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3. The Roll-Over


Roll over, I'm crowded. So they all rolled over and one fell out.

This roll takes place in the sagittal plane (head to tail), rather than the transverse plane as suggested in the lullaby. 


Roll-over is the first of several inversion exercises. Inversion exercises are not suitable for those with vertigo, glaucoma, and osteoporosis. Those with low back pain, and especially neck pain should avoid this exercise. It’s interesting to me that the third exercise is rollover, seems a bit early in the Pilates session for the extreme end range of motion into spine flexion and to put the neural system on tension. It can take ten plus minutes to prepare the body appropriately to perform roll-over (pelvic tilts, bridging, cat/cow, some foam rolling or lying on balls, etc.). That being said, I have been giving out this exercise more often lately in home programs. It’s designed to stretch the backside of the body, improve abdominal control, spine articulation, and head/neck/shoulder organization. 


Click here for the Roll-Over VIDEO


Classical version: at the toe touch, circle feet out to the side as wide as possible as roll spine down to the floor

Recommended start: after mastering the modified start, begin roll-over lying flat on the floor with arms at sides, palms down, feet together, toes pointed 


1. Exhale to float feet, peel spine off the floor one vertebrae at a time. Legs will go over torso/face until parallel to the ground. Inhale to tap toes on the floor and return to horizontal.


2. Exhale spread feet to shoulder width apart flex ankles to lower spine to the floor one vertebrae at a time. Only lower legs as far as you can without arching lower back off the floor. 


3. Inhale feet together and point toes. Repeat three times. Then reverse so that ankles are flexed and feet shoulder width apart on the way up. Toes pointed, feet together on the way down. Repeat three times. 


To avoid collapsing spine while legs are horizontal: image a bar/stick in front of the hips, pulling the pelvis towards the ceiling. 


To avoid collapsing spine with toe touch: image your legs like a teeter-totter, as feet go down to floor, pelvis rises to ceiling. 


Other tips: press hands/elbows into floor to aid in peeling spine off the floor and to help keep head and shoulders on the floor as roll spine back down. 


Modifications: start in table top position as pictured, leave out the toe tap, limit leg lower to vertical or 45 degree angle at the hip (rather than all the way to the floor). For those with tight hamstrings, can leave slight bend in knee. 


See Joe teaching The Roll-over here.

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