Why is the Roll Up on the Mat so Hard in Pilates?

Why is the Pilates Roll Up on the Mat So Hard

I’ll never forget my first Pilates class! In fact, I feel like I have talked about this class often here. But, that first Pilates Mat class really got me hooked! And, also, as I look back on it I realize just how far my own Pilates practice has come.

The first Pilates mat class I took I didn’t know that my legs shouldn’t lift off the mat when I rolled up. As you may know, most Pilates mat classes do not have mats that have straps, handles and a weighted pole for each student. In fact, most students use a Yoga mat for their Pilates practice. Which is not the same.

So, there I was, first time on the mat, on my thin yoga mat, trying to make Pilates happen. And, I totally fell in love! But, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know that a strap around my feet and a weighted pole would make the Roll Up on the mat accessible.

I didn’t know that without those things I would need to use my own muscles to keep my legs pressing into the ground. I had no idea that my own muscles could control my whole body. And, that the Roll up on the mat wasn’t an ab exercise. But, a full body exercise!

So, here’s the thing about the Roll up, it requires all of you! In fact, every Pilates mat exercise requires all of you. If you don’t have a strap then you will need to dive even deeper into your muscles to maintain a connection to the mat.

If your legs are coming off the mat as you do your Roll up then you are using more of your hip flexors or even momentum to come up instead of using your whole body. Which means, using smaller, less utilized muscles and also using muscles that might seem counter-intuitive.

When I do the Roll Up on the mat I make sure that I am connecting my legs to my center by hugging the backside of my legs together and feeling my seat muscles also wrap on. Side note…this is not the same as squeezing your butt tightly together. You want to get more of the glute medius and under butt working for you. Not just the gluteus maximus. I also like to feel my shoulders on my back. And that doesn’t mean shoulders down and stuck. It just means that they are not in my ears so that my spine can round and reach forward out of my lower back whilst my legs reach down and away.

If you have a strap this will help you maintain your legs on the mat. It’s not a cheat or even for “beginners.” In fact, as you become more advanced you’ll notice how the strap helps you connect more to yourself. If you don’t have a strap try using a magic circle like I did here.

So, if your legs are popping up with every Roll Up then see if you can find more seat as you curl up and don’t be afraid to only go up as much as you can keep your legs down and your center working! I could probably write a book on all the parts of the Roll Up. But, there is no race to the Roll Up. One day you’ll get there and it’ll feel amazing because you won’t be gripping in the front of your hips! You’ll feel like you are floating, stretching, strengthening and reaching all at the same time.



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