How To Roll Up?

How To Roll Up?

One of the classic pilates moves, the roll up. If you’ve seen a pilates class then you’ve probably seen this move being performed.

While it is one of the basic moves in pilates it doesn’t mean that it is easy. Practice makes perfect when it comes to a roll up and sometimes you can’t do it at all.

Here is a step by step guide on how to do a roll up. If you struggle to perform it then we have listed some common mistakes.

If all that fails then there are also variations to help you build up to the full thing. No matter what we can help you get those abs working.

Step By Step

  1. Lay out your pilates mat on flat ground.
  2. Lie down on your back with your legs out straight.
  3. Bring your arms over head in an arc while inhaling. Go back as far as it is comfortable. You want your fingers to be pointing to the wall behind you.
  4. Exhale and arc your arms back over. When they reach past 90 degrees to the ground, then start to lower your chin and lift your shoulder blades off the mat.
  5. Inhale then exhale again. Keeping your legs straight on the ground, reach for your toes. Keep your head tucked and curl your spine. Sort of like how you would do a crunch.
  6. Imagine a ball in your stomach, your spine should curl around it in a ‘c’ shape.
  7. Keep your arms horizontal, don’t let them fall.
  8. Inhale and extend your spine and reach out until you’re sitting on the bones in your butt.
  9. Exhale and uncurl back to the starting position. Don’t let your legs fly off the ground.

The goal is to perform this with synchronized breath, curling on the inhale and uncurling on the exhale.


The roll up is called one of pilates flat abs exercises because of how well it targets the abdominal muscles.

It builds up your core strength and also builds up your endurance. By stretching to your toes it also helps with the hamstring muscles if performed correctly. A full body workout in just one move!

The curling motion helps to mobilize your spine. A stiff spine is more susceptible to injury and future back problems.

It is scientifically proven that a roll up is more effective than crunches. This is because it more accurately targets the 6 pack muscles and recruits more muscle fibers.

The motion of the roll up also gives an almost massaging effect to your stomach organs. This can give your digestive system a little boost!

As pilates is a mind-body exercise we can’t ignore the benefits the roll up has for you mentally.

By having strict deep breathing it can put your mind in a mediation-like state so you can clear your mind and relax.

Deep breathing also has the added benefit of helping your general blood circulation.

Common Mistakes And How To Overcome Them

How To Roll Up?

One of the most common mistakes is people using momentum to curl rather than their core strength and spine flexibility.

Honestly the best way to overcome this is with practice. If your core strength is weak then no matter how much advice you’re given you won’t be able to efficiently curl.

Do a roll up a day and go as far as you can before resetting. Remember, slow progress is still progress.

The other most common mistake is lifting your legs from the mat when you curl and uncurl. This happens because the muscles that help you sit up, also flex your hip muscles.

You can practice by using an exercise band (see below for variation) or use the focus technique.

Some people find if you focus on each area of your spine curling then it takes your mind away from accidentally using your hips to curl.

The final mistake is that people maintain an overly tucked position. To avoid this make sure you don’t press your lower back into the mat and use your abs to roll over instead.

When Not To Perform

If you feel any pain then stop immediately, there is no shame in working your way up to a full curl, if at all.

Also if you have any lower back pain then maybe skip this exercise until it heals up.

If you suffer from disc or cervix pathology or you have osteoporosis then consult your doctor beforehand.

There could be other exercises they recommend to target the same areas without injury.

It is not recommended to do a roll up if you are heavily pregnant or have recently given birth. Have a talk with your doctor about when it would be safe to start doing roll ups after birth.


  • Bent knee – Beginner version. Bend your knees instead of having them straight out in front of you, keep your heels away from the butt or else it will be harder. Bend your knees more as you come up. Put your hands behind your knees to help if necessary.
  • Banded – Wrap your exercise band around the balls of your feet. Have your arms down by your side holding the band. Adjust the tension of the band as you go up and down for support. This variation can help stop your legs from lifting.
  • Pilates Ring – Slightly harder version. Hold the ring above your chest. Squeeze it as you roll up and down. This helps to build up shoulder muscles.


By doing this exercise you will be able to practically improve your lifting and bending abilities, by increasing your core strength and spine flexibility. Which will be much needed as you age.

Don’t worry if you can’t do it. Some people just don’t suit this exercise and will perform the variations instead.

Forcing yourself to perform it could do more harm than good, so try to do the version that is most comfortable for you.