The Pilates Rollup: 3 Big Benefits

Number two on the 34 traditional pilates mat exercise workout developed by Joseph Pilates is The Rollup.

And in Joseph’s own words…

This exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles and restores the spine to normal.

We’ve added another benefit, hamstring flexibility which can be a challenge to attain and maintain for many people.

The instructions given for The Rollup are to repeat it just three times with the aim of the entire mat workout taking just 20 minutes to complete.

Consistently repeating this workout three times a week achieves better results than doing many repetitions just once a week.

Spine Flexibility and Mobility

Lack of spine flexibility and mobility is a major contributor to people experiencing daily back aches and pains.

Unfortunately, many people just put up with those daily aches and pains and may even think that it’s a “normal” part of getting older…which it isn’t.

The rollup stretches the spine in a range of movement that’s called flexion, which is just bending the spine forward into a curved position. In pilates we call this a “c-curve”.

Flexion is a really important movement to be capable of performing in a functional way for daily life. Many of the tasks we do require this forward flexion…picking anything up from the floor, gardening, putting your shoes on.

A lack of flexibility and mobility can increase the risk of injury, putting extra stress and strain on a stiff, tight spine.

The rollup is the perfect exercise to increase the spine’s ability to flex forward and also increase what’s called spine articulation. The ability to move each segment individually rather than in a rigid block.  

Hamstring Flexibility

The hamstring muscles are the muscles that run down the back of your leg. They attach to the base of the pelvis to what we call in pilates the “sit bone” and cross over the back of the knee.

When these muscles are tight, they have potential to negatively impact both the pelvis and knee joint.

The pelvis can get pulled out of its natural, neutral position which has a direct impact on the lower back, “pulling” it out of alignment and decreasing the movement in this area.

The UP part of the rollup stretches the entire back of the body from the shoulders all the way down to the soles of the feet which of course includes the hamstring muscles.   

If you just sit on the ground and stretch forward without doing the rollup, you will get a hamstring stretch but what gets missed is the c-curve of the spine and the training of the abdominal muscles to do this.

The rollup is a simple exercise but has many layers and as always with pilates, the simple exercise can be the hardest to master.  

Abdominal Muscle Strength

Most pilates exercises require not just abdominal muscle strength but also control and the rollup is no exception.

The muscles that flex your spine forward are the abdominal muscles and, in the rollup, are the muscles that get the job done.

There are many layers of the abdominal muscles. The deepest layer is the stabilising, postural muscle and the top layer is the most famous one…the six pack muscle, rectus abdominus.

It’s this six pack muscle that is fully engaged in the rollup, pulling the body off the ground and then controlling the descent back to the floor.

But it’s the deep stabilising muscle that “hollows” out the front of the body to create the c-curve, not only making it easier to roll, but also providing support for the lower back.

To master the rollup, spine length and mobility, hamstring flexibility and abdominal strength are needed in equal amounts.

There’s nowhere to hide with this exercise!

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