The Roll Over

Exercise of the Week: The Roll Over

The Roll Over

The The Pilates Roll Over is an advanced level exercise and is a part of the Traditional Matwork repertoire.  It targets the Abdominals and HIp Flexors, promotes spinal flexion and has a large shoulder stability component.

Read more about Shoulder Strength and Stability in our Online Pilates Course: click here.

This is the third exercise in the Traditional Mat Series and presents a significant challenge!  The roll over motion is achieved through deep abdominal activation (click here) and the ability to go into deep spinal flexion (click here).  Avoid the tendency to use momentum and the long lever of the legs to roll over.

Instead,the legs are lifted into a 90 degree angle first and this relationship of the spine with the pelvis is maintained throughout the movement.  On the return however, you can draw the thighs closer to the chest to maximise the hamstring and lower back stretch.

The neck area should be avoided as putting wight on the delicate neck vertebrae is potentially dangerous.  Similarly, if you suffer neck problems, perhaps you should stick to the preparatory version, or omit it totally.  You could replace it with Roll Ups.

Keep the chest open throughout by stabilising the shoulder blades – don’t allow them to separate.  this is reminiscent of the Chest Expansion exercises on the Reformer and Arm Springs.



What’s it good for?

  • Abdominals: rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques.  Improves strength and control.
  • Hip flexors: iliopsoas, rectus femoris, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae, pectineus.
  • Develop spinal articulation.
  • Stretches of the lower back and hamstrings.

Things to think about…

  • In the roll over phase, imagine creating a ball out of the lower back.
  • Don’t use momentum to roll over
  • Keep the hips at 90 degrees in the roll over phase.
  • deepen the abdominal contraction to promote maximum spinal flexion.
  • Keep the thighs close to the chest in the rollback phase.


  • the action of the legs can be reversed.  Open the legs to hip width whilst supine and roll over with the legs separated.


Happy Pilatesing!


Miguel x


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