How to do Forward Rolls

How to do a forward roll

Image courtesy of Chris Totsky, Flickr

How to Do Forward Rolls

The forward roll is a fundamental gymnastic skill and is the first skill that teaches forward rotation. Knowing how to do forward rolls correctly will lead to being able to perform handstand forward rolls, dive rolls and ultimately to somersaults.

As with anything acrobatic in nature, we recommend that you only practice under the guidance or supervision of a trained professional as although a forward roll may be a “simple” skill it can still be hazardous, especially if performed incorrectly.

However, kids will be kids (and parents will be parents) and we know that kids will inevitably practice at home, sometimes without supervision – or at their parents encouragement (and occasionally insistence) – and in a less than ideal environment. So what can you do to prevent them from hurting themselves? The best solution would be to take them to a circus or gymnastic class where they can learn how to do forward rolls, with a trained coach, in a safe environment. But if they insist on practising at home, here are some ways that you can minimize the risk.

how to do a forward roll

Interlocking mats

First, clear the area and pad the floor. Use yoga mats, blankets, cushions or anything else soft. You can pick up interlocking play mats for a few pounds on online or at places like the Early Learning Centre or at some larger supermarkets. Landing with a thump on a hard floor hurts. Do whatever you can to prevent it.

If your child is young or a beginner, it is a good idea to have them forward roll down a slope. The incline encourages the forward roll and helps them get their feet over their head by raising the feet in relation to their hands as they begin their forward roll. It also helps the finishing position as it is easier to stand up.

How to do Forward Rolls Using Good Technique

The video below shows how to do forward rolls with good technique.

  1. Start standing up straight, arms up by your ears, feet together.
  2. Squat down, reaching your arms forward and placing your hands on the floor, shoulder width apart and slightly ahead of you. You shouldn’t jump onto your hands.
  3. Tuck the head in and round the back. This is critical in ensuring the safety of the head and neck. The head shouldn’t touch the floor. At best, putting your head on the floor will give you a headache. Tucking the head in and rounding the back gives a smooth forward roll. If you keep a flat back you’ll bounce and thump along the floor like rolling dice. Note for Parents: you can carefully help guide the head into a good position by placing your hand on the back of their neck but do not push or force the head as you can hurt the neck.
  4. Push on your feet, sending your hips over your head and let yourself roll along the floor in a tucked position.
  5. Reach forward as you come out of the roll, keeping tucked with your feet and knees together to allow the momentum of your roll to bring you onto your feet. Stand up with your arms stretched up to your ears in your starting position.

Although forward rolls are one of first moves that students are taught, they are by no means simple. There’s a lot to think about – especially for a beginner – and a lot that can (and does) go wrong. In our youth circus classes we use lots of exercises and drills to teach each part of the forward roll. Breaking down the skill into its component parts and then piecing them together makes it much easier for students to learn.

Again, we don’t recommend that you practice forward rolls at home but if you’re going to anyway, please be safe.

Find out more about our youth circus classes.