5 Quick Pilates Training Tips To Improve Ab Strength and Increase Back Flexibility for the Roll Up Exercise in Pilates Matwork

by | Jan 19, 2012 | Pilates | 4 comments

It seems that many Pilates students struggle with doing a great Roll Up during their Mat workouts. Whether you’re a brand new beginner, or have been doing Pilates for years, coordinating the timing, breath, ab muscles working, and back releasing all at the right time for an easy, smooth Roll Up can be a challenge, but it’s not an impossible task.  Everybody can have a strong & flexible center that easily articulates for a great Roll Up!

If you’re participating in Matwork classes and doing Private or Group Training on the Pilates equipment, there are many  Pilates equipment exercises that can help you find the right muscles and improve your technique to make your Roll Up easier.  But what if you’re only doing Matwork?

Here are 5 quick Pilates Training Tips To Help You Work On Improving Your Roll Up Exercise During Your At-Home Workouts, In Pilates Class At the Gym, Or Anywhere You’re Practicing Pilates:

  1. Instead of bending your arms & legs to get through the sticky spots.  Keep your arms & legs strong & straight.  Slide your arms along the sides of your thighs while rolling back and up.  If your elbows stay straight, your back will bend more, the abs will work harder, and you will articulate more sequentially through the whole spine.
  2. Use a Theraband looped across the soles of your feet to provide assistance & resistance to Roll Up and Back one vertebra at a time.  Remember:  Safety first!  Be careful that your band does not slip off your feet and whack you in the face.
  3. Practice ½ Sit Backs on an Incline Board.  If you have a step aerobics bench, tilt it so that one end is high and one end is low.  Or if you’re at the gym, use the Decline Sit-Up Bench.  Only put your head at the high end with your feet on the floor and practice your sit ups.  (Start you’re your hands reaching along your thighs, progress to hands behind the head like Neck Pull.)  Being on an incline bench can help you feel your pelvis, low back, and bottom ribs get to the mat first for better bending through the spine.
  4.  Relax your Chest & Look at your Belly.  Getting your eyes in the right spot cues the whole back to bend.  Relaxing your chest will help you use more abdominals and less arms, and a relaxed chest also helps your upper and mid-back to bend more  easily – aiding in the sequential articulation of the spine.
  5. BREATHE!  Good Breathing is key!   Inhaling should lengthening the spine for good joint space so you can move more easily.   A strong exhale is what is needed when the going gets tough.  This forced exhale more strongly activates your abdominals to help curl you up and control your movement rolling back to the mat.  If you hold your breath when you get to a stuck spot, you will be holding your body still in that spot.  “Riding” the breath will help you ride the movement for good flow and a smooth articulation of the spine.

BONUS TIP:  Practice with hand weights, a weighted stick, ball, or Magic Circle in your hands with your arms straight, (elbows unlocked) and shoulders relaxed and down.   Actively pull your abs up, in, and away from your arms the whole time you are rolling up and rolling back to the mat.  The extra weight of a toy in your hands will give you a little extra boost to work through your challenge spots.

By applying at least one of these technique tips to your Pilates Roll Up exercise, (as well as any other similar exercises in your workout routine) with a little practice, and continued focus on your goal of easily articulating through your spine with good abdominal support, you’ll be doing great Roll Ups before you know it!

If you’ve found this information helpful, drop me a comment – I’d love to hear which one of these five Pilates training tips made the most different to you  to improve your Roll Up exercise technique!

Have a Fit & Fabulous Day!

Aliesa George: Over the past three decades, Aliesa George has helped assist people with their personal health journeys by sharing, teaching, and developing Pilates, Foot Fitness, and other Mind-Body programs.


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