8 Tips for Doing the Roll Over Pilates Exercise Right

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

The roll over Pilates exercise is not as famous for giving people trouble as the roll up is, but roll over is a difficult, and somewhat complicated, exercise. When all the parts of roll over come together it is a wonderful coordination of stretch, spinal articulation, balance, abdominal control, and breath. The tips below will help you experience the roll over as the strong, flowing exercise it can be.

If you do not know roll over, see instructions for roll over on mat

1. Warm Up for the Roll Over

Roll over is the third exercise in the classical Pilates exercise sequence. However, you have to make sure that you are warmed up enough to do it. Roll over follows the hundred which will warm your core, and the roll up will start articulating the spine, but doing a good warm up ahead of time will help a lot. Wall roll down, supported roll back, and cat cow are good choices.

2. How to Modify the Roll Over

You might choose to modify roll over by using the deepening of the lower abs to lift the hips slightly and roll them down. You can do this exercise with your knees slightly bent if that is more comfortable. You can also put a folded towel or low pillow under your hips to give yourself a little boost until you build strength. To curl and unfurl the pelvis.

3. Use Your Abdominal Muscles in the Roll Over 

It's tempting to use momentum from your legs to get the hips up and over in roll over, but that's not what the exercise is about.

A deepening the scoop of the abdominal muscles makes the move work. Double leg lower/lift is a good exercise for prepping the lower abs for roll over as well.

4. Use Shoulder Stability

This is a big key to roll over: stabilize the shoulders. Here we are focusing on abdominal strength and the stretch along the back and hamstrings, but what saves the day is keeping the chest open, the shoulders firmly on the mat, and the backs of the arms and palms of the hands pressed firmly to the floor.

If you haven't done roll over with this concept working for you, start now. You can even think of pressing the arms and hands down and away from you at the same time with your neck reaching long in the other direction.

5. Articulate the Spine

There are 26 vertebrae in your back. In roll over you are going to flow through each one of them on the way up, and lay each one down, one by one, on the way down. Sometimes roll over makes people nervous so they heave over and plunk down, but you can take the time to to find the opening and lengthening of the spine that is possible. That means that there will be a softening curve of the chest supported by your powerhouse as you roll up and down. Don't get flustered by being upside down. The roll over works with skills you get from many mat exercises like chest lift, the hundred, roll up, spine stretch and more - it's just reversed.

6. Stay Withing Your Frame

It is tempting to get a little sloppy what with the potential for momentum and all that rolling and unrolling, but do control your form as you do roll over.

When the legs open they only open shoulder width apart. When you roll over, your hips go no further than over your shoulders. Do not roll onto your neck under any circumstances. Thank you.

7. Breath, Rhythm and Flow - Use Your Pilates Principles

All Pilates exercises are informed by the Pilates principles, but some just have to have all of them working together to work at all. Roll over is one of those moves. If you can get your breath working for you it will lead you into a coordination, rhythm and flow in the exercise that will make it make sense on a deeper level.

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