full-roll-upThe Full Roll Up is one of the Pilates exercises that frustrates people the most. So many people struggle with this movement. They get discouraged and blame their abs. Sure, your abs might be a part of the problem. They may need to get stronger to do the exercise, but they also might just need to learn how to fire properly—meaning they could do it if they understood what they were supposed to do. Most of us weren’t taught how to do a sit up or ab exercises properly. Many of us use other muscles like hip flexors or the muscles in the neck to try to pull ourselves up to a seated position. Your abs might be strong enough, but they’ve never had to do the work before, why should they start now? And it’s not just about your abs. Tightness in your back could be getting in your way. So, how do we break it all down so you can conquer the full roll up?
First, cut yourself some slack. Yes, it’s true, you might not be able to do this exercise right now, but that does not mean you never will. Rethink a few parts of the exercise. Think less is more. If you can do one correctly, that is better than six flinging yourself up. Completing part of the exercise is still part of the exercise. Instead of thinking you can’t do it, considering thinking, “Hey, I just did the first half really well.” Nothing is a cheat. If you use a flexband or a weight to help you get up, that’s just a part of the puzzle. You won’t need that forever. It’s a tool, not a cheat. So now that you have some of the mindset changes, let’s break it down.
I’ve included three videos to help, but here are the highlights. These steps presume you have been trying to do this exercise and are familiar with it.
1) Always start with a cat stretch. It’s a great warm up to prepare you and loosen up your back if a tight back holds you back. Also, it’s an easy place to make sure you can activate the abs when you want. If you are doing the cat stretch and you don’t feel your abs, you’ll have a hard time making them fire for you on the full roll up. So use the cat stretch as a place to make them work when you want them to.

2) Break it down in pieces. Roll up as high as you can, hold for a breath and then roll back down. Try not to get discouraged. You will be building abdominal endurance. Start at the top and roll back as far as you can, hold for a breath and then roll forward.

3) Use weights on your ankles and between your hands. NOTE: When doing this version DO NOT bring the weights and arms over your head. Stop when your arms get over your chest. Remember, it’s okay to pick a weight that actually makes the exercise kind of easy. Let the abs get used to what this exercise feels like when they can do it. Then slowly reduce the amount of weight you are using. Start with 20-pounds on your feet and 15-pounds in your hands. Then 15-pounds on both ends. Then 10 in the hands and 15 on the feet. Continue until you don’t require the weights. You might even be able to start with less.

4) Try starting at the top and rolling all the way. This isn’t any of the videos I posted, but sometimes people can roll all the way down they just can’t roll all the way up. If you can roll down with control, you can do half the exercise. And it provides an opportunity to play with your trouble spot. Go slowly through the part that gives you the most difficulty on the way up. And if you can do this part, be impressed. You thought you couldn’t do the full roll up, but you’ve actually nailed half the exercise.
It can be hard work to achieve a new goal, but this one is doable. Just stop being discouraged and start getting motivated to beat it. You can!


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