In the never-ending quest for the oh-so-enviable, perfect wash-board abs, we are often asked which exercises will achieve this desired look. While nutrition will be a huge factor here, you still need to put in the time and sweat on your mat at home, or in your Pilates studio, to get the results you seek. Within the Pilates method, there are specific exercises that isolate and target the abdominal muscles in a way that no other exercise regime can rival. It is for this very reason we are great fans of the Roll Up.
Known to be at least 30% more effective than a regular stomach crunch, with six regular sit-ups equating to one Pilates Roll Up, we single out the Roll Up because of its efficacy in stomach sculpting and overall strength-building prowess.
- Begin lying supine.
- Legs are extended out straight and adducted, with toes plantar flexed.
- Arms extended straight above your shoulders and fingers together.
- Ensure your pelvis is in neutral. At this point your pubic bone and hip bones will be on the same plane.
- Draw in your abdominal muscles, with a scooping in and upwards movement, as if you were trying to get your belly button to touch your spine. This concept can be simply phrased as ‘naval to spine’.
- Inhale: Float your arms up to the sky until these are in line with your ears. Make sure to keep your shoulder blades (scapulae) flat and settled on the mat.
- Exhale: Bring your chin towards your chest as if you are nodding your head, squeeze your abdominals tightly and start rolling your entire body up articulating vertebrae by vertebrae working your way up from the neck (cervical spine) through to the mid back (thoracic spine) and the lower back (lumbar spine), until you are sitting up onto your sitting bones. Your arms travel with you as you roll up through each section of the spine.
- Stretching from the base of your spine, reach towards your toes in an up and over motion, ensuring your head stays down with relaxed shoulders that are far away from your ears. Keep shoulder blades settled on your back as you stretch forward. Focus on the deep pull in your hamstrings and back muscles.
- Inhale: Hold position.
- Exhale: Slowly roll your torso back down onto your mat, stacking each vertebrae one ontop of the other as you start to lower your spine, working back through to the cervical spine (neck) and head, floating your arms along with you as you pass through each region of the spine ending off with your arms extended behind your head.
- Promoting stability and strengthening of the abdominal muscles (large group of muscles located in the front of the abdomen between the ribs and the pelvis, consisting of the rectus abdominis, external obliques, internal obliques and tranverse abdominis).
- Stretching of the hamstrings.
- Encourages spinal strength, mobility and articulation.
Points to Ponder
- Squeeze your bum, keep legs together and give a deep exhale in order to help initiate getting you up off the mat.
- Keep your shoulders depressed throughout this exercise. Have a tall giraffe as a visual when you think about your shoulders. You want them far away from the neck, make sure your shoulders don’t round. Focus on their stabilisation.
- Keep abdominals tight contacted and connected throughout the entire exercise.
- Focus on spinal articulation working through every region of the spine when lowering and lifting the torso.
- To increase or decrease level of difficulty within this exercise would depend on changing your leg position. An example of this would be to bend your knees for a weaker or injured person versus straight legs for someone stronger.
- Repeat the exercise six times.
- A follow-on exercise from here would be to the more advanced exercise called the neck pull.
If you are interested in starting an exciting career as a Pilates instructor Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Comprehensive Pilates Course is just for you! On it you’ll learn basic mat, ball and band exercises IN ADDITION TO the more advanced cadillac and reformer exercises. Click here to find out more.