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The Pilates Roll Down

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Anyone who has been to a Gemma Pearce Fitness Pilates class in person or online will know that one of our favourite exercises is the standing roll-down. It has so many benefits and with a large proportion of us suffering with back problems, it hits the spot time after time!

What is the roll-down?

If you can’t picture what a roll-down is, take a look at this video or follow these instructions:

1. Stand with your feet hip width apart, lengthened spine and shoulders down

2. Take a deep breath in and draw your tummy muscles towards your spine

3. Breath out and tuck your chin to your chest, letting your shoulders fall forwards and your arms dangle down. Keep your knees slightly bent

4. Start to curve your upper back and roll your spine down towards the floor, concentrating on one vertebra at a time

5. When you’ve got as far as you can – that might be touching the floor or hands near your knees – tuck your tail bone under and make sure your tummy muscles are still engaged. Take a deep breath in

6. Breath out slowly as you roll back up, starting with the lower vertebrae, use your core muscles to re-stack the spine with the head last to come up.

I feel more relaxed even just writing that down! The roll-down stretches the back and the hamstrings along the back of our legs and is great for improving our posture. The roll-down can be done if you’re new to Pilates or a seasoned pro, it strengthens the abdominal muscles and relaxes the neck and shoulders where we store lots of tension.

Where can it go wrong?

For the roll-down to work its magic, there are some things to be careful about:

- Keep it slow and controlled, think about the space opening up between every vertebra and allow your tummy muscles to help bring you back up

- Make sure your shoulders are relaxed, they can’t release tension if they’re still scrunched up

- Don’t force your stretch and keep your knees soft, you don’t have to touch your toes if it’s uncomfortable

The roll-down can be done as part of a Pilates warm-up or cool-down and it’s great to do as a morning stretch routine or at the end of the day to release tension. The roll-down also improves blood circulation and increases mobility in the spine, neck and hamstrings.

For me, it’s the perfect antidote to our sedentary lifestyles!

However, the roll-down isn’t right for everyone, especially those suffering with osteoporosis, but there are simpler, even seated versions of the exercise that can be done by people with weakened bones.


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By participating in this exercise or exercise programme, you are declaring yourself to be physically sound and suffering from no impairment, disease or infirmity or other illness that would prevent your participation in live streamed fitness classes or activities. You should understand that when participating in any exercise or exercise program, there is the possibility of physical injury. If you are unsure about your suitability for this exercise, please refer to your GP. You hereby assume all responsibility for your participation and activities.

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