Pilates Mat Exercise #3: The Roll Over

Pilates Mat Exercise #3:The Roll Over

I happen to be MAD about both The Roll Up and The Roll Over.

What a pair!

The first thing I have to say is

1. Don't be in a hurry.

Yes, it's the third exercise, but you may do Pilates for a while (even a long while) before you do it.

And that's okay.

Just like other challenging exercises where you must lift yourself off the Mat, The Roll Over improves over time and requires a strong foundation in many of the other exercises.

Please notice that I use the word ‘lift.'

2. Lift vs. Fold

Lift: to raise to a higher level

very different from

Heave: haul (a heavy thing) with great effort

No snark here, your lower body is a large proportion of your total body weight.

Fling: move or push suddenly or violently

Throw: push or force violently and suddenly into a particular physical position.

Easy on the violence, babe…

What about our other contender?

Fold: bend over on itself so that one part covers another

That's not it either, right?

Let's take a look at the difference…

Pilates Mat Exercise #3: The Roll Over



Pilates Mat Exercise #3: The Roll Over

Folded…what. is. going. on?

This is when the whole Contrology thing really comes in handy. You must strive for control. Now.

 3. A Starting Point

You may have seen students and teachers perform this exercise, their feet reaching all the way to the floor behind them. While yes, if you can reach the floor, you should, I did this exercise for more than a year before my feet got anywhere near the mat behind me.

It's the quality of the journey on the way back there that counts.

You will cultivate the important skills necessary to complete the exercise safely and effectively. Moreover,

Just because your feet don't reach the floor doesn't mean you're not doing the exercise.

Where will you find your very first lifting skills in your Pilates Mat workout?

Roll Like a Ball! Look at that lift!

Spoiler Alert: Now in the Roll Over you just have to get the lift without momentum…

Remember, if you are just beginning to work on this exercise, today's goal may not be to touch your feet to the floor over your head.

Today's goal is control. Check back tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure the goal will remain unchanged.

Pilates Mat Exercise #3: The Roll Over

Just so we're clear.

At the risk of giving this exercise tool a fancy name, I like to call this ‘Tiny Roll-Over'. It's packed with just the essentials and plenty of lift. You may find it to be helpful as you work on the Corkscrew as well.

  1. Keep your legs at 90 degrees and lock them together at the heels, inner thighs and buttocks.
  2. Aim for the ceiling and lift just the tailbone and maybe a couple lower vertebrae off the mat.
  3. Hover. Show off your fabulous willpower over your body. Open the Legs. Did you wiggle?
  4. SLOWLY, lengthen down back onto the mat. Zip the legs together again.
  5. Repeat 3x each direction.

See how you do. You may find this version to be equally as challenging as the full Roll Over, so I urge all you feet-reaching-the-floor-folk to try it as well.

Share your successes in a comment below.


Pilates Inspiration Delivered Every Week

Like what you read here? Get new posts, workshop updates + good vibes in your inbox.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  1. A good way of looking at the roll over, thank you! I haven’t done it for a long while because it often leaves me with a back spasm. But you’ve given me some tasty food for thought for when I finally feel up to the challenge. Control freaks unite!

  2. Hi Andrea

    Thanks for this! I have been using the exercise detailed to really get in touch with my lower abs (I think its making my waist narrower too!)

    • Hi Naveed,
      That is such great new to hear 🙂 The lower abs can be so elusive sometimes – good for you. Thank you so much for reading. I appreciate you!

      • Naveed Bhatti says

        Thanks for getting back to me! Can I just ask about Point 5. You say reverse it, do you mean start from a raised position and then slowly roll down then zip up the legs? I am a bit confused. If you looking for something to do in your video blog this may be it!

        And as an aside I would be keen to know what you think about Pilates Mats and which ones you recommend when your travelling or for someones own home practice? (I am currently using a 4mm thick Yoga Mat but I can hear my uppper spine make noises when I do the open leg rocker).


        • Naveed,

          Sorry about the confusion with regard to the reverse direction of this exercise…Think of it as a a big leg circle that just has a lift of the hips in the middle of it. So the first direction you lift up with the legs together and open the legs to roll down. Do 3x like that and after you roll down with legs open the 3rd time, pause. Bring the legs together and then open again (This is the transition). Now lift over with the legs open and bring them together to roll down. Do this reverse direction 3x as well. Hope this helps.

          Thanks for the thought, though, you are right, this would be a good thing to clarify in a short video blog.

          With regard to my preference in Pilates Mats – consider investing in the Gratz low folding Mat. It is a serious Mat – can certainly be used in a studio as well as for home practice, but it does fold up and has handles for carrying. The padding is perfect and it also has the satellite boxes that come with it, a strap at one end of the Mat and also the wooden handles at the other end of the Mat. I believe this to be far superior to just a roll up yoga-style Mat – precisely for the rolling exercises of which you speak. I am an ardent fan of Gratz equipment, as you probably know 🙂

          Thanks for being awesome Naveed. Cheers to you!

  3. I am short-waisted, long-legged, and big-butted (and tight-backed).

    I think this will always be a challenge for me. If I go a week without putting into the routine somewhere it feels like starting from zero again when I do start again.

    So difficult!

    • Hi there –

      Overhead can be a challenging exercise especially if you’ve got tightness in the back. However, just because you cannot do the “ultimate” version of the Overhead, let’s say, you can still work incrementally on this exercise.

      Working with control, begin in the starting position and work on the timing to reach the arms down and lift the legs to 90 degrees. and then control back to the starting position. As a next step, after arriving with the arms down and the legs to 90 degrees, use your stomach and seat to lift the bottom as much as you are able. Roll down with control and then return to the starting position. In this manner you will work on the timing of the exercise, strengthen your hip lift with control and lower to the starting position with control.
      See what you think 🙂
      And I feel you – you are right – if you skip an exercise it doesn’t get any better. Keep it in there in this incremental version and see how you do.
      Thank you so much for reading and have a good week!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to receive a Special Bonus Blogpost
How to Fall in Love with the Exercises you Hate
We respect your privacy and never share your information.