The Pilates System: The Push Down and the Push Up

Push Down on the Wunda Chair

Life is full of moments of up and down.

Ever notice how often you have to bend over and pick something up?

You may not notice until it's not possible for some reason.

The Pilates exercises are exaggerated versions of everyday movements. Your Pilates practice allows you to repeat and refine your exercises and encourage them to infiltrate into your daily life.

You have many exercises that teach you how to properly bend forward.

But I bet they're not your favorites.

The Roll Up

All roads lead back to the Roll Up, don't they?

The Roll Up is a foundational exercise that teaches us how to bend forward and how to sit up from a lying-down position. That doesn't mean it's easy to do. Luckily, the Pilates method gives us an entire system of Roll-Ups-in-disguise to work on the skills of bending over and sitting up.

Today I've chosen 5 exercises:

  • Push Down on the Wunda Chair
  • Push Ups on the Mat
  • Push Up #3 on the Wunda Chair
  • Rolling Back on the Cadillac
  • Reverse Push Through on the Cadillac

In my Pilates practice, I find it helpful to work on the bending over skill to better my sitting up skill. They are a great help to one another. The vertical position helps me find the lift necessary for a successful Roll Up experience all around the Pilates Studio.

Enjoy this short workout. Afterward, return to your Roll Up on the Mat and watch the magic happen!

How'd you do?

Share your successes in a comment below.

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

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