The Right Way

This Common Pilates Move Strengthens Your Abs and Mobilizes Your Spine at the Same Time

Zoe Weiner

Nearly every Pilates move out there requires you to engage your core, which explains the hurts-when-you-laugh soreness in your abs immediately after a class. But none does it better than the Pilates roll up, which works the front and back of your core in equal measure.

Your "core" is made up of at least a dozen different muscles (the exact number is up for debate), and spans from the front to the back of your body. You probably already know that your abs and obliques are included in the mix, but what you may not realize is that the muscles surrounding your spine are in there too. "The core is the system of muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body," Lee Wratislaw, manager of digital programming at Gold’s Gym, previously told Well+Good. "A well-developed set of core muscles will prevent injury, improve posture, and deliver better balance and coordination. Strengthening the core will also prevent lower back pain and other hip and knee complications."

With that in mind, you want to make sure that all of these muscles are getting proper love, which is where the Pilates roll up comes in. "The Pilates roll up is a great exercise, because it's a great ab workout for building strength through your abdominals and is also great for spinal flexion and mobilization," says Chloe De Winter, founder of Go Chlo Pilates. In the latest episode of Good Moves, she's walking us through exactly how to do the exercise properly in order to reap its maximum benefits.

At first glance, it's a seemingly simple move: All you have to do is roll your body up from the floor, then roll it back down again. But "simple" doesn't necessarily mean "easy"—and there are a few major mistakes De Winter sees people making that keep them from getting it right. A few of the biggies? Raising their feet off of the floor, forgetting to control their heads and neck, and trying to lift their bodies in one solid line instead of peeling through the abdominals. "We're not designed to move like that," she says.

To find out how to do the move right, and build strength through the front and back of your body at the same time, press play on the video above.

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