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Deconstructing 'Rolling like a Ball'

'Rolling like a Ball', a beginner level exercise intended to massage the spine, can feel like it's the easiest Pilates exercise or the hardest, depending on several factors. Many people struggle with it if they have limited flexion in their spines, yet others may find it so easy it feels like there is little to no muscle activation.

The elements of the exercise are as follows. With our heels connected together in our Pilates V foot stance, feet hovering off the mat, knees hip width apart, we balance back of our sitz bones in our C Curve position. The knees actively press into the elbows and the elbows actively press into the knees as we hold our ankles. We roll to the tips of our shoulder blades keeping our head and neck off the mat. It is very important we never roll onto our neck! Ideally, we try to maintain the same distance between our knees and shoulders imagining we are a ball that doesn't change its shape. Inhale as you contract abdominally to roll back and exhale to roll back up to balance.

Some key points to think about are:

  1. The tighter your ball, the more challenging the exercise becomes! How close can you draw your heels to your sitz bones?

  2. Roll evenly down both sides of your spine.

  3. Keep your gaze down on your midsection throughout the exercise.

  4. Beginner Tip: Place a small ball behind your lower back and pull your tailbone underneath, roll into the ball, deepen the Abdominal contraction and come back up. When comfortable and feeling more confident, remove the ball. Another modification is to hold the hamstrings instead of ankles, while connecting heels together, knees hip width apart.

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