July exercise of the month: the Roll-Over

What is the Roll-Over?

J S Pilates Roll-overThis month I want to focus on a fairly advanced Pilates exercise: Roll-Over. It is an exercise we introduce quite early on in a typical Pilates programme because it is so good for the legs and core muscles.

To do the Roll-Over, lie down on the mat in imprint with legs up stretched diagonally towards the ceiling. With a breath in bring your legs up to vertical and with the next breath out send them all the way over your head, so that they end up parallel to the floor just over your torso. If you can, touch the floor with your toes and then bring the legs back up parallel just over your torso.

In this position it is important not to roll over further that the shoulder blades, i.e. not onto the neck and head, and not to move the head right or left. This will ensure you don’t hurt your upper back and neck. Once in this position, inhale and open the legs slightly, not wider than shoulder width apart. With the next breath out, roll through the spine with control, keeping the shoulders down towards the mat and keeping the feet pointed. The legs stay as straight as possible as you bring them back together to starting position. Here it is important to pull your abdominals in towards the spine and hold a strong contraction as the legs come back to 90 degrees and then to diagonal.

Why do the Roll-Over

The Roll-Over, like a lot of Pilates exercises, is great to stretch and strengthen at the same time. The leg and back muscles get a good stretch, especially the hamstrings: the muscles at the back of the thighs. And the abdominals and thigh muscles need to work hard here to bring the legs up and then control the movement of the legs back to diagonal.

How can we modify the Roll-Over?

The Roll-Over is quite a difficult exercise and to build abdominal strength to prepare for it we often do a prep version of the exercise, where we start in imprint legs up and ankles crossed one on top of the other. In this position we try and lift our hips off the mat and send our feet up towards the ceiling using only the power of the abdominals.

This Prep version can also be done with a small Pilates ball under our lower back, to make it easier to lift hips up while at the same time adding a bit of instability, which forces us to engage the abdominals around our waist a bit more.

Have you already done the Roll-Over in my class? Do you like it? Which version do you like best?