Rolling Article

Many folks are familiar with the Segmental Rolling techniques that Gray Cook teaches.  They can be challenging to integrate as there are barriers such as disinterest/diagreement in floor-based core training, challenge to execute, don’t have room, and they might even look kinda silly for some folks.

The bottom line is that these movements exist in the Functional Movement methodology as sequencing the inner core and can play a role in correcting all movements.

They are best demonstrated on Secrets of Primitive Patterns as well as TPI’s exercise programs.  (Look, no referral link.  Hell, it’s not even a link.)

It is also important to know there is evidence to support the uses of these movements at the EMG level.  I certainly agree that EMG doesn’t always tell the whole story, but it does give us somewhere to start in acknowledging the role of these primitive rolling patterns.
Below are 2 articles, the second of which was the basis of several questions that a reader had some excellent and critical questions.

Rolling NAJSPT

Rolling Article

1. Yes or no? It appears the jury may still be out (further research needed to support) due to the fact the author makes many theoretical claims and indefinites like:

–There are noncommittal terms that researchers typically use by nature of scientific writing. Please consider that research is not fact. It is playing the odds. Certainly quality research does not get published if there is funny business in how the statistics are calculated (Different journals have different standards), but even the best of statistical approaches have standards for error and rejection criterion. These words are typically used to respect those criterion and allow for further discussion and investigation. I would be more worried if a paper was immediately definitive in everything they said even if they were totally convinced.
–There are 3 components to which Evidence-Based Practice can be considered.  Obviously the literature stands out as we have a strong reason to expect a certain result.   But you must also apply the literature to your own skill set.  No matter what the research says about the efficacy of rolling, if you don’t know how to teach the rolling, it doesn’t much matter.  But it doesn’t make you non-EBP.  Of course I would suggest you should learn, but if you don’t have the tools studied in the literature, you are not a bad person.  Lastly, EBP has to make sense.  No matter what it all says and what you know, if you don’t think the core should be trained on the floor, and that is clinically offensive to you, you are following your own evidence.  Your own truth doesn’t have to lie in a stack of 26-page papers as it does for many of the outdated and lapped by personal trainers APTA folks.  EBP is a combination of the literature, your skill set, and your own common sense.

2. I believe the description of “feed-forward mechanism” is simply an other way of describing Engrams? Is it not?  A Motor Engram, as described here,, is simply when the body grooves a motor pattern and stores it for future use, thus making the nueromuscluar system more efficent then next time around.

–Yes, this is exactly what any appropriate “corrective exercise” should be doing.  The feed-forward mechanism that also applies to this topic is the notion that the inner core activates as a conjoined buttress as if when one activates, all 4-5 activate.
–My opinion is that this application of the feed-forward mechanism is most reliable when the diaphragm is the 1st application of the sequence.  There is powerful EMG literature of the multifidus and TvA, but these movements are not correlated to measures of spinal stability.

3. The paper does touch much on mobility implications. If we do not have proper mobility shouldn’t we stay away from rolling. If our hip flexors are tight, for example, would we not compensate with spinal extension while rolling in the same way we would see that aberrant motor pattern with the overhead squat. Correct? So before we implement rolling shouldn’t we determine somehow that the individual has proper mobility.

It is imperative that we never take a mobility problem to a stability fix. Even though there is a visual of contortion and twisting, segmental rolling is a stability movement. The movement will either by dysfunctional or perhaps provocative if it is attempted or somehow executed with significant mobility restrictions. Since this is a qualitative approach, it is hard to incorporate this into the research. It is interesting to review if there were any selection criteria for the sample size for this study, and if not, if the researchers thought it would matter.

It is also important, though, to consider that I don’t think  need maximal mobility to go to rolling. I think it is okay to work on mobility and then lock it in with stability. Next time come out and get some more mobility and then lock it in again with some stability. You see this approach in Gray’s recent video demonstrating the Brettzel 2.0 breathing position followed by upward dog and push-ups.  It is very hard to know when to move forward or not in challenging folks, but always try and find out if you are in the right place

This is one of the major challenges in evaluating research in the human performance professions. There is no if then, how about, or maybe this too. Take the passive stretching to power measurements. That is good research that had fairly solid results, but when the same study was reproduced with a dynamic warmup in between, the results changed.
This doesn’t work, but it works if you do this first.
This gets a B+ result, but if you do this before it, it is an A+ result. But I’ll tell ya what. If you do that first, it becomes an F result.

Research doesn’t tell the whole story all the time, but it also doesn’t lie. Like I said before,EMG research like this study is no better example.

4. Am i correct in summing up this paper by saying that rolling is important because it trains “sequencing”. Do i have an accurate understanding of the general premise behind all this?

Yes, the sequencing that rolling fosters is the “inner core” muscles of TvA, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor are recruited prior to the obliques, RA, QL, etc.

5. Is my understanding accurate that the basic idea is by getting the body to use the “feed-forward mechanism” more we make the neuro-muscular system more efficient by reducing the need for the “feed-back mechanism”.

There is not necessarily a decreased need for the mechanism. The mechanism is still needed. It just works as desired, and there is less need to meet the challenge of fixing it when it was not working as desired.

6. I think this paper gives me, or any reader for that matter, a good scientific description to behind your Core Pendulum idea.

The Core Pendulum Theory, as I have coined it, is an expression of proprioception via mechanoreception. Mechanoreceptors provide afferent input to the brain based on the resting tensions of many structures in the body segments regarding maximal excursions. This form of proprioception is responded to with efferent signals for reflexive stabilization. Segmental rolling is one of the first places to ask for this to occur after mobility has been restored.

7. Is your Reactive Core idea synonyms with what the author describes as the Neuro-muscular Neutral Zone? It appears that way but tell me if I’m mistaken.

I think they are the same thing, yes.

…….i return to the initial point of, if we do not have proper mobility for rolling, should we do it?

More than moderate or painful mobility though the neck and limbs should not be treated with rolling.

  • July 11, 2010

Leave a Reply 3 comments Reply

Charlie – is there any quantiative mobility measures (table assesment wise) that would “clear” you for rolling? Reply

sorry – that should read “quanitative”.

Charlie Reply

I don’t think there is a solid quantity that says, yes, it’s okay to go to rolling. Certainly pain is not permissible for rolling, but when you try rolling, there has to be a level of technical proficiency that gives you a reason to believe you are doing something positive.

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