How to Do the Roll Up in Pilates

The Roll Up is a classic Pilates mat exercise. Like the Hundreds, it’s one of the first moves you’ll learn in a mat class. Beginners can practice this move with their knees bent and feet on the floor. More advanced students can keep the legs straight throughout the move. The Roll Up helps strengthen the abdominal muscles. It also tones the buttocks, lower back, and hips. If you’re bored with crunches, try the Roll Up for some variety!


  1. Begin lying on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Press your upper thighs and knees together. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and let your belly drop toward the floor.
  2. Reach your arms all the way overhead and rest them on the mat. Your fingertips will point toward the wall behind you and your palms will be facing up. Keep your ribs down.
  3. Inhaling, press down through your shoulder blades and reach your arms up over your head. Let your biceps pass by your ears, and then drop your chin and curl your torso up.
  4. Exhale as you stretch all the way forward toward your toes. Pull in your abs and curve your spine as you raise your torso. With your head tucked, reach your fingertips toward your toes.
  5. Squeeze your glutes and tuck your tailbone. Pull your navel deeply in toward your spine, and then begin to unroll, one vertebra at a time. Inhale as you continue this motion halfway down.
  6. About halfway down, exhale as you lower your shoulders to the mat, reaching your arms overhead again. Then lower your head and arms to the floor.
  7. Repeat up to six times.

Hot Tip: Don’t Use Momentum

Don’t try to pull yourself up by sheer force or momentum! Doing so can overwork your hip flexors, neck, and back muscles. Instead, keep your spine rounded as you pull your abdominals in deeply to lift your torso up.

Modifications & Tips

The Roll Up can be a great way to build control and strength throughout your core muscles. Keep the following information in mind when practicing this move:

  • If it’s difficult to keep your legs straight, bend your knees and keep them bent throughout the pose, with your feet about hip-distance apart. For more support, place a bolster or rolled-up mat beneath your thighs.
  • Keep your pelvis stabilized in a neutral position throughout the move. Don’t let your pelvis tilt to the sides or lift as you draw your torso upward.
  • Roll up in one continuous motion. Practice keeping your movement controlled and rhythmic.
  • Keep your glutes and legs fully engaged. Hug your legs towards your midline and squeeze your knees together.
  • Keep your abdomen pulled in toward your spine as you reach forward.
  • Keep your arm muscles firm, but do not use your shoulders to pull yourself up.
  • Keep your chin tucked into your chest as you roll up. Don’t pull through your neck.
  • Exhale completely, releasing all of the air from your abdomen.
  • Synchronize your breath with your movement.

Roll Up for Strength

The Roll Up is a simple move that works the powerhouse [Glossary link] while stretching the hamstrings. Remember to keep your movement rhythmic and controlled as you move up and over, and then back down. With practice, your Roll Up will become fluid. You’ll add grace and poise to your movement, in addition to building strength and flexibility!

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