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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  1. Joe,

    Your a real Pilates person when you say you only do the MAT!
    A man after my own heart.

    • Thank you so much for this comment Mat Geek – Joe will be so pleased to hear it – I keep encouraging him to add in a little Reformer to his repertoire, but he is just so darn happy to do the Mat and his few Cadillac and Small Barrel exercises that he adds as well – he hasn’t “gone public” with those yet – LOL. I shall pass along your praise 🙂

      Thanks so much for watching – you rock!

  2. I can hear Cara Reeser’s voice in my ear as I watched this, “It’s all the same” Now I can add “We only have one exercise” Lovely exploration of one of my current obsessions of finding the length in all the exercises and finding the ones that will help clients to achieve their more challenging ones. Also as always great to see a guy doing Pilates. Thanks Andrea and Joe!

    • Thanks so much for watching Jon! Glad you enjoyed – and yes it is wonderful to see men doing the Mat especially I think…not that they should not also grace all the other apparatus… LOL. Thanks for including me with Cara Reeser’s “It’s all the same.” I feel that it’s my continual realization on the path of the Pilates Method: “Oh, it’s just like that other exercise…” Keep up the good work – I am enjoying reading your blog as well…and I was thrilled to see you article on the Stomach Massage, one of the unsung heroes of the Pilates repertoire.

  3. I love it!!!! I’ve been saying to my clients for years…..all that vertical rolling down…they forget how much the stomach/butt have got to come into play, just like doing a rollup…
    Well done, Andrea!!

    • Thanks Rudy. I know – why is it always the butt and stomach that want to go on vacation? So necessary!! Thank you so much for watching and sharing your kind words 🙂 Cheers to you!

  4. Jonathan Urla says

    Just curious as to why you don’t cue the breathing for the Roll-up/down?

    • Jonathan,

      Thanks so much for watching and for sharing your question. In my understanding there are a few exercises in the Pilates system that are deemed ‘Breathing Exercises.’ They include Double Leg Pull, the Down Stretch on the Reformer, Snake, etc… and the other exercises one just breathes as necessary ‘like you’re walking down the street.’

      That being said I do find it sometimes helpful to exhale on the way up (the round part), and holding the breath is not desirable either. But Joe in the video seemed to be breathing normally and using his stomach, etc…so that’s why I never brought it up.

      Hope that helps – and again I thank you for watching! I appreciate you.

  5. thank you for tying these exercises together. I love looking at the whole system and seeing how it all comes down to the Mighty Mat!!

    • You are so welcome Linda 🙂 Yes I love seeing the interconnectedness of the exercises in the system too! Long Live the Pilates System! Thanks so much for reading and see you soon. xox

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