Why can’t I do a Pilates rollup?

The minute in class you hear we are going to do the roll-up. Clients think matter how hard I try, I can’t get all the way up.

Number one clients, tactic: “I only get up so far and then I have to use my hands to pull myself up.” Number 2 client tactic use momentum (that little lurch). Then there’s the client who manages to roll up but finds that their legs come off the floor too.

Group complaint, “It doesn’t seem to matter how strong my abs are, I just can’t seem to get up all the way!”

Many clients think the problem is their abs. But there’s a lot more to a roll up than abs.

Three key muscle groups help with roll ups

Certainly, you need your abs. But they’re only part of the story. There are at least two other groups of muscles that come into play: hip flexors and back of thigh and tush muscles.

Starting with an ab curl

The roll-up starts with an ab curl. Lying on the mat, we take a breath and as we exhale we nod our chin and start to curl up over our front ribs into an ab curl, resting on the base of our back ribs.

To curl up like this we need our abs to pull our upper torso away from the mat (against gravity). Which abs, you may ask? Rectus abdominis. We also use the obliques, our side torso muscles, especially our external obliques.

So for the first part of the rollup we do use our abs, specifically, the rectus abdominis and obliques.

Getting further off the floor…

This is where painc sets in with the challenge starts for a lot of people! And that’s also where we need some extra help for those ab muscles.

Not only are we flexing our spine to come into an ab curl, and continuing to flex it to come up further, but our legs are out in front of us.

Adding the hip flexors

We have superficial hip flexors and we have deep hip flexors. Both help us in a roll-up. The deep hip flexor is called the psoas. It looks like a big flank steak that runs from the mid back across the pelvis to the top inside bump of our thigh bone. Because of the way it attaches it helps us pull the spine toward the legs when we roll up.

Keeping those legs grounded

After the abs and hip flexors, we have to add the muscles at the back of our legs, primarily our hamstrings, to help us get up the rest of the way in our roll-up.

Our hamstrings help us glue the back of the thighs to the floor so we can get the rest of the way up to sit tall.

Making it all happen

When you are struggling to do a roll-up, try strengthening the abs, hip flexors and hamstrings first. May the roll up with breathing bar get it all down with assistance of the Pilates equipment