How to Fast Track Your Way To Mastering The Roll Over

The Roll Over is a challenging and complicated pilates mat exercise.  Once you have a good amount of spinal mobility, and abdominal control the roll over becomes a restorative exercise rather than an ambitious one. Joseph Pilates believed roll overs could calm the nervous system and help you sleep better.

Before you roll right into the Roll Over let's talk about spine mobility (or spinal articulation.)

We absolutely must start here.  If your spine lacks mobility in any area, your body will find ways to compensate.  Commonly, another part of your spine which was not designed to move the same way, takes on the extra work. This isn’t a good solution long term. 

How do I get more mobility in my spine?

Bridges. And More Bridges. Keep doing bridges.

Bridges are a safe and effective exercise for developing the mobility you will need to do the roll-over. Note that the shoulder bridge in Pilates is quite different from the many other versions that fitness or yoga instructors teach.

Tips for doing the Pilates shoulder bridge:

  • Keep your feet light on the floor as you initiate.  Once your pelvis starts rolling up your feet and legs can get involved. 
  • Go Sloooooow. This brings attention to each part of your spine (think inch by inch).  

The other important thing you must do to prepare for the roll over exercises is strengthening your abdominals. This is a large part in most pilates exercises so you are on the right track. When you are doing your pelvic rock and your bridges stay focused on controlling the movement of your spine with your core.

In “Preparation for the Roll Up part II” we will add some strengthening for the triceps.

Please note: the roll-over is not suitable for those with vertigo, glaucoma, and osteoporosis. Those with low back pain, and especially neck pain should avoid this exercise.

Here are 3 exercises that will have you mastering the Roll Over in no time.

Let's Get Started:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet about hips distance apart.

Pelvic Tilt

Exhale rock your pelvis towards you feeling that low back flatten into the mat and then inhale and rock the pelvis away from you creating a deep curve in your low back.  Repeat 8-10 times following your breath. Keep your feet light on the floor so the work is initiated from the abdominals, not the legs.


Start with a Pelvic Rock and continue it by rolling up your spine one vertebrae at a time looking for as much articulation and mobility as possible. at the top inhale fully and use your long slow exhale to to exhale to  roll it back down

Corkscrew Prep

Pick your legs up into a tabletop position. You should feel your low belly muscles engage to support the weight of your legs. Tilt your legs towards the left a tiny bit and then circle the legs down and around and up on the other side

Reverse the direction on the bottom part make sure your low back is staying supported by the low belly muscles. You can start with small circles and make them bigger as your increase your lower abdominal strength.

Want to Watch Preparation For The Roll Over Pt. 1?