The Best Crash-Proof Exercises: Forward Roll
You’re in the middle of an epic run down a double black diamond and you’re in the zone. Nothing can faze you. If someone were to look up the word “unstoppable” in the dictionary, they would see a picture of you.
That is, until you hit a bump you didn’t expect and get sent flying harshly forward. And, if you’re like most people, your first instinct is to stick out your hands to try and break your fall.
Because, unfortunately, your wrists aren’t supposed to absorb that kind of impact. Which, consequently, is why wrist sprains and fractures are frequently among the most common injuries for skiers and snowboarders.
What’s one to do?
Well, if you’ve been following us and reading everything in our Crash-Proof Strength Training series, you already know part of the answer. If you don’t have a single clue as to what we’re talking about, START HERE.
Now, if you remember, or took the time to reread (or read for the first time) How to Be Crash-Proof and Conquer the Mountain, then you know learning how to fall is critical to spending more time on the slopes. And, in order to learn how to fall, you’ve got to fall a bunch.
How do you do that safely, though?
With the Forward Roll, of course! Here’s how to do it:
Here’s a few other tips to do the Forward Roll well that aren’t covered in the video:
- Let Your Back Round
The Forward Roll is one of the few movements in which you don’t want to have a neutral spine. Let it round! The more of a ball you can create of yourself, the much smoother this movement will go, and the better you will roll to distribute force absorption.
- Let Your Feet Cross
The ending position of the Forward Roll is a kneeling position with your knees perpendicular from each other. This will happen naturally as you move from your shoulder of choice to the opposite hip, if you let it happen. Let it happen.
- Use a Mat or Pad to Practice
If you’re not used to rolling like this, doing so on bare ground like shown in the video can be very uncomfortable. Use a mat, pad, or some sort of softer surface to lessen the impact a little and you’ll be much happier. But, once you’ve gotten better, moving towards regular ground will really keep you honest and make sure you’re doing the Forward Roll as well as you should.
Now that you can see how it’s done, here’s why it’s such a pivotal piece to becoming Crash-Proof:
1) Reprograms Instinct
Remember how “figurative you” broke your wrist? You fell and your first instinct was to reach out and break your fall. Too bad breaking your fall sometimes leads to literally breaking something. The only way to keep this from happening is to reprogram your basic instinct of reaching our your hands when you fall.
How do you do this?
Like we stated already, you can accomplish this by forcing yourself to fall more and more, but doing so in such a way that keeps you safe and intact. The Forward Roll, if practiced enough, will turn unintentional falls into nothing more than an inconvenience, rather than a trip to the infirmary.
2) Develops Greater Proprioception
Proprioception is one of the main keys to all around athleticism. The greatest athletes are almost always the ones that seem to move effortlessly and gracefully; with complete command over their body.
This agility comes from that individual’s great intuitive understanding of proprioception. Which is just a fancy word for “knowing what the heck your body is doing.” And, while the greatest athletes generally are born, not made, doesn’t mean we can’t all develop a better sense of proprioception.
Which, of course, the Forward Roll is an excellent tool for doing. And, if you haven’t been paying attention, developing your proprioception is going to pay off in dividends to your athletic performance on the mountain. Additionally, one of the cool things about having a better overall sense of how your body is moving, is that you can actually feel that you’re about to fall before it happens. So, when the fall occurs, your reprogrammed instincts from point #1 have an even better chance of responding correctly at the appropriate time.
3) Makes Falling Not Scary
Whether you’re completely new to snow-sports, or are looking to push into more intense territory, falling is always a part of the equation. And falling, by its very nature and potential consequences, is kind of scary.
But, you know what’s even scarier?
Making yourself fall on purpose. Yeah. It’s weird and feels wrong the first few times that you do it. Yet, half the point of doing a bunch of Forward Rolls is to desensitize yourself to falling and crashing. You’ll notice if you do them enough and get better at them that the ground becomes less and less intimidating when it’s quickly coming towards you. Instead, you’ll just know in the back of your mind, “Oh, hey! I know what to do.”
4) Makes You Mobile. Literally.
Mobility has been talked about so much over the past few years, that many of us think it’s about doing really deep squats, achieving the splits, and being able to scratch our own shoulder blades. Now, while that is within the realm of mobility, it’s easy to forget that the point is to just be able to move.
This can turn into a really boring, pedantic game of semantics of “Which came first, the movement, or the mobility?” (The chicken or the the egg?)
The answer is cloudy and not worth exploring at this time, but it brings up the idea that performing and practicing the Forward Roll forces you to move, and to do so in a way that’s much different than traditional exercise. At first this will feel very awkward and “tight,” but through the simple act of moving and purposefully making that movement better, your mobility will increase, making your ability to move better as well.
Seems circular doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is.
5) Move Well. Or Else.
Ok. Maybe that’s a little to ominous sounding. But, the wonderful thing about the Forward Roll is how it limits you to one the main principles for Becoming Crash-Proof: Moving Well.
The Forward Roll can’t be accomplished in any way that resembles and feels like a Forward Roll unless you are Moving Well.
Not letting your back round? You’re going to roll off to the side and not distribute force appropriately.
Timing off? You’re going to slam into your shoulder or hip and that’s not going to feel very good.
Coordination a bit funny? You’re going to look and feel very silly flopping around on the floor.
Got a lot of mobility restrictions? You’re going to have a very tough time getting into the right starting position.
Remember that whole Chicken and the Egg situation? This is another example. But, the point still stands. If you’re not Moving Well, the Forward Roll just ain’t gonna happen.
How to Program It
The Forward Roll is unlike most exercises we’ve gone over so far, in that it doesn’t require much outright physical exertion, but is still a very technical and high-skill movement. So, until you’ve got a very solid handle on it, it’s best to perform the movement at the beginning of your workout or training session when you’re fresh.
Use it as a finisher to your warm-up to make sure you’re as loose and limber as you need to be by performing 10 sets of 1 rep on EACH SIDE. As a human being, you’ve got two sides; make sure you use them both! One side will feel like a million bucks, while the other will feel more awkward than a middle school dance.
Just as well, if you completely suck at the Forward Roll (which most people who’ve never done it, do) spend a few minutes really drilling the movement as slowly as possible. If you can do it slowly, you can do it fast.
During the movement, if you feel any jarring impact whatsoever at any point, this a telltale sign that you’re doing something poorly. More often than not, you’re going to feel this in your shoulder, mid back, or opposite hip. If you do, it’s either because you’re moving too fast, not rounding into a ball enough, or being too cautious. But, it also just means you need more practice.
If anything hurts at any point during this movement, STOP IMMEDIATELY. There’s no point forcing things to the point of pain.
Only once you have mastered this movement, should you ever do it combined with other strength exercises or while under the stress of fatigue.
Are you already a boss at rolling?
Start the movement from standing, from a jump, or with a running start into a Dive Roll. This will really solidify everything we’ve talked about even further.
***Don’t even try to attempt this until you’ve mastered the basic Forward Roll from the ground. You’ve been warned.
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