One Hundred

Pre-Pilates “Matwork B” (v1) – Hints and Tips

Pre-Pilates “Matwork B”: The Foundations


This series: Pre-pilates A, B & C is designed for beginners, to help you get started with Pilates.  This is the second in the series and is significantly longer than the first.  That’s because there’s more explanation and more exercises.



“Intelligence guided by the will using memory  and imagination assisted by intuition.” – Romana Kryzanowska


I just love the quote above! Romana Kryzanowska (June 30, 1923 – August 30, 2013) “Pilates Elder” who was a student Joseph Pilates and his wife Clara at their studio on Eighth Avenue in New York. After the death of Joseph Pilates in 1967, Clara Pilates continued the studio for a few more years, and in 1970 Romana Kryzanowska became the director of what was by that time called “The Pilates Studio.”


“You can say what Pilates is in three words: Stretch with Strength and Control. And the control part is the most important because that makes you use your mind.” – Romana Kryzanowska


What do we learn in this workout?


The quote attributed to Ramona above requires some degree of linguistic literacy to being to mull over any possible meaning.  this workout is intended to increase our literacy of the Foundations of Movement so that we can btter begin to understand how we move and how to move better.

  • We learn the basic positions; simple transitions; types of breathing, pelvic position & stability, scapular mobility & stability and abdominal work & spinal rotation.
  • We use all the body positions but for standing: supine, sitting, quadruped, side lying.  For the sake of ease of making the video, I’ve omitted standing.
  • The emphasis is on: Fundamentals of Movement:
    • Breathing
    • Deep Core Activation
    • Optiminal lumbo-pelvic position
    • Lumbo-pelvic stabilisation
    • Spinal mobility and strengthening
    • Abdominal strengthening
    • Shoulder mobility
    • Shoulder stabillisation
  • Classical Pilates exercises (as opposed to Pre-Pilates):
    • Roll Down preparation;
    • Rolling Like a Ball,
    • Single Leg Stretch,
    • Rocking Prep,
    • Baby Swan,
    • Single Leg Kicks,
    • Seal Puppy


If you want more help with the Pre-Pilates exercises, go to the Resources Page: click here. Use your password to access the pages


“What you don’t like, you do twice” – Romana quoting Joe Pilates.


There are hundreds of notes, ideas and comments that we can make about these exercises, so I’ve limited it to just one or two sentences as I could literally go on for ever…

Pre-Pilates: The Workout

To avoid repetition, I’m giving tips only on the new exercises introduced.  For the previous exercises, visit the “Matwork A” blog post: click here.

All Fours

Cat/Cow (Camels), Hip Circles (Poodle Tail), Tail Wag

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.


Shoulder & Hip Circles

Is a combination of Shoulder Circles and Hip Circles with both shoulders and pelvis moving to the same direction each time …


Sitting: Breathing in Pilates


Diaphragmatic Breathing

Breath into the abdomen whilst imagining filling the torso up from the bottom with air.

As you exhale, draw in, scoop or hollow the abdomen in towards the spineto create deep abdominal activation from the active transversus abdominis “corset”, the pelvic floor and the spinal muscles.

This breath should be relaxing so mentally scan your body to try and reduce as much tension as you can find.  Separate our your bonky bit from your soft bits: that is, don’t allow your spine to move as your abdominal caiy moves.

  • Place your hands on your abdomen and feel how it rises as you breathe in.
  • Picture the dome of the diaphragm lowering into the abdominal cavity as you inhale to draw the breath in.
  • Try this awareness raising technique indifferent positions: standing, sitting, prone, on all fours and so on.

This should be a relaxing breath used to calm and focus the mind.


Posterio-Lateral breathing

In this type of breathing, we send the breath into back and sides of the ribs.  To do this, we scoop in the abdominals and keep them actively scooped in to prevent the diaphragm lowering into the abdominal cavity.

  • Breathe in and, unlike diaphramic breathing above, don’t allow the abdominals to expand.  You’ll probably find this breathing technique much more active than the diaphragmic breathing above.  The thoracic cavity will feel tight as you breath in and is nothing to worry about.  the tesnion generated is the muscles working to prevent the abdomen ballooning out and expanding the rib cage.

This is a fundamental breathing technique which is used to activate the abdominals when we need sustained abdominal contraction as in the One Hundred, for example.


Breathing into the Band: Posterio-Lateral breathing

  • Use a theraband, or a towel if you don’t have a theraband wrapped around the lower part of the ribs and crossed over at the front with some tension.  Breath into the band at the back, trying to increase the pressure as much as you can.  Try to make the band move into expansion.


Kathy’s Accordion

Previously covered in Matwork A.  Click here.


Side Lying


Telescope (new)

Lie on your side with both arms outstretched in front of your chest.  Glide your top arm forward over the bottom arm allowing your torso to rotate as you hand moves away from you.  Rotate the torso the other way and slide the top hand over the bottom arm until the hand moves over the torso and roationg the spine the back of your hand touches the floor.  Breath into the stretch.


Supine: lying face up


Pelvic Rocking

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.


Finding Neutral Spine: using bony prominences

This can be done in sitting, standing and supine.  Place the heels of your hand on the Hip (ASIS) Bones and your fingertips on your pubic bone.  this creates a notional triangle which in a “neutral spinal position” should be parallel to the floor.

If, while lying on your back, the public bone is higher than the ASIS bones, then the pelvis is tipped backwards (anterior tilt).  Gently rock the pelvis backwards and forwards (as in Pelvic Rocking) until the triangle is perpendicular to the floor in standing and parallel to the floor in supine.  This is the neutral position.  you might feel, especially in the early stages of your Pilates practice that this position slighly strains your spine.  If this is the case there are two alternatives:  supporte spine and imprinte spine.

Supported Spine: a quick how to …

If you have:

  • an exaggerated lumbar curve,
  • a limited amount of lumbar flexion or
  • an injury that makes flexion contraindicated,

… the lower back can be supported by placing a small cushion (as in the video), rolled up towel or rolled up sticky mat under the low back.

You’ll need to keep your back on the support throughout the exercise that you are performing.

If you have a tight back, this technique can help you learn to use your abdominals much more effectively.  Hint: try a Roll Up over the support to see what I mean – you’ll feel a much greater connection to your abdominals rather than to a stiff spine.

It can also help you to feel where your back is and to learn to how to stabilize your lumbopelvic region..

Some medical conditions might mean that a supported spine is better gfor you.



Bridging / Pelvic Curl – Typewriter – Hip Dips

Previously covered in Matwork A.  Click here.


Side Lying


Telescope  – Pinwheeel

The other side!  This demonstrates one way to increase flow in a workout: if you have to change from one side to another, then put an exercise in the middle of the change to increase flow and decrease “stopped” time.


Transition from sitting to supine


Abdominal Curls (new)

.This is not “abdominal crunches”.  Set up is detailed and specific so that only the abdominals are used to lift the head and shoulders.  These abdominal curls are used for identifying the abdominals, strengthening the abdominals and learning how to lift the head and integrate it with the torso in soon to be learned Pilates abdominal exercises.


Activate your shoulders by pulling them away from your ears and press your head into your hands and your hands into you head.  Keep your elbows just within the periphery of your vision but no more.


Narrow your pelvis (make it smile), draw in the abdominals, and use the abdominals to draw the ribs toward the hips.  This will allow you to lift your head and shoulder without neck strain.

  • Imagine your head is the top of a tree, your neck is the trunk and the roots of the tree extend all the way to the bottom of the ribs. Lift the head from the bottom of the ribs.
  • To begin the head lift, tuck the chin in toward the chest but only very slightly as if you are holding an orange between your chin and
    your sternum.

A question to ask in your regular lesson: whether you should imprint or keep a neutral spine?





Abdominal Curls with Obliques (new)

This is used for developing strength and awareness of the oblique abdominals.  These are essential for lumbopelvic stabilization  and developing core strength for functional activities: try walking or running without your pelvis moving!.

Set up is identical to the abdominal curls

Hollow the abdominals and allow the abdominals to elevate the head and shoulders as we did with the abdominal curls.  Then, as you inhale,  rotate the torso.  Exhale to come back to centre.

Note: often the rotation is made as the head lifts, but I find that greater control can be achieved with the rotation and lifting are done separately.

  • Keep the pelvis still as the upper torso rotates. Imagine you have a glass of water on your abdomen and don’t spill it as the torso rotates.
  • Think of reaching your armpit toward the opposite knee (rather than your elbow) and feel the bottom of the rib cage drawing closer to the opposite hip.

A question to ask yourself: how much of the movement is coming from rotation and how much from lateral flexion (side bending)?


Fingertip Abdominals – Toe Taps

Previously covered in Matwork A.  Click here.


Spine Twist Supine (new)

In Abdominal Curls with Obliques, we rotated part of the thorax, shoulders and head.  Now we are going to rotate the lumbar spine.  This exercise is used to clearly demonstrate the concepts of “working in opposition” and “centering” as well as alignment in Pilates.  See the bullet point below!

Bring your legs into table top by performing the start of Toe Taps or Marching.  Bring your arms out into a “T” position.  Take a sip of air and rotate your pelvis to the right or the left…

  • Are your knees still together or, has the knee opposite the direction of your rotation slipped down?  You’ll have to dramatically reduce the range of motion, but you’ll notice the greater connections in your obliques.  In Pilates we always work from the inside out, no the outside in.


One Hundred Preparation (new)

This is the first exercise in the Traditional Pilates sequence designed by Joseph Pilates in his: “Return to Life through Contrology”.  It’s designed to be the warm up – but it’s tough.  Be patient: it can take weeks or even months of daily practice to get there:  be persistent, be consistent and be thoughtful in your practice!

Keep your legs in table top position and

  •  Level 1: We’ll start by performing an abdominal curl as we did previously, but now bringing your arms down towards horizontal from vertical.
  •  Level 2:  perform the abdominal curl as before and add arm pumps whilst keeping everything else stock still.  And that includes a single continuous exhale and inhale for five pumps.  Notice how the arm pumps affect the breathing – again: “working in opposition”.  the abdominals to maintain a steady stream of breath!
  • Level 3: leave the arm pumps for the time being and focus just on the abdominal curl and straightening our your legs.  My advice is generally to use a supported or go into imprinted spine if you are still new to these exercises.
  • Level 4: when you can lift the head, torso and legs, add in the pumps.
  • Level 5: the full One Hundred.  Keep your legs high until you can manage to maintain a stable, neutral spine throughout the performance.


Transition: Roll-up to sitting

Keep practicing those Roll Ups – use one of the modifications we looked at in the previous session / blog post!  Click here.


Partial Roll Downs (new)

Start off in a sitting position and align your body over your sit bones.  You might find that you can hinge forwards at the hips rather than getting a neutral spine.  My own problem is tight pelvic floor, hamstrings and spine over power the ability of my spinals (and shoulders) to achieve a neutral spine.  Again, we all have our own points to work on!

  • Roll up and down as you exhale, take sips of breath at the sitting up position and the rolled down position.
  • Roll down as far as you can maintain hollowed out abdominals and as you exhale, perform mini roll up or pumps as I call them.
  • Keep your feet firmly planted to the floor.

How far should you roll down?  As far as you can, whilst maintaining full connection through the feet and hollowed out abdominals!


Partial Roll Downs Obliques (new)

Set up is identical to the Roll Downs, but before we perform the Roll Down:

  • inhaling, we rotate to the right (or left – can you notice a difference between the two?)
  • exhaling, we roll down,
  • inhaling, we rotate to the left and, maintaining the roation,
  • exhaling, we roll back up to sitting.  Whist in the rotated position to our left, we take a sip of air and
  • exhaling, we then roll down and continue …

Things to watch:

  • Sit up in alignment, but rotated …
  • keep your pelvis from moving as you rotate from side to side,
  • rotate rather than going into side bends.


Transition: Roll Down to Supine


Hamstring Stretch, Rolling Like a Ball, Single Leg Stretch

Previously covered in “Matwork A”. Click here.


Transition:  Roll up to … Sitting


Adductor Stretch, Spine Stretch Forward

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.


One Lung Breathing (new)

Not only is one lung breathing another tool in our toolbox, or another item of vocabulary as we move towards greater “physical literacy” this used to increase the expansion of the lungs in lateral spinal flexion exercises such as Mermaid.  If you have thoracic scoliosis, you can use one lung breathing on the concave side to increase the mobility of the spine and rib cage. It is also very useful for clients with acute or chronic lung problems such as pneumonia or asthma.

Place the hands on the lower part of the rib cage.  Use your deep abdominal activation to pull in your rib cage.  The, you can inhale by relaxing one side of the thoracic cavity at a time.  Aim the breath into one side of the lungs at a time.

Place your hands on the lower ribs and feel one side expand as you send the air into that side. Notice if one side is easier than the other.

Maintain a neutral postion of the spine whenever you do this, otherwise, you will lose the effect.



Spine stretch side & spine stretch forward

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.




Alan Herdman’s Rockets (new)

  1. Position your shoulders into their neutral position by retracting your shoulder blades.
  2. Reach the arms down toward the feet, sliding your shoulder blades down your back but maintaining the position of the back.
  3. Reach the hands toward the feet and lift the torso and head by engaging the muscles of the upper back.
  4. Reach the hands toward the feet, lift the head and pulse the arms toward the ceiling with the palms up.


Baby Swan  & Quadriceps Stretch & Rocking Prep.

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.


Recovery: lower spine / shoulder stretch (new)

Leaning into the stretch with a flat back will stretch your shoulders, with a curved spine (due to curling in to your sit bones) will stretch your lower back.


Single Leg Kicks

I omitted this in error!  I stringly advise you to include it!  It will be in the second version of this video post.




Pelvic Pushes & Side Leg Lifts

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.


Bananas (new)

Lying on your side with legs outstretched and your head resting on your upper arm, your other arm supporting your body, inhale and raise both legs and torso off the ground!




Piriformis Stretch  & Seal Puppy

Previously covered in “Matwork A”.  Click here.


All Fours

Sternum Drops & Knees Off

These exercises were omitted to try and keep the video shorter!  Continue to do them as they build up into important exercises (on all apparatus) later on…

The List of Exercises


Here’s a pdf listing all the exercises in the video:

Matwork B v1

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