By Alex Schenker, Level 3 MovNat Certified Trainer
Rolling is a fun, practical movement that unfortunately, many people don’t perform efficiently – increasing the risk of injury. But with a few smart progressions and mindful practice, almost anyone can roll safely and efficiently.
You might be wondering: “why should I bother learning how to roll?”
To which I’d respond, “have you tried it? Because it’s a lot of fun!” But apart from the fun factor and the fitness benefits it provides, which are both important aspects of rolling, this skill can also help help you recover from a fall and prevent injury.
Rolling is especially helpful, and sometimes necessary, to reduce the impact when jumping, vaulting, or falling – especially when you’re moving quickly. So, even though most of us don’t necessarily need to roll during normal daily life, this movement pattern – including the most basic progressions – has important implications for everyone, from children to the elderly.
And did I mention it’s fun?
So, even if you’re not an aspiring freerunner, stuntman, or martial artist, there’s a lot to gain from learning how to roll effectively, then efficiently, and finally, adaptively.
Here’s a video that will walk you through some beginner rolling progressions, which are critical for developing the foundation necessary for performing more challenging rolls…
Key Points For Efficient Rolling Technique
1) When you’re first learning how to roll, use the following skill progression:
- Backwards Rocking
- Backwards Rolling
- Forward Rolling
2) Before you begin practicing your rolls, check the area for any safety hazards that may be present.
3) Practice the movements very slowly to develop control over every phase of the roll.
4) Don’t allow momentum to carry you out of good technique. Speed should come naturally as a result of consistent, controlled practice.
5) For a smooth roll, round your spine to avoid plopping on your back.
6) Don’t strain, hold your breath, or try to force your body into position with muscular effort or momentum.
7) If you feel tense or if the movement is “clunky,” try exhaling as you make the roll.
8) Turn your head to one side as you make the roll, preferably to the same side as the shoulder which is supporting your body weight (unless you have the mobility to turn it the opposite way).
9) Roll over your shoulder and don’t put weight directly on your spine (and especially not on your neck!).
10) Your roll should track diagonally across your back, from one shoulder to the opposite hip (or vice versa if rolling backwards).
11) Use your hands for support as needed, until you don’t need to rely on them anymore.
12) As a general rule, the closer your are to the ground when you fall or roll, the better. So, when you progress to rolls from a standing position, use your legs to lower your center of gravity as much as possible before initiating the roll. You can also use your arms as “shock absorbers” to slow your descent prior to your shoulder touching down.
13) When you’re comfortable with the basic technique, you can practice rolling from (in order of easiest to hardest):
- lying or seated positions
- kneeling or half kneeling positions
- deep squat or partial squat
- standing or walking/running/jumping/etc.
Even if you have a lot of experience and are very skilled at rolling, these are great progressions for refining your technique. They’ll go a long way towards improving your fitness, capability, and safety.
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About the Author
Alex Schenker is a level 3 MovNat Natural Movement Trainer, Shiatsu & Sotai Movement Therapist, black belt in Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu, and the founder of Natural Mobility. His work as a manual therapist, instructor, and trainer aims to restore balance in the body, build functional flexibility and practical strength, and develop the full spectrum of human movement skills to whatever level each individual may need.