Can't Do A Rollup? This is Why!

Can't Do A Rollup? This is Why!

Perfecting the rollup requires learning the technique of the movement as well as committing to working on your flexibility, mobility and abdominal strength with other exercises.

Ah yes, the rollup.

Such a simple exercise but can be such a challenge for so many people in the beginning of their pilates journey. It’s a very important exercise to master for the function of your body and the health of your spine.

Every day, we bend forward, whether it’s to pick something up from the ground, roll out of bed in the morning or even something as simple as leaning over the basin to brush your teeth. Developing flexibility, mobility and strength to do this movement effectively without undue stress on your spine will contribute to the long term health of your spine.

It’s also one of the foundation exercises for the traditional pilates mat exercises designed by Joseph Pilates and appears second on the list as a warm up movement for the more challenging ones to follow.

Let’s look at three bio mechanical reasons people struggle with The Rollup.


To master a rollup, you need to have flexibility in the back of the legs (hamstring muscles), the front of the hips (hip flexor muscles) and also the spine muscles (back extensors). There are other pilates exercises that work specifically on flexibility for these muscle groups and it might be helpful to do these before working on the technique of the rollup.


Mobility refers to the joints and is different from muscle flexibility. Hip, spine and shoulder mobility are all needed for the rollup. If you have a tight lower back and hips (they usually go together), this will result in a “clunk” of the spine rather than a roll. A few cat stretches and leg circles would be beneficial on a daily basis so when you go to do the rollup, you arrive with as much mobility as your body has at this point in time.

Abdominal Strength

This is pretty obvious as it’s the abdominal muscles, along with the deep hip flexor muscles that drive this movement. But it’s not just about strength, it’s also about the ability to use the abdominal muscles correctly and effectively with your breath. When done correctly, the abdominal muscles draw in deeply and without too much tension so the spine gets placed on the mat with fluidity and softness. The foundation principles of centering and breath are essential for the rollup.

Every person’s posture is unique and it’s just a fact that some postural profiles will struggle more with the rollup than others.

To quote Joseph himself…

“Practice your exercises diligently with the fixed and unalterable determination that you will permit nothing else to sway you from keeping faith with yourself”

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