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How To Do Pilates Roll Up


Updated May 19, 2014

pilates roll up

abs in, shouders down, long spine - good form

courtesy of Kolesar Studios
The roll up is one of the classic Pilates Mat exercises. Roll up is a great challenge for the abdominal muscles, and is well known as one of the Pilates flat abs exercises. It has been said that one Pilates roll up is equal to six regular sit ups, and is much better than crunches for creating a flat stomach.

This is a quick reference for roll up. If you would like more detailed instructions, please see: roll up instructions in detail.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 5 min.

Here's How:

  1. Lie on the floor with your legs straight. Let your belly drop down toward the floor and make sure your shoulders are relaxed and away from your ears. Take a few deep breaths as you check your alignment and tune in to your body.

    When you are ready, leave your scapula anchored in your back and your ribs down, as you bring your arms straight up over your head and back so that your finger tips are pointing to the wall behind you. This will be your beginning position.

    See arms over for more on this beginning move.

  2. Inhale: Leave your scapula down as you bring your arms up over head. As your arms pass your ears let the chin drop and head and upper spine join the motion to curl up.

  3. Exhale: Continue in one smooth motion to curl your body in an "up and over" motion toward your toes. This is the "moment of truth" for many. Pull in your abs in and deepen the curve of the your spine as you exhale. That's what gets you up (not momentum).

    Finally, keeping the head tucked, the abdominals deep, and the back rounded, reach for your toes.

    Ideally the legs are kept straight throughout this exercise, with energy reaching out through the heels. However, a modification would be to allow the legs to bend, especially as you come up and reach toward the toes.

  4. Inhale: Bring the breath fully into your pelvis and back as you pull the lower abs in, reach your tail bone under, and begin to unfurl - vertebrae by vertebrae - down to the floor.

    The inhale initiates this motion until you are about half way down.

    *Be sure to keep the legs on the floor and don't let them fly up as you roll down. Check that your shoulders are relaxed and not creeping up.

  5. Exhale: Continue to set one vertebrae after another down on the floor.

    Keep your upper body curve as you roll down slowly, with control. The arms are still outstretched and following the natural motion of the shoulders as you roll down.

    Once your shoulders come to the floor, the arms go with the head as you continue to roll down to the mat.

  6. Do up to six repetitions. The roll up is one continuous, controlled, flowing motion. Try to synchronize with the breath. If you do this exercise with full attention, six repetitions will be sufficient.
  7. Next, try roll up with magic circle
  8. If you have trouble with roll up (you're not alone), please read: Tips for Mastering The Roll Up.


  1. You may find that you don't have enough strength to curl all the way up off the floor without your legs flying up. If this is the case, begin developing your skill and strength with chest lift, wall roll down, and supported roll back

  2. There is an ongoing discussion about the roll up in the Pilates Forum here at pilates.about.com.

  3. All You Need is an Exercise Mat!
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