How to Do the Roll Over in Pilates

The Roll Over is a traditional Pilates mat exercise that stretches your back and hamstrings while strengthening your abdominal muscles. The rolling action also massages your spine. Like the Roll Up and the Hundreds, it’s one of the first Pilates moves you’ll learn. It is the third exercise of the classical Pilates mat sequence. The Roll Over demands control, balance, and coordination. It is also a great way to exercise the Pilates principles of breath and flow. As you gain strength and flexibility, your Roll Over will become a smooth and fluid move.


Do not perform this move if you have a neck or low back injury. Also avoid this move if you cannot yet roll over without bending your knees or dropping your feet to the floor (in step 8, below).


  1. Begin lying on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Rest your arms along your sides with your palms facing down. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and let your belly drop toward the floor.
  2. Press your upper thighs and knees together.
  3. On an inhalation, squeeze your buttocks. Point your toes in the Pilates stance and lift your legs off the mat and over your head and torso. Roll over until your legs are parallel with the mat and the ceiling. Balance your weight evenly across the backs of both shoulders. Do not roll onto your neck. If you are very flexible, let your feet come all the way to the floor.
  4. Flex your feet, reaching out through your heels.
  5. Open your legs so they are hip-width apart.
  6. On an exhalation, roll your spine back onto the mat, one vertebra at a time. Use your abdominal muscles and press your hands and arms firmly into the mat to roll down with control and precision.
  7. Keep your legs straight as you lower them toward the mat.
  8. Let your tailbone come to the mat. Continue lowering your legs until the point just before your lower back begins to arch off the mat.
  9. Squeeze your legs together and repeat the Roll Over again.
  10. Repeat the sequence 3-5 times with your legs together on the upward lift and apart on the way down.
  11. Then reverse the leg position, keeping your legs apart on the way up and over, and squeezing them together on the way down. Repeat 3-5 times.
  12. End by resting on your back with your legs fully extended.

Hot Tip: Pin Your Arms

Keep your arms pinned to the floor throughout the entire move. Imagine they are secured to the floor with weights and you could not lift them even if you tried! Keeping your arms pressing firmly into the floor like this will help you to perform the move with control and precision.

Modifications & Tips

The Roll Over will massage your spine and strengthen your abdominal muscles. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • Use your abdominal muscles! Do not use momentum to lift your hips and legs up and overhead. Also, do not simply let your legs flop overhead. Instead, deeply scoop your abdominal muscles and lift your body from the center of your powerhouse. Using your abs will help you maintain control throughout the move.
  • If it’s difficult to roll over while keeping your legs straight, practice a modified variation until you have built up enough strength: Raise your legs only to a 90-degree angle and lift your hips slightly, and then roll down and lower your legs. Practice the full Roll Over when you have enough strength to keep your legs straight the whole time.
  • Keep your shoulders stabilized and pressing firmly into the mat throughout the move.
  • Roll over in one continuous motion. Practice keeping your movement controlled and rhythmic.
  • Keep your glutes and legs fully engaged.
  • Point your toes when your legs are together. Flex your feet when your legs are apart.
  • Do not roll onto your neck.
  • Synchronize your breath with your movement.

Roll Over for Control

The Roll Over is a classic move that stretches and massages your spine while deeply working your powerhouse. Remember to keep your movement smooth and rhythmic as you roll up and over, and then back down. In time, your Roll Over will become seamless and smooth. You’ll build strength and flexibility while developing your coordination and poise!

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