When Roll Up Becomes Roll In

The Roll Up is an important exercise for our body, because it decompresses the discs by releasing tenseness in the muscles along the vertebral column.

Surely, you know this situation: You drop a pen, bend down to lift it and suddenly feel a tension in your back. Or you bend down to your toddler feeling this slight tenseness in your discs. Sounds familiar? If so let me tell you that this unease is a result of tight back fascia. The question is: How to make your fascia in the back more flexible and prevent this unnecessary back pain? The Roll Up can help! I will explain to you and show you how. We have to be especially careful to not make a Roll In out of the Roll Up. What do I mean by that?

When the Roll Up exercise becomes the Roll In exercise. To release tight fascia the Roll Up should be done by rolling forward and upwards - away from the mat. Unfortunately, though so often it is done by sinking inwards and downwards into the mat, and so rather creating the Roll In exercise, which does not contribute to the release of your fascia. Let me show you a tactic how to get around this faulty practice of the Roll Up and explain the method with the aid of a test case. But first …

What does the Roll Up do?

The Roll Up exercise challenges the ability of the two main centers of the body, the deep muscle corset system and the shoulder girdle stabilizers, to maintain spinal and pelvic stability during the process of flexion. The Roll Up is important to our body because it decompresses the discs by releasing tenseness in the muscles along the vertebral column via a controlled and articulated flexion in its full range of motion.

The test case study

The issue with the posture

To understand the challenges our client in the video faces with the Roll Up, we must take his posture into consideration: Does he lie in a functional position or not? Is the whole spine imprinted and grounded onto the mat? Is his pelvis in a functional neutral position; meaning, is his pelvis in a position that anchors him to effectively oppose the movement of the ribcage during the rolling up of the spine? Are his arms extended overhead via the eccentric contraction of the shoulder girdle stabilizers? Is the extension of his arms independent of the elevation of his ribcage? Is his DMCS (deep muscle corset system) ready to fire?

In-depth analysation

Let us now examine in detail what our client is doing: On the way up: As we can see in the video, his head is in the correct chin-to-chest position and the shoulder girdle stabilizers are firing. However, his upper body is inhibited from moving forward and his chest is forced to sag in, due to the collapse in the DMCS at the junction, where the hamstrings, adductors and gluteus meet the pelvis. This results in a dysfunctional posterior pelvic tilt. In this position, he needs to overcome 2 forces: gravity and his own body weight. To do the Roll Up this way, he needs to press his back unnaturally onto the mat and lift his legs into the air, which forces his DMCS to work inefficiently.
On the way down, then, because of the dysfunctional posterior tilt, his whole body weight is thrown off-center towards his neck (7thcervical spine) and upper back (12th dorsal spine), which forces his arms to hyperextend. Additionally, the distance from shoulder to shoulder is narrowed. This way, he cannot experience the benefit of the Roll Up. 

What is the Solution?

Before he starts the Roll Up, he needs to establish a functional neutral pelvic position. This means he needs to adjust his pelvis via the deep muscle corset system (DMCS) and not via the lower back until his two hip bones and his pubic bone are on the same level. As he begins to roll upwards he needs to activate his DMCS to stabilize his pelvis in a functional posterior tilt. At the same time, he needs to fix his pelvis via the pubic bone to anchor his pelvis to his ribcage, which will inhibit the collapse in his lower back and the dysfunctional tilt of his pelvis. As he continues to roll up he needs to activate his shoulder girdle to anchor his ribcage to his pelvis. When he begins to roll down, he needs to simultaneous lengthen his legs and torso and scoop his lower abdominals (DMCS) in to move the pelvis via the pubic bone. This way of practice will sequentially articulate his spine onto the mat, ground his legs, and activate his shoulder girdle to ground his ribcage to his pelvis to efficiently continue the down roll. This manner of doing the Roll Up will prevent the collapse of the 7th cervical spine, especially on the way down. See the solution in action in the video below.  


Our client due to his postural and functional habits needs to subcortically negotiate with two physical malfunction patterns. The collapse of the 7th cervical spine and the sagging of the lower back. This malfunction most likely exists because he sags into the chair in front of the computer or TV, which can cause his back fascia to be tight. A regular practice of the exercise principle proposed in this blog will be significantly beneficial in alleviating his physical malfunctions and also create more awareness for movement in day to day life. Now to you!

Try it & Fly with it!