The following is a guest post by Logan Christopher of Legendary Strength:

 

I’m all about lifting bigger weights. But I also believe you should be able to move well. It’s cool if you can bench press 400lbs, but if it hurts you to get out of bed in the morning, then that’s a problem. There are many tools that can help you navigate this, like joint mobility and stretching. One helpful thing that seems to be often forgotten is basic movement patterns.

 

Sure you may know about a basic movement like the squat, and I sincerely hope you can squat rock bottom without any problem, but what about rolling? Rolling is a basic and natural movement pattern that requires full body coordination, with some balance involved, and the firing of many muscles, along with remaining relaxed. And there are many different rolls you can do.

 

In this article I want to concentrate on four basic tumbling skills - three different rolls and one additional movement, the cartwheel. Think back to when you were a kid. It’s likely you did all these movements without giving them much thought. We may refine certain movement patterns as we grow older and specialize, but this shouldn’t be at the cost of losing basic movements like these.

 

Not only do you want to be able to do these movements, but you want to do them well. Two of the biggest components you’ll look for in doing a movement well are that it looks good and it’s done efficiently. The truth is, if you have one of these that likely means you have the other. Without efficiency you won’t look good. Without looking good you won’t be efficient.

 

The Somersault

 

The somersault is also known as a forward roll. In it you’ll be going straight over your head and spine. It is advisable to do this on a mat, carpet, grass, or somewhere else where it is comfortable to roll.

 

  1. Squat down on the ground.
  2. Place your hands with the elbows bent about shoulder width on the floor.
  3. Dip forward as your tuck your head.
  4. Touch the top or back of you head to the ground as you start to roll over.
  5. Round your neck and back completely so each part it turn touches the ground without anything hitting flat.
  6. Use the forward momentum to come to you feet.

 

 rolling, somersault, tumbling, gymnastics, cartwheel 

 

Backwards Somersault

 

The backwards somersault or roll simply reverses the forward roll. This may be trickier than it sounds, as many people don’t have the neck strength to support the part when you go over your head.

 

  1. Squat down on the ground.
  2. Roll over your rounded back.
  3. As your neck touches the ground place your hands on the ground about shoulder width apart.
  4. Use your momentum as well as assistance from the hands to roll over the top of your head to your feet.

 

rolling, somersault, tumbling, gymnastics, cartwheelRoll Over Shoulder

 

This roll is commonly used in many martial arts and also in parkour, whereas the other two are common in gymnastics. This roll is more efficient when you’re rolling in uncomfortable places as you only traverse your spine momentarily, instead of rolling on it the whole time. You also avoid rolling over your head.

 

  1. Squat down on the ground.
  2. Thread the right arm towards the opposite hip.
  3. Touch the right shoulder to the ground and begin your roll.
  4. Travel diagonally across your back to the left hip
  5. Both legs will end bent. The right leg will be perpendicular to the ground, while the left leg will be flat against it.
  6. Use your momentum to come to a standing position.

 

This roll can be done going backwards and with both left and right sides.

 

With any of these rolls they can also be made more complex. You can start from a standing position. You can start running, or jumping through the air. You can do them starting with or ending with one leg. But these simple drills as outlined above should be within the capabilities of anyone. Try them and see where you’re at.

 

Cartwheel

 

The cartwheel is another movement that is relatively easy, yet cannot be done efficiently by many people. In a good cartwheel you’ll travel completely vertical through a handstand position. You’ll find going in one direction is easier then the other, but you should work on both sides.

 

  1. Face forward but turn your left foot and head towards your left side.
  2. Lunge forward and place your left hand down pointing out.
  3. Kick up with the right leg fairly hard to carry you through a handstand position.
  4. As you’re traveling place your right hand down about shoulder width apart from your left hand facing in the same direction.
  5. Land with your right foot pointing back towards the direction you came.
  6. Land your left leg down and come to a standing position facing towards the direction you came.

 

 rolling, somersault, tumbling, gymnastics, cartwheel 

 

In the illustration below you’ll see the proper foot and hand placement. The difficulty many people will have is in going completely vertical and instead will go some degree of horizontal. By practicing you can improve quickly. As with the rolls, cartwheels can be made much more complex - doing them on one arm and even eventually no arms, as in an aerial.

 

 rolling, somersault, tumbling, gymnastics, cartwheel 

 

There are several other simple tumbling and bodyweight exercises I would advise anyone to be able to do but these four are a great place to start. If you can’t do these yet, all it will take is a little practice. Try adding these into your warm-up routine, and if you don’t warm-up just work these skills before you exercise for five to ten minutes. It’ll pay off in an increased ability to move freely, and who doesn’t want that?

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