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Unlocking The Magic Of The Matwork
Unlocking The Magic Of The Matwork
To help her injured clients persevere in the studio, Jessica Valant, a physical therapist and Pilates teacher, realized she needed a key to get through the proverbial matwork door. She found the way in—to reestablishing lost movement patterns, breath and strength—in an unexpected place: with the roll-down bar.
Jessica Valant

Being a licensed physical therapist and pilates teacher, I have seen my fair share of client s suffering from various injuries and movement dysfunctions. One of my strongest beliefs as a teacher is that a person must take ownership over his or her own body and exercise program in order to succeed. Often, this includes a daily home program I give them at the end of our first session.

While the matwork is the foundation of what I teach, it can sometimes be inaccessible to someone just learning to move again after an injury or a period of pain. I found myself in the studio wanting to use Roll-Down or Bridge in order to assess spinal articulation, but my client would have too much pain—or fear—to perform the exercise.

The problem was…without being able to assess movement, I couldn’t give an effective and individualized program! Without an effective program, my client couldn’t get past their pain pattern and gain enough strength to perform the movement. I was stuck in a looping cycle of needing to do the matwork in order to help my client progress, but not being able to do the matwork because of pain, weakness or fear. I needed to find a way to use what I had in the studio to improve their body awareness and strength so that they could (and would) perform their home program and matwork when they weren’t in the studio.

I needed a key to unlock the magic of the matwork. Enter the roll-down bar.

The roll-down bar is a simple yet powerful tool to help clients tap into their movement patterns, breath and strength. It gives them just enough assistance to help them feel safe and protected, yet still encourages movement reeducation, pattern reorganization, and muscle strength. Once they can finally experience what a Side-Lift feels like with the bar, they are more likely to transfer that onto the mat.

Clients come away with improved confidence and body awareness. It makes the floor exercises more effective, and in turn creates more consistency and enjoyment for my client. That translates into job satisfaction and client retention for myself as a teacher.

Find a new appreciation for the roll-down bar! You may be surprised by all the ways this small yet mighty tool can help you and your clients succeed.



• While seemingly basic, this exercise is actually one of the most useful tools on the Cadillac for assessing movement.

• Using the roll-down bar for assistance allows the client to feel articulation of the spine and abdominal engagement in a safe and effective way.

START Sit with your legs extended, the soles of your feet against the uprights and your hands shoulder-width apart on the roll-down bar. Find a tall spine with your weight centered over your pelvis. Press down lightly on the bar to find engagement in your lats and upper back.

MOVE Curl your tail and begin to roll down one vertebra at a time, allowing your feet to slide away from the uprights as you work your way down to the mat. Slowly tuck your chin and roll back up to start.

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January - February 2020