Pilates Roll Over - Exercise Instructions

Pilates Roll Over - Introduction and Set-Up

The Pilates roll over.
The Pilates roll over. annebaek/Getty Images

Roll over is all about control. It will give your back and hamstrings a good stretch, and make your abdominal muscles work very hard as well.

One of the keys to this exercise is to remember that it is roll over, not flop over. We've all seen someone, usually a very flexible woman, waltz into a studio and immediately get down on the floor throwing her legs over her head in a big ol' back stretch. Well, that's fun if you can do it, but it is not a great way to develop core strength (it is a great way to hurt your back and neck).

Warm up before you do this exercise. You may also want to review my extra tips for roll over. If you have back or neck issues, be careful with roll over -- it might not be right for you.

What You Will Need for the Roll Over

This is a mat exercise, you need only an exercise mat and space to do it in.

Beginning Position for the Pilates Roll Over Exercise

  • Lie on your back with your arms along your sides, palms down. Your neck is long with lots of space between your shoulders and ears, and your chest is open.
  • With your legs together, extend them straight up toward the ceiling at a 90-degree angle.
  • Exhale: Lower your legs slightly.

Pilates Roll Over

The Pilates roll over.
The Pilates roll over. LivingImages/Getty Images

Inhale: Using your lower abs, return your legs to 90 degrees.

Exhale: Continue using your abdominal muscles and draw your hips and legs over until your legs are parallel to your chest.

  • This part of roll over requires a release of the lower back along with lifting support from the abs.
  • Keeping your chest open and using pressure from the backs of your arms and your hands will help you over and stabilize the movement. Few people can do roll over without some assistance from the arms, but the emphasis is on the abs.

Continue the deepening of the abdominals as you roll onto the broad part of your shoulders. Do not roll onto your neck.

  • If you are very flexible and stable here, you can take your feet all the way to the floor. This is similar to yoga's plow pose

Inhale: Flex your feet, lengthening the back of the legs and sending energy out through the heels.

Take your legs to shoulder width apart.

Roll Down - Completing the Pilates Roll Over

The Pilates roll over.
The Pilates roll over. BraunS/Getty Images

Exhale: Allow your legs to lower toward your chest as you use abdominal control to slowly lengthen your spine as you place each vertebrae down on the mat, one at a time.

  • Roll down until your legs are at 90 degrees.
  • Continue to send energy out through your heels; doing so will help you control the movement and get a good stretch. This is a good place to notice where you might go weak in the abs and let a section of your back go down to the floor all at one time. Also, beware of any tendency to overwork the back or neck muscles.

Inhale: Bring your legs together and lower them slightly to begin again.

Repeat roll over 6 times.

The Leg Pattern: 3 going over with legs together, then opening the legs and flexing the feet to roll down; and 3 times going over with legs apart, feet flexed, and coming down legs together, feet softly pointed.

Do you have an exercise ball? Try roll over with the ball.

In the classical Pilates mat sequence, roll over is preceded by roll up and followed by one leg circle.

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