3 MORE Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

3 MORE Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

Click here if you missed Part 1.

Pilates is unique. Unlike traditional fitness regimens, the Pilates Method includes rolling exercises.

Rolling exercises make me smile. Playful and idiosyncratic, rolling on the mat makes it hard to take yourself too seriously.

I like to call it the “Whee factor”.


The sheer perfection of the rolling exercises is utterly captivating: a consummate example of our journey towards ultimate control.

Part 2: Let's Roll!

The Roll(ing) Exercises of the Pilates Method include Rolling like a BallOpen Leg Rocker, the Boomerang, the Seal and the Crab. Here you must maintain the integrity of your shape.

Joe Pilates also gives us exercises that roll and unroll the spine: the Roll Up, the Roll Over, the Spine Stretch, the CorkscrewNeck Pull, Jackknife and bien sȗr, the Teaser.

All the above mentioned exercises have their respective challenges and intricacies and totally deserve posts of their own, promise!


Let's examine the Pilates rolling exercises through the lens of one of my very favorites. Can you guess?

You won't be surprised…

The ROCKER with Open Legs.


The Open Leg Rocker is an elegant exercise and a paragon of the 2-way stretch. The long reach of the lower body propels you backward, and the lift from the pit of the stomach all the way up to the top of your head returns you to balance.

Mmmm, Contrology is delicious!

Can you resist the invitation to flail about and use momentum?

The Rocker has become…an obsession…and the Handstands on the Barrel as well…

…oh but I digress…

Quick & Dirty Trick #1: WWJPD?

Pass the manifesto, please…

Take a look at the 4 figures of Joe's Rocker with Open Legs and consider his instructions:

3 MORE Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.Fig. 1:

  • Take position illustrated

I have emboldened the directions that were news to me. I found these to be particularly insightful.

Interesting…I follow this first direction without the the next part (Fig. 2) where the knees bend in. Hmmm…what might I be missing I wonder…

Fig. 2:

  • Bend knees

Oooh, the combination of the inhale plus essentially pulling the legs in to bend the knees instantly deepened the scoop of my stomach. Niiiiiiiiice move Mr. JoJo…mind if I call you JoJo?

Oh. You do mind. Pressing on.

Fig. 3:

  • Grasp ankles firmly
  • Toes (pointed) forward and downward (knees locked)
  • Spread legs upward and outward as far as possible
  • Keep abdomen “drawn” in as far as possible with
  • Chin touching chest

Nerd alert! Joe wants us to “grasp ankles” not the calf or thigh. More on this later…

Okay I really like the direction to “spread legs upward and outward as far as possible.” You can feel the clear engagement of the entire lower body. And just when you need it.

And “chin touching chest” is great to counteract any head flinging that might want to go on…

Not by moi, of course.

Fig. 4

  • “Roll” over backward trying to touch mat or floor with toes

This direction may sound a little scary as this is not the way I was taught to do the exercise…so again…

…I had to try it.

Control is imperative here if you don't want to bonk your head on the mat, yes.

Following Joe's direction makes this exercise feel just as yummy along the entire back of the body as the Roll Over, another of my favorites. It is a wonderful stretch as you use control (your stomach!) to stay lifted and not land on your head.

Bonus info from JP

Joe also includes the following:

NOTE: Repeat the foregoing “rocking” exercise backward and forward six (6) times.

Got it. Do 6.

CAUTIONS: Fig. 3 – Arms and legs rigid (elbows and knees locked). “Pivot” on base of spine, “rocking” backward to Fig. 4 position, then “rock” forward, pressing head firmly against chest, at the same time pressing arms firmly forward against legs until you reach Fig. 3 and try to balance yourself in that position.

Which brings me to…

Quick & Dirty Trick #2: No Bent Legs!

The Rocker with Open Legs is a wonderful long stretch of the entire back of the body. It requires lift in the back and length in the hamstrings. It is therefore of vital importance to have “arms and legs rigid (elbows and knees locked).”

Waaaaah…the language, it's killing me!

In Return to Life, Joe is a man of imperatives and superlatives. Straight the arms! Long the back!

Wait, there's also “pressing arms firmly forward against legs.” Hmmm…I must try…

It's easy to “pump” yourself up by bending the elbows when rolling back, and often there is tightness in the back and/or legs that makes it hard to straighten the legs. Pressing forward into the legs with the arms is actually quite helpful in this regard. Especially for the folks that like to hang onto their legs for dear life.

So Joe essentially gives us a CAUTION about cheating. He knows we'll want to, but he strongly suggests we don't.

“Straight the legs?!” What's to be done? 

Tight backs/legs can get some help from the leg straps from the Cadillac, thusly:

3 MORE Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

For a bit. In conjunction with lots of stuff all around the studio that's gonna stretch that stuff out. After a while they will “Long the Back!” and “Straight the Legs!” all on their own. Hellooooo, ankles…

Quick & Dirty Trick #3: The Order of the Universe

Another way to follow Joe's guidelines to the letter is to look at what he has given us up until this point in the Mat. What are you doing in the eleven exercises that precede the Rocker with Open Legs to ready yourself?

The Hundred, Roll Up, Roll Over, One Leg Circle, Roll Like a Ball, Single Leg Pull, Double Leg Pull, Single Straight Leg Stretch, Double Straight Leg Stretch, Criss Cross, Spine Stretch…

Joe has prepared you well. By this point you have encountered every skill you will need for the Rocker with Open Legs. Of particular import is the Spine Stretch which immediately precedes it. The same stuff without all the fancy balancing and rocking back and forth.

So seize the moment. Long the Back! Straight the Legs!

The Rocker is coming.

I know rolling is good for me, but what's it done for me lately?

It is this very action of “rolling” and “unrolling” that cleanses your lungs so effectively by driving out the impure air and forcing in the pure air as you “roll” and “unroll.”

Indefatigably and conscientiously practice breathing until the art of correct breathing becomes habitual, automatic and subconscious, which accomplishment will result in the bloodstream receiving its full quota of oxygen and thus ward off undue fatigue.

It is far better to be tired from physical exertion than to be fatigued by the “poisons” generated by nervousness while lying awake. Particularly beneficial in this regard are the spinal “rolling” and “unrolling” massage exercises which relax the nerves and induce sound, restful sleep.

[And with regard to the Corkscrew:]

This exercise strengthens neck and shoulders and is an internal and spinal massage.

Got it:

  • Clears Toxins
  • Rejuvenates the blood
  • Energizes the body
  • Calms nerves
  • Induces sound sleep
  • Massages internal organs
  • Massages the spine/back

That sounds pretty darn good for me. 

It's invigorating, jostling, expiratory, gut-wrenching. It gives a nice massage. Soothing, warming, niceness for our body.

Plus… if you act now, I'll even throw in 2 extra sets of Rockers with Legs Together and Feet Flexed.


Serendipitous Bonus from Rock Star Clare Dunphy.  Enjoy!

Thanks so much for reading 🙂

3 MORE Quick & Dirty Tricks that ROCK! So you will too.

3 MORE Quick & Dirty Tricks That ROCK! So you will too.

Share your favorite Pilates rolling exercise in a comment below.

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  1. Excellent! I’m currently reading through “Return to Life” for My Pilates Body Boost project, so this post was perfectly helpful. And for the extra special boost, Clare Dunphy was on of the first teachers who introduced me to Romana’s training through a workshop called Heart and Soul Reformer. I will always be grateful to her for that! Thanks for putting it all together and sharing, Andrea!

    • You are so welcome – thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I just recently within the last year met Clare Dunphy. Such a lovely and wonderful person and teacher! Good luck with the Pilates Body Boost project…I am intrigued 🙂

  2. αννα says

    perfect post! thank you a lot, your blog is amazing, keep up the good work! =)

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