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.

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Pilates Mat Exercise #2: The Roll Up

Pilates Mat Exercise #2: The Roll Up

The Roll Up

The Roll Up deserves full credit for my immersion in/obsession with the Pilates Method.

In my very first Mat class, it was the Roll Up – the second exercise, mind you – that absorbed my attention in an instant.

OMG, disaster. What is. Happening??!

How could I fail so miserably, so early in the hour? Am I not flexible and strong?

The Pilates Method reveals valuable information about our body. We learn volumes about our strengths and weaknesses. A stunning attribute, really.

However, at first we may not appreciate our new intel.

We're gonna Roll Up like it's 1999

Back in the day, I could only complete the exercise when I wore my heavy Dr. Martens boots. Sadly, I could not wear them to class, but I would sometimes put them on when I would practice at home. Then I could roll up and down no problem and my legs would stay on the mat. I think I found it soothing…

But I agree, not ideal.

Jennifer Kries' The Method Pilates Precision Toning series assured me that someday I would be able to complete the Roll Up, so I kept at it, the Roll Up, and my Pilates classes.

Fast (Up and) Forward

Today, of course in true Pilates fashion, the Roll Up is one of my very favorite exercises. Using the strap on my proper Pilates Mat has really opened up the tight spot in my back, allowing me to find success in the exercise even on a hotel room floor.

Up against the wall

So if you are working at home to perfect your Roll Up, bereft of a Pilates studio mat with strap and handles, what's to be done? Use a wall to get more out of this vital exercise than mere frustration.

  1. Lie down on your mat so that you can place your feet on a wall. Heels on the floor, feet and legs together.
  2. I like to keep my knees just a little bent. If your Roll Up is not perfect (and whose is) sometimes you may find yourself sliding away from the wall as you roll back down. The knees bent helps in this regard. It will help you to open the low back, potentially the culprit in this whole Roll Up debacle.
  3. Push your feet into the wall as you begin your Roll Up. If your back is tight, you may not get all the way up with your feet still pressing on the wall. This is okay. You will probably get a good stretch in your back and over time you'll roll up a little more.
  4. Continue to reach your feet, heels especially, pressing into the wall as you roll all the way down onto the mat. The reach through your heels will help you to find the seat and lengthen the lower back.

The wall is approximating the assist you get from the strap on the Mat, and as such is a bit unforgiving.

But I bet you're up to the challenge. Give it a go.

Pilates: what kills our ego, does indeed make us stronger.

Another One Bites the Dust

“Pilates is an endless journey. It can be a wonderful journey but it never ends.”     Jay Grimes

“What you don’t like, you do twice!”    Romana Kryzanowska quoting Joe Pilates

There are not many Pilates exercises that I dislike. Often more information about a particular exercise can point up how badly one executes said exercise. And by ‘badly' I only mean ‘incorrectly'. No judginess, but there is always ‘better' and, well… we've all got our issues…Such is my relationship with the Leg Springs on the Cadillac. The more you know…

My Pilates workout can be quantified by each exercise I add to my “No Longer Despised and Now Beloved” list. Now thirteen years in, I am able to welcome The Leg Springs on the Cadillac into the fold. I do not do this lightly, I assure you. I did not see this one coming. It will be a fine day indeed when Pulling Straps gets added to the list…or perhaps a cold day in hell?

Here is the list so far: 

Another One Bites the Dust

The Roll Up

…many… years… pass…

The Neck Pull

The Short Box 

The Breast Stroke (no one was more surprised than I…)

and now…

The Leg Springs

…yeah, that’s about it right now. We few, we happy few… There is a longer list of exercises that have the potential to make this list but they have not arrived just yet. These include some extension exercises and all the twisting exercises including the Snake/Twist.

The Snake/Twist is like a bad boyfriend. It never shows up when you need it, and maybe after a long absence it returns and tries to make nice for a while. It is the perfect storm for the particular imbalance in my back which means it will soon prove indispensable 🙂

Oh happy day when I induct the Snake/Twist into my Personal Pilates Hall of Fame.

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