After spending some time hanging out with my little niece and nephew, who are both under 1 year old and going through the developmental phases of learning how to become upwardly mobile so they can run around like little terrors, it’s pretty cool to see how our movement patterns evolve as we develop and what it looks like to see a pure movement that has no interference from experience, emotions, or possible consequences.
What’s even more interesting is to see how we somehow evolve away from those basic patterns that are ingrained in us from the start. I mean, a toddler tends to have a much more bullet-proof squat pattern than most elite athletes in the developed world, but compare their squat to someone who lives in, for example, a developing section of Asia, and they’re almost indistinguishable.
Probably one of my favourite developmental exercises to break out on people is very simple rolling patterns. This is the first step in developed motor skills that allows an infant to roll from their stomach to back and vice versa, and in some cases (like my niece) becomes their preferred method of transportation to get from their blanket to somewhere more interesting, like the dog’s bed.
The interesting thing about this movement is how much it relies on mobility of the thoracic spine and relaxed breathing patterns, two things that are in greatly limited quantities in the vast majority of cubicle jockeys out there. People tend to cheat by using their feet to push up and roll the hips so the upper body doesn’t have to do it, go into spinal flexion to shorten lever lengths, squeeze their breath to form some sort of stability, all manner of things. It’s also a fully supported manner of rotational stability and acts as a good baseline of developmental ability on which to gauge readiness for more advanced positions, like half kneeling, full kneeling, or one-foot stance.
The key to doing this movement properly is that you should look like the equivalent of a plate of spaghetti sliding off the plate and onto the floor. Essentially, smooth and fluid, not herky jerky. Like water.
Aside from being a great upper body mobility exercise, it also is a fantastic core exercise that focuses on bracing without creating super-stiffness, sort of a reactionary stiffness if you will.
It’s shown to be great for my clients who have non-diagnosed low back pain that doesn’t limit their ability to function, as it’s a supported movement with the spine moving through a small range of motion, and works on the reactive timing of the muscles without overloading them, or taking them through a potentially risky eccentric cycle. Plus, it really let’s them see how much their back muscles need to be used and how they need to be used specifically to complete the movement, and when they stand up they almost feel taller. I have one client who performs this every day at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day, and has almost completely reduced his back pain to zero. Now that’s just one person, but it shows what a simple movement like this is capable of achieving.
For those of you who give this a shot and find there’s absolutely no problem with it, remember that it’s more of a corrective exercise for people who have lost their ability to rotate or roll in a smooth and efficient manner, and are finding compensation patterns to make up for it. If you don’t have an issue, you won’t have any issue doing the movement. It’s like taking a medication for a specific ailment that you don’t have.
That being said, if you do have a lot of issues with this movement, it would be best to stick with it and work on getting it bang-on perfect before moving on to more advanced rotational movements like chops, lifts, spins, or anything crazy like that.
Movements like this makes me want to learn more about Developmental Neuromuscular Stabilization, or DNS techniques, and it absolutely kills me that there are only a few courses in North America each year, and they seem to always conflict with other important events that take precedent. That being said, if you have the chance, you should totally check them out by clicking HERE.