This Simple, Core-Strengthening Pilates Move Doubles as a Back Massage

The 'roll like a ball' is a classic Pilates transition that takes you between different poses seamlessly. But that's not all it can do: It's also a great way to build core strength, help you find greater spine mobility, and work on your muscle control and stability. That said, it's also a move that can feel nearly impossible to do correctly (and a little bit awkward and silly), and as a result, you never really know if you're reaping its full benefits. Today, trainer, Brian Spencer, is going to teach you that with the right form, 'rolling like a ball' can be so much more than just a transition pose between poses. It's a strengthening move in and of itself.

Experts In This Article

The 'roll like a ball' Pilates move forces you to maintain control in both the larger muscle groups in your upper body as well as the smaller ones in your lower spine. By keeping all of these muscles engaged, you're building strength in your trunk, which makes functional movements like getting out of bed and opening car doors significantly easier (buh-bye oofs and grunts punctuating your morning routine).

As far as the move itself goes, the 'roll like a ball' is just what it sounds like. To do it, all you have to do is sit on your mat with your knees bent and your ankles grounded, and engage your core while finding a C-curve in your spine. Then, lift your legs off your mat with your hands wrapped behind your knees or your ankles and roll backward with one controlled motion before rolling back up to your starting position.

As with any exercise, proper form is important both to prevent injury and reap the benefits of the move. In this episode of The Right Way, Spencer breaks down the 3 most common mistakes people make when 'rolling like a ball'. Then, he demos how to do the move properly. Keep scrolling for everything you need to know.

Common mistakes when 'rolling like a ball':

1. Not fully engaging  your core

Since one of the major benefits of 'rolling like a ball' is building strength through your core, it's essential to focus on tightening and engaging your abdomen. Spencer reminds us to find that C-curve in your midsection, drawing through your core, to ensure that those muscles are fired up.

2. Moving without control

Stability is an important factor in nearly all Pilates moves, and this one is no exception. Instead of using momentum to power your body back and forth, you'll want to move with control, which will help to improve spinal mobility. As an added bonus, it also feels totally like a back massage.

3. Not knowing how to progress

The best part about this exercise is that there isn't just one way to do it. Once you've perfected the classic 'roll like a ball' you can progress your movement, making it more advanced by attaching your elbows to your knees and your hands to your shoulders. Then lift your legs up off the mat, do your roll, and finish by returning to your starting position, but this time, keep your legs and ankles elevated rather than grounded. This iteration requires more core work and control, so be sure to start slowly and work your way up.

Now that you've learned the biggest mistakes, watch the video above to see Spencer demo 'rolling like a ball' with proper form.

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