Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

The Neck Pull belongs to a group of Pilates exercises we all love to hate.

Perhaps it's even top of the list.

If you're not a fan of the Roll Up, you'll have nary a kind thought for the Neck Pull.

Promoted as the ‘Move of the Month' at Real Pilates NYC, you've still got the rest of your lives to perfect your Neck Pull. Your stomach and your back will love you for it.

Your ego may hate us…but please, persevere.

The Battle of the Body Parts

My personal journey through the Neck Pull remains vivid in my mind to this day. I first learned this abominable exercise in a Mat class at Excel Pilates in Washington, DC.

You may notice in the photo above I am on a proper studio Mat with a strap and handles.

‘Twas not always so…

Learning the Neck Pull in a Mat class – sans strap – with a tight back and a less-than-stellar Roll Up, this exercise soon became my nemesis. As I began the exercise I watched my lower body in horror. I quickly got stuck and flailed about, my legs lifting into the air.


I was terrified to receive my first Pilates diploma due to my inability to do the Neck Pull on the Mat at all, really. I assumed if I were ever to run into criminals in a dark alley they would demand the Neck Pull in exchange for my life, and my odds of surviving said encounter were slim.

And I'm really out of luck if they also demand I twist.

Worst-case Scenario

For many Pilates practitioners and teachers, there's no torture quite like the Teaser. For me, well, I guess I was much better at cheating on that one.

The Neck Pull didn't offer as many options.

After completing my initial teacher training I was assigned to teach an Intermediate level Mat class at the studio. Gulp. This class of course included the dreaded Neck Pull.

What if I should have to demonstrate the Neck Pull?

I knew this situation was unavoidable.

OMG someone may have a question.

Would I have an answer?

At the time I also had a client, perhaps 20 years my senior, who did the Neck Pull very well. She had issues with other exercises, of course, as we all do. But I would watch her do her 5-6 Neck Pulls and think “I got nothin'…look at her, DOING the exercise.”

As it turned out, an actual friend of mine was in my Mat class and struggling with the Neck Pull.

“I'm not getting it. Can I see you do it?”

Thanks, friend…

…and the sweating begins before the exercise.

That day I learned the degree to which the mind can impose its will upon the body. Who's in control here, anyway?

It was the first successful Neck Pull I had ever done.


I know how to suck it up and get the job done.

No way was I going to choke while my class of 15 people all watched me.


Here's a similar story of Pilates willpower: same exercise, a decade later, Jennifer Kries style.

In recent years I have added the Neck Pull to another group of exercises that, once odious to me, I now love love love with all my heart.

I hope you'll enjoy these 2 short tutorials on the Neck Pull.

What Luck! Even more great info on the Neck Pull from Alisa Wyatt here.

Thank you for watching!

Pilates Mat Exercise #19: The Neck Pull

Save the Date! Saturday February 7, 2015.

I'll be teaching at the California Pilates Center in Oceanside, CA. 

Sign up for my awesome Mat class here!

Let's workout. You know you want to.

Video Blog: A Brief Pilates Tutorial on the Roll Up

Video Blog: A Brief Pilates Tutorial on the Roll UpThe Roll Up on the Mat was the first Pilates exercise I loved to hate.

Years later, it was a great day when I could correctly execute the Roll Up.

correctly = actually roll up

Now I have a fun time teaching this exercise all around the Pilates system. The intersection, helpful similarities and subtle differences of 3 exercises have been on my mind for a while.

I love to intermingle them and use an element of one exercise to help the others.

Video Blog: A Brief Pilates Tutorial on the Roll Up

The simplicity and beauty of these steadfast, meat-and-potatoes exercises is a testament to the depth and efficacy of the Pilates system. I teach them everyday with nearly every client.

These classic exercises get better with age and hopefully so do we.

1. Rolling Back on the Cadillac

Video Blog: A Brief Pilates Tutorial on the Roll Up

2. The Round Back on the Short Box


3. The Roll Up on the Mat

Video Blog: A Brief Pilates Tutorial on the Roll Up

Each of these exercises offers a slightly different window into the perfection of the Roll Up, or the lengthening and opening of the entire back of the body.

Rolling Back on the Cadillac gives a different assistance (pole+spring) than the Roll Up on the Mat (strap). Here the spring makes the relationship between the lift in your back/stomach and that pole you are holding onto especially tangible. We'll visit this relationship again for the Roll Up on the Mat, sans spring of course.

Round Back on the Short Box adds a greater challenge in the eventual extension all the way over the box. Essentially the same exercise, just with a box under you instead of a Mat. An extra bit of panache from JP, n'est-ce pas?

The straps for Round Back on the Short Box and the Roll Up on the Mat add a nice assist for the hip extension necessary to keep both feet firmly planted on the poles at the end of the Cadillac when Rolling Back.

These 3 exercises are especially entwined. Let's add a fourth for a new relationship to gravity and a new challenge.

Nerd Alert! (#PilatesNerd)

Now that I've gotten started it's hard for me to stop. Get ready to take it vertical, yo.

4. Push Down on the Wunda Chair

The Roll Up

The Push Down on the Wunda Chair gives you the floor to push your feet firmly into and a spring from which to lift up your stomach in opposition.

Reach your heels into the floor and imagine the reach under the strap for the Roll Up on the Mat.

Feel the lift in your stomach and back as you must remove both hands from the pedal at once to return to standing.

Relating these exercises to each another helps even new clients to do all three of these exercises better.


Here's a short video tutorial on what is truly one of my favorite exercises. Thanks for watching. And thanks for being awesome! You rock! You ROLL UP!

Pay attention and you'll even hear Joe's secret Pilates confession…

Got other favorite exercises you'd like to see in a video blog?

Want to shout from the rooftops your secret love for the Roll Up?

Lay it on me in a comment below.

Recent posts you may have missed:

Classical Pilates Convention 2014

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.