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2. The Roll Up
The roll up is designed to increase spinal stability and mobility, stretch the hamstrings, and access the hip flexors efficiently. This exercise had given me troubles for years, ever since I was introduced to Pilates in 2003. I’d roll up to middle of the spine and just stop, as if a sniper got me and back down I went. I also see this same issue in many clients. Theoretically, with consistent practice, I would get “stronger” and be able to master the roll up. After all, I am/was a decent athlete, have good understanding of the biomechanics of the exericse, I should own the roll up. Plus, it is only the second one on the list and supposedly a “beginner” Pilates exercise. Fast forward to seven years later and still the same problem. It was not a matter of strength, but a balance of appropriate joint mobility and sequencing the timing of muscles needed to roll up. This is what I love (and sometimes hate) about Pilates and movement in general. It’s not just about brute strength or being flexible, but more about controlling what’s available. Onto the roll up:
Classical/recommended start: lie on back with arms overhead
1. Inhale arms to the ceiling
2. Exhale to curl head, neck and shoulders off the floor, peeling spine off the floor one vertebrae at a time until torso is rounded over the legs and arms reaching towards/past ankles. Inhale.
3. Exhale to tip pelvis towards ceiling to initiate the roll back towards the start position. Repeat 4-6 times.
Variation: after step 2 stack spine vertically into long-sit, continue to step 3
To aid in spine articulation: use a small towel roll under low back, hold small weights in hands, be sure to position head in line with spine (not in front of spine)
Modifications: bend knees, shorten range of motion, start in sitting and roll down.