Foam Roller Fitness: 10 Fun Ways to Use a Foam Roller for Your Roll Up Exercise in Pilates Matwork

by | May 14, 2013 | Pilates, Pilates Exercises, Techniques & Teaching Tips | 0 comments

foam rollerFight boredom, have a blast challenging your body and improve your Pilates technique with a foam roller.  This workout will boost your fitness and help you make the most of your Pilates workouts.

We are only limited by our imagination when it comes to modifying exercises to challenge the body.  When I teach Pilates I do not add “toys” to distract from the work, but to enhance the understanding of how to tweak the body and improve Pilates technique.

When using a foam roller, magic circle or any other prop the goal is to find, feel and fine-tune muscle activation for better stabilization or movement so that when you get back to doing the “traditional” exercise without the prop you will be able to do it even better with all the right muscles working!

I thought it would be fun to see how many different ways I could find to use the Foam Roller for the Pilates Mat Roll Up exercise.  I have one or two ways I always use it when I teach a Roller-themed Mat class, but was confident that there were probably a lot of other ways it could be used.  So I grabbed my roller and a piece of paper and plopped myself down on the mat to play.  With about 5 minutes of thought, and about thirty repetitions (it was a nice Ab workout!)  I came up with 10 different ways to use the Foam Roller for the Roll Up. 

If you’re looking for FUN, variety and a new challenge, here are some tips so that you can use a prop with a purpose.  Use these techniques to get a great Pilates Roll Up… Try these 10 Foam Roller Fitness strategies, and let me know what you think!

Exercise Variations:  10 Foam Roller Fitness Strategies for the Pilates Roll Up in Mat Class

  1. Between the Hands #1 – Hold onto the middle of the Foam Roller firmly with both hands.   The roller will “stand” on end in the start and finish position with the arms overhead.  (This will limit the range of motion for the arms and shoulders as the arms go overhead, because the end of the roller will hit the ground.)  Lift the arms up and reach the roller (held vertically) to the toes.  Roll back and as the arms reach overhead.
  2. Between the Hands #2 – Hold onto the ends of the Foam Roller for a wide grip to change the stretch for the arms and shoulders.  As you roll up, roll the Foam Roller along the legs twirling from your fingertips to reach out to your toes, if you can, roll it over your flexed feet for a nice stretch, before rolling it along the thighs to return to the mat.
  3. Between the Inner Thighs – Place the Foam Roller on its end, so it’s held vertically in space, and squeeze the inner thighs against it to hold it in place.  This will limit the range of motion as you roll up, so Roll Up until your head touches the roller, then roll back down.
  4. Between the Inner Thighs And Reaching to the Feet – Same as #3 above, but when you’ve come up to the roller, pick it up with your hands and reach it to your toes, as you roll backwards, place it between your inner thighs and squeeze, then finish rolling back to the mat.
  5. Between the Ankles – Place the Foam Roller on its end and squeeze from the inner thighs to the ankles to hold it vertically in space.  Roll up and reach the arms past the roller, roll back and continue to squeeze the ankles against the roller, being sure the inner thighs are squeezing and the feet and Foam Roller stay firmly planted on the mat.
  6. Between the Feet – Place the ends of the Foam Roller between the feet.  This will put you in a wider “straddle” stance for the exercise.  Keeping the legs on the mat, and the Foam Roller held firmly between the feet, execute the Roll Up exercise.
  7. Lying Supine – Lay on the Foam Roller with the full length of your spine against the roller.  Legs straight and together if you can maintain balance.  Legs apart and knees bent if you need help with balance and control, or find it difficult to keep the low back against the roller.  Do the Roll Up without falling off the roller! (this can be a wonderful prep exercise for the full Teaser on the Reformer – when the legs drop below the body, and you still have to get the back down to roll up.)
  8. Under the Heels – With the legs extended out straight and together, place the Foam Roller under your heels.  Without locking the knees, keep the legs firmly pressing down against the roller.  Do the full Roll Up exercise.  (The heels on the roller will have your feet 2-3 inches off the mat for the entire exercise.  The trick is holding them still here, not lifting and lowering the legs from the roller.)
  9. Behind the Knees – This makes the exercise a little easier; if you’re low back muscles are tight.  Allow the knees to stay bent and gently against the Foam Roller as you roll up.  Once you’re up, sitting on your butt, straighten the knees to reach to the toes (calves and feet will be up off the mat.)  Bend the knees to put the feet back on the floor, then roll backwards to the start position.
  10. Behind the Upper Back – This will give you the opportunity for some thoracic extension as the arms reach overhead (similar to the Arm Reach over the Barrel Exercise.)  Place the Foam Roller horizontally across your Mat somewhere in the mid to upper back – the bottom of the shoulder blades can be a good starting point.  As the arms reach over head, allow the upper back to “back bend” over the Foam Roller, lift the arms, curl the head  and shoulders up, and Roll Up to reach for your toes.  Roll back and backbend over the Foam Roller to reach the arms overhead in the starting position.

Would I do all of these in one workout?  Heaven’s NO!!!  Pick one of these ten options and play with it for a day, or a week’s worth of training, then pick another variation and try it.  Heck if you only used one version a month – you’ve now got almost a year’s worth of ideas to challenge your Pilates Roll Up exercise and we’re only playing with ONE toy!

Some of these Foam Roller Fitness variations will make the Roll Up exercise easier, and some variations might make the exercise more difficult.  Enjoy a challenge for your Abs, your arms & shoulders, legs, hips, thighs, and feet, depending on which variation you choose.

I would love to hear from you after you’ve played with your Foam Roller and experienced these fun Foam Roller Fitness variations for your Pilates Roll Up.

  • Which of these 10 versions makes it easiest for you to do a good Roll Up?
  • Which version gives you the biggest challenge?
  • Which one do you LOVE the most?

Don’t have a Foam Roller Yet?  Click here to Get ONE NOW…


Looking for more Ideas to Incorporate the Foam Roller Fitness into Your Workouts?

Centerworks Online Workshops with Aliesa GeorgeJoin Aliesa for these two upcoming online workshops!

  • Foam Roller Fitness –Exercises Tips & Core Training Techniques, May 29th, 2013 at 8-10pm CST
  • Pilates Teachers TELE-CHAT: Foam Roller Training for Pilates Pros, June 5th at 8-10pm CST 

Click Here To Get Details and Register NOW

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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