DIGGING DEEPER - Get to Know Your Pilates Exercises: The Roll Up


The Roll Up

By Amanda Turner

Happy Holidays! I personally use the month of December as a time of reflection - thinking back on the year, all of the accomplishments I’ve made, and maybe some areas I’d like to work on in the new year. I thought that this month would be a great time to dive into The Roll Up as it is a foundation for so many exercises. Want to work on your Teaser? Strengthen your Roll Up. Want to improve your Jackknife? Strengthen your Roll Up. Want to feel strong and in control during your Up Stretch on the Reformer? Start with your Roll Up.  With all of that motivating you - let’s get into it!

Set Up - 

1.) Legs are straight and together on the Mat, ankles are flexed - toes pointing toward the ceiling. Arms reach over head. Make sure shoulders are down on the Mat and away from the ears. Ribs are knitted together. Modification - if your lower back is bothering you or if you can't articulate through your spine starting in this position yet, you may slightly bend the knees, really squeeze the glutes, and scoop the abs to find length and support for the back. 
Movement - 

2.) Reach the arms forward, hands hovering above the thighs, curl chin to chest and begin to peel the spine off the Mat, rounding over your legs. Use your powerhouse! Keep the abs scooped, squeeze the glutes, keep the inner thighs together and flexing at the ankles. As you're stretching over your legs, imagine that I’m sitting in front of you holding onto your wrists, trying to kick you in the stomach! Don’t release the glutes to deepen your hamstring stretch - that’s not what this exercise is about *hint - it’s about stretching your back.* Also, check in on those shoulders making sure that you’re keeping them in their sockets. Slowly begin to roll your spine back to the Mat vertebra by vertebra, build strength here! The breath is inhale chin to chest, exhale to curl forward, inhale rolling behind the tailbone, and exhale as you lower completely back to the Mat, arms reaching back over the head. Repeat 5 times total.

Maybe the full Roll Up is too much for you just yet: your spine is stiff, you're building strength and endurance in your powerhouse still, or you're recovering from a low back injury. Either way, you'll need a slight modification. Start from a seated position, rounding over your legs with your arms extended shoulder height. Roll back slightly, just behind the tailbone - feel your glutes engage, your abs pull in and your inner thighs squeeze and return to your starting position. Maybe you can go a little farther than just behind the tailbone, go for it!  Do not let your heels lift off the ground, dig them into your Mat (that’ll help you engage your glutes also!) and be mindful of the shoulders pulling the shoulder blades down. Keep your neck long, chin to chest.  

You can also bring your hands behind your thighs to assist yourself rolling up and down, letting go when you're at the top and bottom of the movement.  

Ready to progress your Roll Up - trying keeping the biceps in line with the ears as you roll forward and back or reach your arms up to the ceiling making a window and try to dive your head through your arms. You can also progress the breath of the Roll Up - inhaling to roll up and exhaling to roll back, one breath cycle instead of 2 per Roll Up.  
On another note, as it is the end of the year, begin to think about your goals and what you would like to work on, deepen, and strengthen in your Pilates work. Share with your teacher so that they can strategize the best ways to help you meet your goals!