Roll Up on the Mat

After years of Roll Ups and talking with my teacher who studied with Joseph Pilates, I’ve learned that the strap is essential as you advance your practice.

  • Difficulty: All levels
  • Equipment Needed: Mat. If possible, a strap and weighted pole. (The mat shown in this video is the Contrology Folding Mat.)
  • Reps: 3-5x
  • Warning: If new or working with a lower back issue, try the prep version of this exercise first.
  • Questions: Contact us here

Roll Up on the Mat

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I have to remind myself that you only need to do a few reps of the Roll Up on the Pilates Mat, especially if you are going to go into the Roll Over. But, sometimes the Roll Up feels so good I just want to keep doing it. Now, I prefer to use a strap and a weighted pole when I do the Roll Up. I was told that beginners needed a strap and that advanced persons do not. But, after 10+ years of Roll Ups and talking with my teacher who studied with Joseph Pilates I have learned that the strap becomes more essential as you advance in your practice.

Press your legs together and into the mat feel your spine on the mat.

Hug your legs tight together and lay on your back with your arms up to the ceiling or more advanced overhead. Ideally, holding a weighted pole and with a strap around the base of your flexed feet. This exercise is taught in parallel but if necessary to connect more to your seat go ahead and turn your legs out. Pressing your legs together and down into the mat feel the length of your spine along the mat and your shoulders connected to your back. It's easy to allow your ribs to pop out in this start position. Find a connection to your upper abs before you begin.

Lifting your arms over your chest roll forward and as you do reach your legs long and away. Your goal is to round up and over your legs without reaching your tailbone behind you. Pulse your spine longer over your legs three times before rolling back down. Repeat 2-4 more times. The key to this exercise is the opposition. It will feel as if you are "tucking" your pelvis but you are truly trying to reach our lower back out your feet as you reach your mid-back up and over your legs. The pulses allow for more stretch and strength.

Be sure to check out more of my Pilates Mat exercises. I want to help you continue your Pilates Mat training!

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Comments (2)


When teaching beginner/intermediate client in a mat class of 3-5, would you recommend teaching the elbow slide, then 1/2 roll down, then roll up? I am curious about the order in which to teach this as to maximize abdominal awareness.


Hi Corinne, amazing question! To be honest, I do not think a beginner “gets” the abdominals that they need to be using in the 1/2 rollback. Which is why even though it will be hard for them I will teach the elbow slip. Then have them transition from the elbow slip to the half roll back and try to “find” the elbow slip feeling in the 1/2 rollback. Does that make sense?

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