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Pilates | Columbus Ohio

The Roll-Up is a classical Pilates exercise designed to strengthen the abdominals through a full range of movement and stretch the lower back. It seems like it would be an easy exercise, however, for many individuals they find it is quite challenging.

Here are several reasons someone might find the roll up challenging:

1. That person may have weak abdominals
2. That person may lack of flexibility in the spine
3. That person may have an excessive lordosis or your spine or a “swayed back”.

When performing a roll-up, some individuals are so focused on getting to a seated position, they do so at the expense of proper form. Some common mistakes people make when performing the Roll-Up are:

1. When rolling up they use momentum to get up. Some individuals have to catapult themselves up in order to get to a seated position. This is usually because they lack the strength and flexibility to accomplish a seated position with control.

2. When rolling up their feet lift off the floor. As they roll up, they are challenged to keep their feet anchored. This is usually because their hips are working more than their abdominals are.

3. When rolling up they twist to one side in order to get up. This can be because they are stronger on one side of the trunk, which pulls them harder to that side as they roll up.

4. When rolling down from the roll-up, they find that they drop down about half way down the roll down. This is usually due to weakness in the abdominals or loss of flexibility in the lower back.

In order to perfect the Roll-Up, we must first learn all the parts that make up the whole exercise. Here is a description of the Roll-UP:

Starting position: Lie on your back with either your knees bent or straight. Resting the feet on the floor. Reach your arms up overhead only as far as you can keeping the back lightly imprinted on the mat. The arms may not be resting all the way on the floor.

Exercise Sequence:

  • Inhale – squeeze your your inner thighs together, engage your abdominals as you reach your arms toward the ceiling. Bow up lifting the head, neck and shoulders.
  • Exhale – Continue rolling up, peeling the torso off the mat, rounding the spine, using the abdominals to lift you up until you are sitting up tall on your “sitz” bones (ischeal tuberosities)
  • Inhale – Sitting tall, engaging your abdominals.
  • Exhale – Tuck the tailbone under to begin rolling down, maintaining the curve of the spine.
  • Inhale reach the arms over your head to the starting position.
  • Exhale to prepare, engaging your abdominals…repeat.

Not everyone is able to perform this exercise with control, strength and coordination. It is important that if someone is unable to perform the exercise with proper control and strength, they utilize several variations of the exercise that enables them to improve their form with the exercise. The reason that person should utilize these variations is so he/she can gradually work up to the full exercise, regaining proper strength and flexibility along the way. If he/she performs the exercise with improper form, that person is risking injury to the spine.

There are several variations and modifications one can use to make sure they are successfully progressing with this exercise:

1. Roll Down Only – Instead of rolling up, simply rock up to a seated position and work on the roll done component of the exercise. This enables someone to gradually improve the strength and flexibility that is needed for the rolling up part of the exercise.

2. Bent knees – Bending the knees instead of having the legs straight can decrease the stress on the spine. It can also decrease that lordotic curve (swayed back) in the lower back. Thereby making the Roll-Up easier to achieve.

3. Use a wand to assist with the roll up and the roll down. By placing a wand behind the legs, this enables someone to use the wand to assist them up through that weaker, less flexible part of the Roll-Up.

4. Partial roll up only. Instead of rolling up all the way, performing a partial roll up can begin laying the foundation of building strength and flexibility to achieve a full Roll-Up.

Benefits of Pilates

To reap the full benefits of Pilates, it is important to perform every exercise utilizing control and concentration. However, when we are in a class setting, we often forget that it is not our destination that is our goal, but the path we take to get there. This rings true when performing the Roll-Up. It is not important to achieve a seated position. It is most important to achieve that position with proper control and form so as not to risk injury to the spine. Take time to use some of the variations and modifications listed above if you are challenged with the Roll-Up. And your body will be stronger and more flexible in no time.

For more help with your Roll-Up, contact Amanda Smith at ABS Pilates and schedule a private session today.

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith - Licensed Physical Therapist, certified Pilates instructor, ACE certified Group Exercise Instructor, ACE certified Health Coach, Certified McKenzie Therapist. Ready to help you become stronger and healthier in a safe, fun and holistic manner.