The 100-Up Exercise

I have been searching for ways to increase the amount I move since I began working from home, and my walking reduced significantly. The best movement practices are short to fit between meetings or tasks, require little or no equipment, and can ideally be carried out without changing outfit. If the movement makes me faster at running or on the bike, then even better. 

The 100-Up exercise is a short movement practice that you can do daily to improve running form, strengthen muscles, including the heart and lungs, loosens the limbs, and increases your daily movement. It can be done anywhere and in regular clothes, making it perfect as a movement break while working from home.

Walter George created the exercise and published it in a short book in 1880. George was an English middle-distance runner born in 1858, a holder of the mile world record between 1880 and 1893, and with a personal best time mile time of 4 minutes and 12 seconds. He worked from 7 am to 9 pm each day with a one hour break for lunch, and needed a way to supplement his training and keep active whilest at work. He would regularly perform the movement throughout the day when he moved around his workplace, creating opportunities to do 20 to 40 repetitions. Walter George credited his speed and stride length to the daily practice of the 100-Up.

Percy Cerutty in ‘Athletics: How to become a champion‘ suggests that runners should ‘run on the spot at terrific speed’ as an indoor activity if it is not possible to get outside. Many articles and books about his athletes also comment on regular, if not daily, ‘running in place‘ for 10-15 minutes to improve form and stamina. It might be possible to create smoother running form and a longer stride length by merely adopting the 100-Up exercise as a supplementary daily activity.  

The 100-Up exercise

The 100-up has three stages; each stage needs to be perfected before moving on the next. The exercise’s primary focus is as a carryover to running, so perfect form is required; knee to hip height each time and return the feet to the line without moving forward or backwards. At any point, if this form breaks down; the exercise should be paused.

You will need two parallel lines for all three stages, eight inches apart and 18 inches long. My floorboards are a perfect width, but you could put some tape down, or find another marker if needed. Your feet start with the balls of your feet on each line pointing directly forward and each rep your knee should reach hip height. Arms should hang naturally and remain by your sides for the first two stages.

Stage 1: Preliminary

Start by slowly lifting one leg ten times, trying to control your balance while getting your knee to the required height and returning your foot to the starting position for each rep. Do all the reps on one leg and then repeat with the other—progress when you can perform 30 reps on each leg correctly.

Stage 2: Minor

Repeat the preliminary exercise but this time alternate the leg you raise each rep. Start with ten reps – five with each leg, and progress over time to twenty, thirty, forty, and eventually one hundred. Start slow and gradually get faster as your strength and balance improves—progress to stage three when you can perform 100-Ups correctly. 

Stage 3: Major – The exercise proper

The final stage is the full exercise. Start with your feet in the same position but raise your heels, so you are on the balls of your feet. raise your knees to hip high and alternate leg each rep but perform the movement with good pace. Use your arms to mimic the running form, with relaxed shoulders, lifting the opposite arm to the raised knee and brushing your rib with your hand with the lowered hand. Try 20-Ups the first time – ten for each leg and concentrate on your form. Steadily add more reps over time as your stamina improves until you reach 100-Ups.

A long term pursuit

Treat mastering this exercise as a long term pursuit and do at least one set every day. If you run and have a GPS watch, see if your stride length is improving over time along with your competency in this exercise. If you are not a runner, the 100-Up exercise is an excellent way to add extra movement into your day and possibly get you interested in starting running as you learn the correct movement from the comfort of your home.

Have a go at the 100-Ups progression and contact me on Twitter with your progress.

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