Pilates Half Roll Back for Flatter Abs

The classic Pilates exercise Half roll back has several purposes. First, it further strengthens the muscles needed to do a Roll up. Second, it deeply challenges the core. You use your abdominals to isometrically hold your torso in flexion while your psoas helps you rock back and forth on your pelvis.

Throughout the whole exercise, the abdominals should be stabilizing while the psoas moves you. Make sure that you feel a lift between the hips and ribs throughout this exercise. The abdominals can get tired and start to rest the ribs on the pelvis. This means your abs have checked out, so you’re not doing any core strengthening anymore.

Half roll back can also be very challenging for the psoas, so please pay careful attention to the front of your hips. If it feels like they’re tight or gripping, simply finish and lengthen back to neutral.

In order to do this exercise without injury, you must have a healthy psoas. If this is not you today, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean this exercise is off your list for forever; it just means you should avoid it for right now.

Half Roll Back

  1. Begin in a seated position with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. You should be able to feel your SITs bones press into the floor beneath you. If you don’t, sit on a folded blanket or bolster to give you some lift. Before proceeding, make sure you can feel your SITs bones press into the floor beneath you.
  2. Connect the soles of your feet to the floor. If they won’t go, make the choice to flex your feet and keep them flexed the whole time. The original Pilates instruction say that you should have the soles of your feet connected to the floor, but I don’t think it’s going to impact your core work terribly if they’re not.
  3. Reach from your SITs bones through the top of your head.
  4. Broaden your collarbones, and settle your shoulders away from your ears. With your elbows straight, let your finger tips lightly touch the mat in front of you.
  5. We will use Pilates breathing.
  6. half roll backInhale, and draw the abdominals to the spine.
  7. Exhale, and, starting with your head, roll forward one vertebra at a time until you feel your rib cage pivot. Stop after your rib cage pivots in toward your body. Take a moment to make sure that your low abs have stayed engaged and that they are drawn in toward your spine. If they are pooched out or relaxed, stop and try again. You need to have them stay active throughout this exercise. Essentially, you are in a seated version of Ab prep.
  8. Inhale into the sides of your ribs here.
  9. half roll backExhale, and tilt your pelvis so that you moving your whole stable spine backward.
  10. Inhale, and come back up. Your psoas is what is bringing you backward and forward while your abdominals stabilize.
  11. Do 10 reps.
  12. To finish, inhale to come back up to a seated position.
  13. Exhale, and, starting from your lowest rib, lengthen up to a straight spine.

Half Roll Back Video

Here is a video for visual learners.

What do your hip flexors think of Half roll back? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.