Forward Roll - An In Depth Discussion

The forward roll has a tremendous number of applications outside of the gym. In a forward fall most people will sprawl. Practicing and getting completely comfortable with a forward roll will change this reaction. In a forward fall rolling out will greatly reduce impact and allow for a continuation of movement getting you to your feet with little or no interruption. Just performing the forward roll improves kinesthetic awareness, and engages a large number of muscle groups.

Initial Drill:
Candlestick roll to stand: Start in a stand, squat down roll into a tucked candlestick position, roll back up to standing without using your hands. Repeat this drill with extending to a full candlestick before rolling up to a stand. Do this drill before doing forward rolls. It will immediately mitigate several very common technique problems.

Tucked Forward Roll: View a video
Start position: Knees together squat on the balls of your feet. Place your hands flat on the floor with spread hands. While maintaining pressure on your hands tuck head and place the back of your head between your hands while pushing with your legs to roll over. Maintain a rounded back by contracting your abs and keep looking at your knees. As you roll forward try to maintain momentum to roll up onto your feet and standup without pushing off the floor with your hands. Your arms should just reach forward at the end of the roll.

Extended Forward Roll:
An extended forward roll is initiated exactly like a tucked forward roll. The difference exhibits when your feet leave the ground. The moment your feet leave the ground you should extend your feet towards the ceiling to arrive at an extended hollow position with pressure on your hands. This will allow for a more extended roll that carries more momentum. Finishing will be as per the tucked forward roll, but allows for less of a tuck. The extended body position should be maintained as long as possible, only tucking your legs just before your feet hit the ground to stand up.

Extended Forward Roll With Nominal Hand Support: View a video
For this roll you will put even more pressure on your hands as your feet leave the ground. This will result in a bent arm rounded body handstand as the roll initiates. This helps to build a bridge between a forward roll, and a handstand forward roll. As with the other rolls extension and maintaining pressure throughout will maintain momentum and keep the roll smooth and controlled.

Handstand Bent Arm Forward Roll: View a video
Initiate by kicking to handstand. As the handstand falls forward bend your arms round your upper back and roll out. Maintaining pressure and keeping an extended rounded body will allow for a controlled smooth roll. A tight tuck is not necessary for the roll, in fact in a fast, or powerful roll a tighter tuck will make the roll less controlled, and rougher. Your body should stay extended throughout the roll just rounding enough to create curvature for the roll. Ensure that your handstand is falling forward a bit before trying to roll. It is very common to try to roll out as your feet come back (towards a stand) which results with landing on your back in a pike with no forward momentum. If the handstand is not falling forward, just come back to a stand and kick back into the handstand.


Handstand Straight Arm Forward Roll: View a video
A straight arm handstand forward roll is the ultimate expression that tucking into a ball is not necessary for a roll. It is quite straight forward to roll out of a handstand without bending your arms at all. All that is required is a tight hollow body. As the handstand falls forward tuck your head in, extend through your shoulders and hollow your body. This will create a very large radius circle with your body and as long as proper positions are maintained will allow for a very smooth powerful roll.

Handstand Forward Roll Pike Up To Handstand:
Once the handstand straight arm forward roll is competent you can practice sequences of rolls and add new approaches. One example is "handstand forward roll pike up to handstand". As the forward roll completes continue the motion placing your hands on the floor about 1 foot in front of your hands, pushing off your feet while lifting your hips to pike up to the next handstand. This will lead directly into the next roll so this sequence can be repeated until you run out of floor space. The main keys are to maintain momentum by using the roll to get into the next handstand, and lifting your hips first as you jump off your feet. Straight arms should be maintained throughout this exercise.


Forward Straddle Roll: View a video
Start in a straddle stand. Perform a forward roll while maintaining the straddle. Reach forward to place your hands on the ground between your legs to push up to a straddle stand. Strive to place your hands on the floor and begin pushing before your feet hit the ground. Your goal should be to lift off of the ground and begin pressing the motion up to a stand. This is done by actively lifting your toes as soon as your hands contact to roll through a straddle L. The ultimate goal is to press through the straddle L to a handstand without your feet contacting the floor.

Forward Pike Roll: View a video
In a forward pike roll your legs will not bend. An extended forward roll is essential for a forward pike roll. You must maintain as much momentum as possible. Maintain an extended hollow position until just before your feet hit the ground. At this point pike forward aggressively and place your hands on the ground next to your knees. Push aggressively into the pike and keep pushing through as long as possible. Resist all temptation to bend your knees. It is better to keep your legs straight and not make the stand, then to bend your knees to stand up.

Dive Roll:
A dive roll is a roll from a jump. Start small imagining a bar in front of your hips that you must jump over and roll out. Remember to maintain pressure on your hands as soon as they contact. As you get more comfortable with the dive roll make it bigger. Eventually you will be able to do a dive roll over objects at shoulder height or higher and roll out safely.

Forward Roll Jump Sequence:
Perform any of the primary forward rolls and as you stand up jump aggressively. This jump should can be done with or without swinging your arms. Allowing for arm swing will result in a higher jump. Requiring arms to be kept up during the jump will require and develop more leg strength. Each roll can end with a different jump. Straight, tuck, straddle, pike or full turn. Play with different combinations.

Common mistakes:
Not enough pressure on the hands. Good hand pressure is essential for a controlled smooth forward roll. Allowing body to be loose and flopping onto the floor. Ropes and deflated balls do not roll well. Rigid round objects do. Keeping your body in a tight hollow will allow for the best roll.Arched lower back in the roll. Be sure to turn your pelvis under as you roll to create a rounded lower back. A flat lower back will result in your pelvis hitting the floor abruptly. If you have trouble maintaining the pelvic tilt practice hollow rocks and V-ups to develop required abdominal strength.

Possible assists:
Forward roll down an incline mat or grassy hill for gravity assist.
A partner can help spot the skill by placing one hand on either hip of the student and lifting while pushing forward. Be sure to lift sufficiently so there is little load on the head or neck.

By Roger Harrell.
Related Events:

Related Skills:
Forward pike roll
Forward roll
Forward straddle roll
Handstand forward roll