How to Improve Ab Strength and Increase the Flexibility of your Back for the Roll Up

I notice that a lot of Pilates students have a difficult doing a great Roll Up during Mat workouts. Regardless whether you are a beginner or have been doing Pilates for years, trying to manage synchronizing the timing, breath, pulling in with the Abs, and getting the back muscles to release all at the same time for an easy Roll Up can be a real challenge. But with practice, it’s not an impossible task! Everyone can learn how to improve their Pilates exercise technique to enjoy the benefits of a strong and flexible center that is mobile enough for a superb Roll Up.
If you’re doing private sessions, or group training using the Pilates equipment, there are lots of Pilates exercises you can incorporate into your workouts to find the right muscles and enhance your techniques for an easy Roll Up. But what if you‘re only doing Matwork?

Here are 5 Easy Pilates Training Tips To Help You Improve Your Roll Up Exercise:

1. Don’t bend your arms or legs to get through the sticky spots. Strive to keep your arms & legs strong & straight. Slide your arms along the sides of your thighs while rolling backwards and up. If your elbows stay straight, your back has to do the bending, the abs will work harder, and you will articulate more sequentially through the whole spine.

2. Use a Thera-band looped across the soles of your feet to provide assistance & resistance to roll back and up sequentially, one vertebra at a time. Remember: Safety first! Be careful that your band does not slip off your feet and hit you in the face.

3. Practice ½ Sit Backs on an Incline Board. Put your head at the high end with your feet on the floor and practice your sit ups. (Start with your hands reaching along your thighs, progress to hands behind the head like Neck Pull.) Being on an incline bench can help you feel your pelvis, low back, and bottom ribs get to the mat first which helps improve sequential articulation through the spine.

4. Relax your Chest & Look at your Belly. When your eyes are looking at the right spot, it cues the whole back to bend better. Relaxing your chest will help you use more abdominals and less arms. A relaxed chest also helps your upper and mid-back bend more easily – enhancing that smooth, easy articulation of the spine.

5. BREATHE! Good Breathing is very important! Inhaling lengthens the spine for more joint space so it’s easier to move. A strong exhale will help you get through the sticky spots. A forced exhale more strongly activates your abdominals which will both curl you up and help control your movement rolling back to the mat. If you hold your breath when you get to a sticky spot, you will be holding your body still in that spot. “Riding” the breath will help you ride the movement for better flow and great sequential one-by-one articulation through the spine.


Use hand weights, a weighted stick, ball or Magic Circle held in your hands. Pull your abs up, in, and away from your arms and your assistive device when you are rolling up and rolling back to the mat. Using these extra weighted toys held in your hands can give you a boost while working through those tricky weak spots.

You CAN Do A Great Pilates Roll Up!

By practicing at least one of these training tips to your Pilates Roll Up exercise, or thinking about these technique tips during other similar exercises, along with consistency and an unrelenting focus on your goal of great articulation through your spine with strong abdominal support, you’ll find yourself doing excellent Pilates Roll Ups in no time!


Continuing practicing your Pilates Matwork with these 5 Pilates training tips in mind to improve your strength, flexibility, and mobility. Enjoy the benefits of a healthy spine and optimal whole-body health to look better and feel better!

To help keep you consistent with your Pilates Matwork and practicing your Pilates Roll Ups, download a Centerworks® Pilates Mat Audio Workout to your phone, or Ipad, and enjoy a great workout anywhere! Download your Pilates Matwork Audio MP3 Workouts NOW!

Author's Bio: 

Aliesa George is the founder of Centerworks® Pilates. She is an author, workshop presenter, and mind-body health expert with more than 25 years of experience designing solutions for health improvement. Aliesa has created a wide variety of products focused on Pilates, Foot Fitness, the Mind-Body Connection, Stress-Management, and Whole-Body Health. She enjoys helping others discover the connection between thought and action to get positive results and achieve goals for a healthy mind, body and spirit!