Tumbling skills, like front rolls and back rolls, can be pretty intimidating if you haven’t really practiced them before.
We get tons of questions about every tumbling detail you could imagine, including positioning, timing, and even which mats to use.
Andy and Ryan had lots to say about the questions we’ve received on tumbling. Here’s a snippet of what Andy had to say about not getting too caught up in the details:
As always, the key to doing a move safely is not so much the surface on which you do it. It’s the preparation and the technique.
In this episode, Andy and Ryan answer some of the questions we’ve received again and again about tumbling skills.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
- (01:04) GMB is officially 4 years old! Happy birthday to us!
- (01:42) It’s common to get dizzy or nauseous when first starting tumbling, but what can you do about it?
In the beginning, go slow and the dizziness should level off.
- (03:43) Try keeping your focus on something stable.
- (04:56) Make it as slow and as low as possible if you’re having any kind of dizziness issues.
- (05:19) Isn’t it dangerous to roll on your spine?!?!
- (06:45) You’ll be okay rolling on your spine, as long as you’re using proper technique.
Don’t jump into anything and think you’ll be able to it right away. Go through the progressions and BREATHE!
- (07:55) Fear is normal with this kind of practice, so work your way up to feeling comfortable and confident with tumbling skills.
- (08:45) “If you do it like an idiot, yes you can get injured.”
- (09:57) Back rolls are freaking hard!
If you’re at the point [in the back roll] where you feel like your neck is going to ‘crack’ that means you’re putting too much pressure on your neck!
- (11:11) You can use a modified plow pose to work on strengthening the neck.
- (12:20) Ideally you shouldn’t be putting any pressure on the neck, but it needs to be strong anyway.
- (13:40) You have arms. You should use them!
- (14:57) How do you know when you should put your arms down to push up?
Keep the tuck!
- (16:23) The “push” is tight and just to take the pressure off. You’re not going to push up to throw your legs over. Maintain that tuck!
- (17:21) Flexibility will help you as well with this move.
- (18:04) Andy teaches back rolls “backwards”
- (19:05) A lot of people get stuck in the back roll because they’re not using momentum.
You need momentum, but you also need to commit.
- (21:44) You shouldn’t put A LOT of pressure on your neck, but you should be able to take a little.
- (22:35) To be successful you have to use our specially branded mats 😉
- (24:05) You can practice anywhere you have space. Seriously.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
Andy: All right. Breaker, breaker, one-niner. Get your ears on for the GMB Show. Over the next 20 minutes plus or minus, we’re going to be talking about how to get stronger, how to get agile, how to get better at using your body for the things you actually care about.
My name is Andy and with me as always is Ryan Hurst, head coach, all-around smooth operator, smooth criminal. That’s Stevie Wonder, man.
Ryan: Yeah, I’m not – you know, I was trying to throw in a move here. But …
Andy: Stevie Wonder was All Day Sucker.
Andy: You knew that too. So today – well, last time, we talked – we answered a lot of questions about the L-sit. Other things we’ve gotten a lot of questions about is basic tumbling moves like front rolls, back rolls, and so today we’re going to be answering a lot of questions that we get over and over about those.
Yeah, and that’s really about it. Also hip hip hooray! GMB is officially four years old now. Yeah, raise the roof suckers.
Andy: Yeah. So …
Ryan: Happy birthday to us. Yeah.
Andy: Happy birthday to us. Pop the cork on a fresh bottle of water or whatever you’re into and – all right. So let’s get into this. Let’s answer some questions.
Andy: Let’s see. First a couple of things that people ask about like any kind of tumbling move we ever talk about, any rolls, anything on the floor, off the floor, aerial stuff too. There’s always somebody that gets dizzy. People that haven’t done much of it at all, a lot of the times, they will say they even get nauseous when they start to do rolling moves. What do you have to say about that Ryan?
Ryan: Well, you’re weak. You should quit. This is common occurrence. Yeah, yeah, it’s common occurrence. Actually our favorite Filipino Jarlo, he has some issues with this as well. He actually has some ear problems. So that’s a little special case.
But if you haven’t done a lot of these movements before – which a lot of us haven’t. Let’s be honest. It’s like anything. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to it. Performing a forward roll for example. A lot of people will just get dizzy. When you go slow with it, take a break in between doing the rolls, you will find that the equilibrium will start to balance out, hopefully, and that you will get better with it.
Trying to do things very fast of course is obviously going to mess things up. So, just like I said, in the beginning try and work on it slow. Give yourself breaks between those attempts of the rolls that you’re performing and it should level off. It might – I’m not talking like just in the first session that you do.
Andy: Not immediately.
Ryan: It might take you maybe a week or so. But over time, it should be OK unless you do have a specific issue with your ear.
Andy: Yeah. If you’ve had problems with vertigo or some kind of cochlear issue or inner ear issue or something, and you’re having nausea because of rolls, well, it might be related and so then you need to refer to your doctor or like whatever your issue is, right? But if you’ve never had problems with this before, you just have to understand that if you’re just throwing your ass over teakettle quickly, you’re probably going to get dizzy and so it takes some practice.
One thing that has helped me a lot is to try to look at something that I know is not moving especially when doing front rolls. If you look at something straight on ahead of you, a point, an immobile point, look at it, roll and then quickly try to spot it again as soon as you come out of the roll. That can really help kind of align the eyes and the inner ear because one of the things that causes dizziness is when you’re not focused. The eyes aren’t focused, right?
Everything goes by as a blur, right? That’s very confusing to the brain. So picking something to look at can help a lot too. But mostly like you said Ryan, it’s just acclimatization. You just have to do it.
Ryan: Yeah, and something else too that will help, if let’s say you’re working on a higher – literally higher like up off of the ground higher movement where you’re rolling or maybe a back flip or you want to do something like that. If you’re having trouble with that, take it down to the floor.
Ryan: And really simplify it first to get you used to the roll and then you can start working back up.
Andy: Same thing with – I mean even rolls, if you’re starting from the standing position versus starting from squatting. It will make a big difference too. So you want to make it as slow and as low as possible when – if you’re having any kind of balance or dizziness.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andy: All right. Cool! So then also especially with front rolls, we always get this one. Is it OK to roll on my spine? Am I going to die? Nobody has actually asked if they’re going to die.
Ryan: We just love saying that. Yeah, if you’re going to die.
Andy: I’ve become fond of that one lately. But every time we demonstrate a forward roll, somebody says, “I’ve heard it’s dangerous to roll on my spine. You should always roll on your shoulder.”
Then there’s always like the really smart guys that are experts on all things about injury and anatomy and rolling that say, “You should never do that! It’s so dangerous. How dare you teach people to do forward rolls!” and to those people I say, “Fuck you!” because you just don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
But to everyone who’s interested in actually learning the right way to do a forward roll, that’s not dangerous, Ryan is it OK to roll on your spine?
Ryan: And you hit on – the point there we need to discuss is you need to know how to roll.
Ryan: We’re not talking about just jumping on to your back and compressing the spine.
Andy: Just touch your head and dive under your spine.
Ryan: Yeah. Hail Mary. No. We’re talking of being able to work up towards being able to do it in a manner that’s not going to screw your shit up, so yeah, rolling on your spine. It’s going to be OK as long as you know how to do it. I’ve been doing forward rolls for quite a few years and I could probably do them on the concrete and be just fine.
Ryan: I don’t suggest all of you start off doing them on the concrete but you’re going to be OK as long as you know exactly what needs to happen and that’s where we come into play. That’s what our job is, is to show you how to do this correctly without injury. So there’s a time and a place for certain rolls.
If you’re in judo and somebody is throwing you into the ground, you probably don’t want to land – you don’t want to land flat on your back.
Ryan: But it’s why you learn ukemi. But as far as what we’re doing, forward rolls, rolling over, the back of your head down, through the spine, it’s going to be OK as long as you know how to do it. Like anything, just don’t jump into anything and think that you’re going to be able to do it right away. Go through the progressions. Take your time to learn how to do it correctly. Breathe when you’re doing it and …
Ryan: Fear is another thing too. We will talk about this in a little bit when we talk about the back roll but anytime you’re scared of doing something, you’re going to brace and it’s not going to be good for the body. So you got to learn and work your way up. Work your way into [0:07:59] [Inaudible].
Andy: Yeah. Yeah, in a lot of cases, feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s pretty stupid advice. You need to work up and gradually get to the point where you’re ready and then you don’t have that fear because you know you’re well-prepared.
That’s not with everything but that’s just with some things. Again, there’s no advice that we can give that applies across the board to everything.
Andy: It just doesn’t exist. So we’re not trying to get platitudes about movement here. But specifically for these kinds of things, you got to use progressions and again, it sounds also kind of flippant sometimes but we say this with other things too.
If you do it like an idiot, yes, you can get injured. We’re not trying to say that you are an idiot. We’re not trying to say anything bad about anyone who has been injured because there are lots of reasons you can get injured. But with any of these things that we’re practicing, if you just jump into it without preparation and without understanding the right way to do it, then yes, your chances of injury go like …
Ryan: Very high, yeah.
Andy: It’s just common sense.
Andy: So yeah, it’s good to be cautious but there’s also such a thing as extreme – too much caution where you just don’t try anything because you assume it’s too dangerous and our point is that there’s a lot of things in between where if you practice and you prepare and you know the right way to do it, things would be dangerous to do like an idiot or actually not dangerous to do like a smart person.
Ryan: Like driving a car.
Andy: So let’s get into back rolls since you mentioned those because we get way more questions about back rolls than just about any other tumbling movement. We get more questions about back rolls and back flips and aerials and front rolls combined I think.
Ryan: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Andy: Yeah, because back rolls are freaking hard.
Ryan: Yeah, they are. They’re tough. They’re tough.
Andy: So first one that happens a lot, let’s see. Let’s get these in order of the sequence of actually doing a back roll. OK. So for the back roll, I keep on trying to do this but I have a problem trying to lift my legs up and over. I feel like my neck is going to crack.
Ryan: Oh, no! You’re doing it wrong! No, I’m just kidding. But not really. So you’re at the point where you feel that your neck is going to crack, then that means that you’re …
Andy: Putting too much pressure.
Ryan: Too much pressure at your neck. So what you need to do is you need to back off a bit and work up to being able to actually put that pressure on your neck safely. So instead of just trying to throw your legs back, all you need to do in the very beginning is work on loading the neck slightly and then coming out of it so that you’re rocking in and out of the movement.
Something else that might help once you get to the point is using something. Yoga they call it the plow pose, modified plow pose where you’re going to roll back so that your shoulders and your neck are on the floor. Your hips come up into the air. Bend your legs. You don’t want to straighten your legs just yet. Bend your legs and just load that by holding – take your hands and hold your hips. Load the neck slightly. It’s going to help us stretching it. It’s also going to work on strengthening it.
You can come out of that and you can just work on that movement. This is exactly how we teach it. It’s so important to be able to actually get into that position first comfortably, without pain and making sure that you’re working on the stretch and the strength.
Andy: Yeah. And so that said, also we should clarify that you’re not meaning that you should strengthen the neck to the point that you can do a full back roll fully on your neck.
Andy: The hands are a part of the technique.
Ryan: Yes, yes.
Andy: Any of our back roll stuff, you will see we make a big deal about the hands and we will talk more about that in just a second too. But the neck still does need to be strong before you’re going to be thinking about doing this.
So ideally, you should not be putting any pressure on the neck but we want you to have your neck flexible and somewhat strong before you start doing this kind of thing anyway. OK? But then ultimately though, use your hands.
Andy: You got to use your hands.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Andy: I’m talking about the hands.
Ryan: That’s a good point, yeah.
Ryan: I like to talk – go ahead.
Andy: The position and the timing and all of that stuff we get questions about.
Ryan: Yeah. So the position of the hands, just from teaching kids for so long, I like to do this with the kids. They know exactly that your hands need to be by your head.
Ryan: You see a lot of people, videos that we see, not just kids but adults too. Like all kinds of different fun positions. Now keep them close. So that way you’re going to be able to push. Also see a lot of this. As people roll over, they let the hands kind of do this thing and forget that you’ve got to actually get your hand back there.
So if you don’t have the wrist strength and the flexibility, that’s something else that you need to be working on. It’s not just a matter of back roll, of throwing your legs up and over and tucking your chin. You have to push just like Andy said. You have your arms and you need to use them because your arms are stronger than your neck in this case.
Andy: And we’re showing right now from the front and it looks like this but you shouldn’t be waiting until your top of your head is touching either. Honestly, you really want to get your elbows up by your ears so you can even – as you roll off the shoulders then onto the hands, then you don’t – eventually you don’t put any – you don’t even touch your head. But …
Ryan: Just like a forward roll, when I teach a forward roll, I try – I don’t put my head on the ground at all. In the beginning, you will because you have to. But you want to work on – have that concept in your head of not putting your head on the ground.
Ryan: So with the back roll just like Andy is saying, it’s this push and it starts way before your head and your shoulders are going back to make contact with the ground.
Andy: Yeah. So that’s a position. It’s hands open, elbows in. If you let your elbows come out, typically when people get scared, they will let an elbow pop out and they will wonder, “Why do I always flip to the right side?” Well, because your right elbow is not staying in. Then push back. That’s what you really need.
Andy: Timing-wise, how do I know it’s the right time to push with my arms?
Ryan: Yeah. Well, before even that and thinking about pushing and getting your feet over, I suggest working on rolling back and practicing just putting your hands down on the ground.
Ryan: And so work on that and then you can actually start your push from there, not going over, but using the push to help get you back up into the front, right? It’s a little bit of a different – the vectors. They’re a little bit different but I just love saying that. But as far as the pushing goes, as soon as your hips start to come up over your head, which is going to – because you’re actually going to be late is what I’m saying. You start to feel your hips coming. That’s when you should push.
If you wait until you think your hips are over your head, they’re already past your head and you’re too late for pushing. So as soon as you feel your hips come up, that’s when you need to start pushing. Something else along those lines is keep the tuck.
Ryan: Keep the tuck. A lot of people will try and throw their feet up into the air as if they’re doing a back roll extension which is a little bit different and instead of doing that, use the weight of your legs, that tuck, to help pull you up and over along with the push.
Andy: Yeah, and that’s the other thing I wanted to mention. When we say push, we don’t mean an extension push. You’re not pushing to here. You’re just pressing enough to take the pressure off. This is the push we’re talking about.
Now if you’re extending into a handstand or extending into like a plank position or something like that, your push is going to look different and then you’re going to extend the body too. So the timing of the push, Ryan is talking about doing it a lot earlier than most people think. But don’t think that that’s a full extension push. It’s just a little bit of push to take pressure off.
Andy: If you’re doing one of these extension moves, that’s a different thing and that’s actually – you need to have a really solid back roll before you really start doing that because it’s just a more advanced kind of thing. You need to be able to balance. You need to be able to fall and roll out both directions fluidly.
Ryan: Something I would like to use along the lines is I talked about the plow in yoga. I mentioned having your legs bent as your leg is up here. But having the flexibility to be able to take your toes and put them on the ground, you don’t actually need to have that flexibility for the back roll.
But if you have, then it’s going to help. The reason why is that you can actually place your feet on the ground behind you so that your feet is up over your head and you can work on that push and without any momentum at all, you can actually do a back roll. So if you’re having fear of rolling on your neck because you think it’s going to break or something like that, this is something that you can use.
This is a very good drill that you can use to help you with your pushing strength, strengthening the neck and figuring out the mechanics of what needs to happen to help you get over it.
Andy: Yeah, and actually with people that are very flexible, I teach back rolls backwards.
Andy: I teach them to do a back roll by teaching them to do a front roll as they would do a back roll.
Ryan: That’s good.
Andy: I’m not saying this is how anyone should practice. But just a highlight that if your feet can touch, that that gives you a lot more leeway to – it gives your body a lot more room to do this move and you have less things to worry about.
Ryan: And there are a lot of ways to do it. I remember in gymnastics a long time ago when we were teaching kids classes. We would use a wedge with a big angled thing there and they would stand at the top, sit down and just roll back. It’s a very soft mat and they have the momentum to do it. Not all of us have a wedge just sitting in the corner of our house. So what we show in all of our videos are things that you can use right away without any props and do it safe.
Andy: So speaking of momentum though, that’s actually another thing that’s good to think about in the back roll. A lot of people will try and they will start to roll back and they get stuck and this is the point that happens with any kind of rolling or tumbling movement. You need to have some sort of force. You can’t – can you jump slowly? No. You won’t get off the ground. It’s not a jump, right?
Well, it’s the same thing with a lot of these movements. Front rolls, you can do smoothly. You can do slowly because gravity will pull you along but back rolls actually you can’t initiate too slowly because your hips are your center of gravity, right? So you have to have enough momentum to get your hips almost above your shoulders, right?
So you need that. You need to generate a little bit of momentum. But don’t worry too much about trying to throw your legs back or anything like that. If you can get to the point where your hips are above your shoulders, you’ve got all the momentum you need.
Ryan: That’s right. Also along those lines is you’ve got to commit.
Ryan: So when you’re performing a particular movement like the back roll, when you’re going – like right before you’re going to actually be doing the back roll, if you’re like no, screw this and you’re trying to do something else, that’s when you’re going to injure yourself. So commit to the movement and have the confidence of the previous progressions that I know you’ve practiced on and you have those down and use those to get it. The back flip is the same way. You got to commit to it. Halfway through, oh, I’m not going to do this. I’m just going to bail out. Uh-uh.
Andy: A very good friend of mine did that and messed up his neck for a couple of years.
Ryan: No. See, you got to commit and the back roll is a very good example of a movement like that.
Andy: Yeah, a couple of things with the back roll, we get a lot of people saying that they try the back roll and they end up falling to one side or the other. Well, there are really two reasons that that happens and we’ve actually discussed both of them already.
One is the elbows will come out like I mentioned. It’s basically your hand position isn’t solid and the other is that you will turn your head. Usually it’s a fear thing and that’s one of the reasons why Ryan recommends that you spend some time conditioning your neck before you do it, so that you’re not fearful of taking strain on your neck and you don’t turn your head.
If you move either arm to the side or turn your head, yes, you’re going to end up rolling over your shoulder. So if that’s happening, you probably need to work on your hand position and work on getting comfortable taking a little bit of pressure on your neck, a little bit. We’re not saying everyone should go put pressure on their necks. All right?
So don’t troll us on YouTube comments saying that we’re encouraging people to do dangerous shit because we’re not. But you should be able to take all the pressure on your neck. It supports a lot of weight unless you don’t have a brain.
Andy: Last thing about rolls, anytime we demonstrate or mention any kind of acrobatic type stuff, people ask about mats. Ryan, I need special mats to do this. I need special flooring.
Ryan: I’m really glad you brought this up and the reason why is because we’ve decided we have our own brand now of GMB mats. So if you’re going to use any kind of GMB program or anything like that, you’ve got to use the mats that are being made right now.
Andy: I will tell you, it’s actually just like everything else we produced. This is a digital product. You can actually download these mats and print them out on your home printer and tape the sheets together and …
Ryan: It’s incredible. It’s absolutely incredible.
Andy: You need the special GMB printout.
Ryan: One of the reasons why is they’re handcrafted. They’re amazing. They’re downloadable but they’re actually pre-made and it’s science.
Andy: It’s scientific. It really is. We use a special template designed based on tensegrity structures from Buckminster Fuller.
Ryan: Buckminster Fuller.
Andy: It’s geodesic and the pattern when printed on paper – actually the ink adds a certain amount of give.
Ryan: It’s amazing.
Andy: I’m totally making this shit up.
Ryan: Yeah, but it’s cool. You can put it in your backpack and fold it and you can train anywhere. But basically, yeah, we are just full of shit. Don’t worry about that. It doesn’t matter. Just find something that’s going to work for you. It’s going to keep you safe.
Andy: People will comment all the time. Like oh, the only place I have to practice is concrete. Well, all right. First, you’re full of shit. You could go some places, not concrete. I’m sorry. You can go some place that is not concrete.
Ryan: Unless you’re in prison.
Andy: Unless you’re in prison. OK. But you know what? Ryan and I have both done lots of rolls on concrete.
Ryan: Oh, yeah.
Andy: And neither of us is dead yet. But neither of us learned on concrete.
Ryan: Oh, yeah.
Andy: So we do recommend using – carpet is fine. That’s all the padding you need, grass.
Ryan: Yeah. I don’t know if our listeners happen to use this thing called the bed. Maybe they – I don’t know. They might not but just depends on where you’re from. If you’re in Japan, of course it’s a little different. But my kids front roll on my bed on the mattress all the time, constantly having to read the book. No more monkey jumping on the bed to him. But there are places that you can practice. So just be safe with it.
Ryan: Mats, they really don’t matter. It doesn’t matter what brand that we use or anything like that. Just find something that works for you.
Andy: There’s no magic mat that will make you better at front rolls. Having something that absorbs a little bit of force is great. But it’s actually not 100 percent required. As always, the key to doing a move safely is not so much the surface on which you do it. It’s the preparation and the technique. There are a lot of people in parkour and what not that do these things on concrete and on all kinds of surfaces. It can work. You just have to prepare.
Ryan: Let me just give an example of something. In one of the places that we teach over here, not my gym but a different location, the floor is tiled. It’s tiled floor.
Ryan: We use two yoga mats. We stack two – just put out two yoga mats and the kids practice their rolls in the very beginning. When they get better, we take one yoga mat off and we do it on there until the point where they can actually do them on the tiles. I don’t have them do them a lot on the tiles but what I’m trying to say is there are a lot of options for anything you want to do out there. If you don’t have the money to go out and buy a gymnastics mat or something like that, you could probably find a couple of cheap yoga mats. Stack them on top of each other and there you go.
Andy: On the other side of the coin if you do have the money where you’re considering going out and buying a fancy gymnastics mat, so you can learn to do this, I say spend your money on something better.
Ryan: Yeah. No, I agree.
Andy: Unless you teach people this, really I say save your money.
Andy: You don’t need a fancy gymnastics mat. Seriously, roll out some carpet or [0:26:42] [Indiscernible] something.
Ryan: That goes for back flips as well. I mean if you’re going to learn a back flip, I mean go to a gymnastics center. Work with somebody there. Learn it there and then once you get it, then you can do a back flip anywhere and you’re going to be fine.
Ryan: All right. I think we pretty much covered everything about …
Ryan: … back rolls.
Andy: It’s impossible for anyone to have any further questions about tumbling or back rolls.
Ryan: We covered it. That’s what we do.
Andy: That is what we do.
Ryan: All right. Thanks for listening everybody. If you have any questions, you know where to find us. We love answering questions and Jarlo loves tips. So if you want to ask about any tips, feel free to …
Andy: Want to slip a tip to Jarlo? I’m sure he would be happy to receive.
Ryan: I think we will end it there. Thanks for listening everybody. See you next week.
[End of transcript]
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