“I know it’s only rock and roll, but I like it!”
- The Rolling Stones, singing about resets, becoming physically resilient and taking good care of your body.
Just kidding. There’s no way the Rolling Stones had that in mind when they wrote that song. But YOU should have both of those things in mind if you want a body that’s mobile, flexible, and most importantly RESILIENT and yes, even strong.
Resilience and strength are the name of the game, and rolling presents not just one arrow, but literally DOZENS of arrows for your quiver. As Tim Anderson says in his dynamite book “Becoming Bulletproof”: “There are more ways to roll than there are letters in the alphabet.” I’m not going to try to expose you to all of them, but rather show you a few main varieties – from bare-bones simple to progressively more difficult – and how to do them. But first, let’s answer the question that’s probably on your mind…
“Why roll? I’m not a baby anymore.”
Can’t argue with that. You’re right – you’re not a baby anymore. But the fact is that rolling is not just for babies. Yes, it is a fundamental and developmental movement for babies and essentially acts as their first introduction to locomotion – but its usefulness does not stop just because you learn to plod aroundon two feet. Rolling well and proficiently holds a number of benefits regardless of your age and level of fitness. How? You might ask. Let me count the ways.
1) It gently and safely mobilizes your spine.
This is important because your spine has 24 articulating vertebrae. Lounging at your desk or in front of your TV, standing and hoisting weights, or just generally being inactive has left us using all these awesome vertebrae very little. Your spine is meant to move, and when it doesn’t, trouble arises. Discs and nerve issues can arise, which (to use technical terminology) is bad news bears. Besides, even if most weightlifting and office work related activities don’t require twisting, most sorts of athletic movement do, and most importantly, your spine’s health does, too. Rolling is the perfect introduction (and reintroduction) to this necessary movement.
2) It stretches the muscles of the midsection and encourages them to move and function in an extended range of motion
Once again, athletic activities usually have a twisting component. Ever tried throwing something with just your arm? If no one laughed at you, they should have. You need to twist. Rolling is perfect practice for that. Also, it has the same benefits as those listed above.
3) It trains your vestibular system and your core muscles to work in unison
The vestibular system is your balance system. It is also the first system that begins to develop while you’re growing in the womb. The muscles of the abdominals and back are very much attached to the vestibular system. Can you guess what stimulates that relationship? Yep – rolling. And in a big way, too. How? Simple. Your rolls are led by your head, so it encourages and solidifies what you were meant to do in other contexts as well.
4) It may just make you more injury proof.
Ever taken a big spill? If so, you’ll probably note that rolling when you fall feels way better than splatting. I know of two people (martial artists) who have separated a shoulder by rolling WRONG, which ended up in “splatting”. A cousin of mine slipped on ice and broke his ankle a few years back when he landed wrong. The ability to roll is not just the ability to move – it’s the ability to move away from danger.
Convinced yet? If you’re not, well, you probably never will be (until #4 happens to you). If you’re asking “when can I start?” you’re in luck, because the answer is right now. Below is a video demonstration of my favorite rolls, progressing all the way from what everyone can do to stuff you’re gonna have to work toward.