The A - Z of Pilates - R is for the Roll Up

The Pilates Roll Up is actually a particularly challenging exercise to do successfully, even if you have been doing Pilates for years and years and feel better than you have ever have done before because of all its benefits:


  • You feel longer, leaner, less stressed and more energised
  • You have improved your fitness and flexibility
  • Your bones and joints feel a lot less creaky or painful
  • You have significantly strengthened up your core, your posture is so much better and you feel more in balance 
  • You have a really good knowledge of the Pilates technique and how to progress or adapt the exercises
  • You really enjoy focusing on yourself for an hour at your weekly Pilates class 


In fact absolutely everything seems so much better in so many ways....apart from one little niggle in the back of your mind; That pesky Roll Up exercise! Maybe it is the one Pilates exercise that just does not seem to happen for you, however hard you try and practice. So it is important to understand that this exercise can be so challenging because there really are a number of factors that can impact on the successful full execution of the exercise. For example, not only is the exercise reliant on having strong abdominal muscles, it is also about using the abdominals in the correct way and having enough mobility in the spine so that it is able move and articulate well enough. It is possible that you could actually have the most amazing abdominal strength, be able to do a whole variety of other challenging Pilates exercises, but your spine may simply be physically unable to move in the way that this particular exercise demands.


All the exercises that I include in a class will always, in some way, help your body to prepare as much as possible for doing a full Roll Up. For example, I will normally do exercises designed to the loosen the back, increase segmental movement of the spine (the Spine Curl to Shoulder Bridge is a great one) and move it in all different ranges of motion. I will also do hamstring release exercises, hip flexor stretches and, when practising the exercise in class, I will focus on the correct breath control; for example, expelling as much air as possible when coming up away up from the floor to help with the articulation of the spine, as well as encouraging the abdominal muscles to behave correctly (drawing backwards towards the spine rather than doming outwards). 


Even with all of this lovely preparation though, it may not always result in a 100% success rate in being able to do this exercise. Take one lady who I have known for absolutely years now. She has the most wonderful Pilates technique, and is extremely strong from her years of Pilates dedication, but can count on the fingers of her hand how many times she has managed to do the full Roll Up! She is quite rightly truly philosophical about it, has a quiet chuckle to herself whenever it is included in the class plan, but just keeps on practising diligently by doing a suitably adapted version. This is absolutely the best approach. It is much, much, better to do an adapted version of the  Roll Up exercise really well, focusing on the quality of movement that can be achieved, rather than attempting in vain to do a badly executed full version with poor technique and (often) much huffing and puffing. So, hence why I will always suggest the use of a theraband as a means of supporting and encouraging the correct technique - or practising a C Curve instead of rolling all of the way down and up. Whatever adapted version of the exercise you do, you can always be sure that you will be benefitting from it, along with all the other exercises that you would normally do in a class. So, just carry on enjoying Pilates and practising your personal version of the Roll Up – be that the full exercise or an adapted one!


Video clip - the Roll Up


If you click on the link below you will see a little clip of me having a go at the Roll Up on the beach at East Head Point at West Wittering, near Chichester. I struggle with it myself a bit as I have scoliosis which creates an imbalance in the spine, so if you look closely you may well spot where I am really trying hard at applying the correct technique – and if not you will definitely spot my terrier Hugo in his bright orange buoyancy aid! 



This entry was posted on September 17, 2018