job here is to PUSH forward. I can do that!”

Lots of people prefer this version because their brain more easily understands the job. For this reason, most biomechanicists would say: closed chain is easier than open chain.

There IS another addition on the Reformer though: spring resistance. That push of your arms and scoop of your Powerhouse is literally extending the springs and controlling them. Pushing against resistance is work; it’s a different kind of work than simply pushing the weight of your arms and legs forward.

Ahhhh, now you see why I went with the short answer in class. We needed to get moving rather than have everyone lying there mulling over whether they preferred apples or oranges.


Remember when I mentioned Control up at the top of this post? On the Reformer, the arms extend the springs, your Powerhouse pulls the other way…..which should keep your carriage from bouncing. That’s how you know that your 2-way reach is equal in energy. Be a super-hero: make it look effortless!

In practice, performing the 100 on the Reformer often allows students to more easily “feel the work” by pulling on springs.

If I HAD to weigh in, I’d say that the Mat 100 is more “advanced.” Technically, it’s harder for your brain to mange the work load in this open chain version of the exercise. And….out in the world, there’s an awful lot of open chain life out there.


Time-sensitive announcements for November 2018:

In the studio – when they’re gone, they’re gone:

  • Sticky Be holiday socks $10/pair
  • Foot Domes $15/pair
  • Soft Rollers $30
  • Active Hydration Body Replenish $65/tub (ask me for a sample — it’s the best moisturizer EVER)


*I can feel it coming. Someone on the Internet wants to talk about Open Chain, Closed Chain and what the heck I meant by saying “more Closed Chain.” I’ll talk about this more in future posts!

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