How to Do a Roll Up in Pilates

Learn how to do the roll up, a beginner Pilates Mat exercise, from Core Pilates NYC instructor Sarah Ruback in this Howcast workout video.

Next is the roll-up. So, the roll-up works on continuing to strengthen your core while stretching the spine, and then we’ll start to articulate through the spine. Now, articulate is a very specific word. We use it a lot in Pilates because we want to go bit, by bit, by bit, in this case, through the spine. Sometimes, we articulate through our feet as well. But, for this one, it’s about the spine.

So, you’ll lie on your mat from whatever exercise you were just in, either the hundred or half roll down, just bring yourself to the mat with control. Then, reach your arms up toward the ceiling, right up to the lights, inhale to prepare, then exhale, curl your chin toward your chest, and roll up off the mat. Her legs are together, the feet are flexed, like you’re pressing them against a wall. From here, feel your shoulder blades stretch away from your ears, breathe in, then breathe out, and roll back down with control. Feel the lower back articulate, then the middle back, then the upper back and your head. Again, take an inhale, then exhale as you roll up. That’s the hard part, and exhaling will help you find your scoop. Inhale, reach for the toes, and then exhale, lower right back down. That’s it. Again, take an inhale, and exhale, roll up off the mat here, and then just stay at the top for a second. So, Madeline is back in her C shape from her C curve from the half roll down. Her shoulders are rounding over her hips. Your sit bones, the bones that you sit on, you probably won’t feel in this position because you’re behind it.

A lot of times, what people do wrong is that they’ll stretch their body all the way over, and that’s not really the goal, because we’re still trying to work on our abdominal strength. It’s opposition. So, if I’m pulling you this way, Madeline, you reach forward so I don’t pull you back. It’s like tug-of-war. That’s it. And you want to find that in your own body. Then, from here, lie all the way back down into the mat, one vertebrae at a time, and then lower your arms down to your sides. So, for the roll-up, that is the ideal. If that doesn’t happen for you for the first time, that’s totally normal. A lot of times you’ll get stuck.

Your feet will come off the mat and you’ll feel like, oh my gosh, I can’t move at all, what do I do? In that case, if you have a strap, if you’re in a Pilates studio, or even if you have something that you can make-shift a strap – scoot down a little bit here Madeline – your feet can come under this, and you’ll have a little bit of support to help you come up. So, reach your arms toward the ceiling, curl your chin toward your chest, and roll forward toward your toes, then lie right back down into the mat. Let’s say you don’t have the assistance of the strap and it’s just you in your living room. OK, point your toes Madeline, flex your heels.

So, if you try it once, and it’s not smooth, the next option is to soften your knees, slightly bend them, curl your chin toward your chest to the place you get stuck, then bring your hands behind your thighs and climb up your legs. Then, once you’re up to the top seated, stretch your legs, you can find the stretch through the hamstrings, and then lower back with control. And again, hold it here for a second, if you feel like you’re going to lose it, hold on to the back of your thighs and lower back into the mat. There you go. So, remember that Pilates is about control, and it’s about your own personal level of control. You don’t have to be a dancer to do this.

You just have to work with yourself, and modify so that it’s a smooth, flowing workout.