The Tale Of 2 Rolls

So after the last several months, where I obviously haven’t been writing very much, there is a theme of questions in regards to some of the things many of us are doing in terms of Developmental Kinesiology.  It’s a big catch phrase.  It’s a huge part of what I do.  I would echo Lewit’s suggestion and one that Clare Frank threw at me almost 5 years ago, that Developmental Kinesiology explains why everything we do works.  I think this is true. But whether it’s grounded in FMS, DNS, the 4×4 Matrix, breathing, rolling, crawling, etc., etc., all of these pieces track back to the same principles.  But the applications particularly of FMS and DNS are very, very different.  There is a clear line between a neuromuscular approach that uses lower or more primitive patterns in the training module, and the neurodevelopmental approach which really honors a completely different “Book” or intent of what is expected from using different joint positions and choices.  Rolling is rolling in name only in comparing its application in FMS and DNS.

What Book do you use? And do you know what's on Page 47 of this Book?

And do you know what’s on Page 47 of this Book?

So we’ll start will a question regarding the segmental rolling patterns that are often associated with the Functional Movement System corrections and breakouts…………

In regards to the (segmental) rolling patterns, you…..have….suggested doing double on the stiff side for mobility.  Do you suggest same or similar with rolling patterns when one side is stronger or better than the other?

So from an FMS standpoint, you shouldn’t be using the Segmental Rolling drills or any stability drill if there is a mobility issue.  If something is “stiff,” especially in a very low pattern where lots of joints are eliminated, I think a different drill is probably a better answer.  If mobility in all areas is cleared, and a Segmental Rolling pattern is difficult or hard to do, then you stick with it with cuing, some RNTs like using a band on the axis side, propping up one side, or trying the Starfish drills.

You can qualify “cleared mobility” as symmetrical 2s on ASLR and SM of the FMS among other options.  When you have mobility and challenge, this is when a more challenging side can be double or triple timed as long as the rolling gets better, via a smoother movement.  And then once it’s good, it’s good.  You’re done.  Get out and move on.

Please know that these Segmental Rolling patterns also don’t have a strength component.  I think this was an excellent and fair question above, but the choices of stiffer and stronger probably aren’t the best words to describe what these drills are angling towards. In fact, once these particularly rolling patterns are competent, there is no progression to make them more challenging in an effort to acquire fitness.  I know what this fellow meant when one pattern was stronger than the other, but ultimately, strength adaptations are not gained with this type of rolling.

Bears don't just crawl.  They roll too.

Bear Rolling = Ipsilateral


Now to go down the rabbit hole, rolling by definition is an ipsilateral pattern.  Strength can be gained in other ipsilateral patterns, just not the Segmental Rolling patterns. Ipsilateral means the body is supported on the same side upper and lower extremity, and the opposite side upper and lower are moving or reaching.  This should be easy to visualize in rolling.  But rolling can be executed in many different ways as well.  Spinal mobility may be desired.  Sometimes it is coached against  like in FMS Hard Rolling or DNS Barrel Rolling.

If we use the 4×4 Matrix, we can start to see where ipsilateral patterns can be pushed towards more vertical options, and again, some will be better used for competency, others for capacity…………………..

1 position = Sidelying (both), Rolling (competency), Rolling Throws (capacity), Supine Chips and Lifts (both), same side arm/leg motion in 90/9o or Dead Bug (competency)

No excuse to not train upper body during lower body surgery

No excuse to not train upper body during lower body surgery

2 position = Grappling or Martial Arts positions (capacity, skill), Side Plank variations (both), 3 position for Rotary Stability (competency)

It is unknown if Unicorns locomote ipsilaterally.

It is unknown if Unicorns locomote ipsilaterally.


3 position = Half Kneeling Pressing (both), Club Swinging with arm same side as up knee (both), Kneeling position of Turkish Getup (both)


It's ipsilateral from here to the top.  Same side support.

It’s ipsilateral from here to the top. Same side support.


4 position = 1-arm Pressing out of sagittal split stance with arm same side us front leg (both), Chops and Lifts in all standing options (both), Rotary Med Ball Throws (capacity), Implement Swinging in golf, baseball, lacrosse (skill), Throwing (capacity)

In this snapshot.... Front side is Reaching. Back side is Support.

In this snapshot….
Front side is Reaching.
Back side is Support.
The DNS inside jokes are endless.


Some of the options above are best to retrain competency of some pattern.  Others are only for developing strength, power, and endurance.  Some may be both like Chops and Lifts. So back to the original question……………

1) Segmental Rolling is a breakout in the SFMA.  It will fail if used as a regression if you have Tissue Extensibility Dysfunction or Joint Dysfunction in other Breakouts of MSF, MSE, MSR.
2) Segmental Rolling is a viable regression in most cases when Rotary Stability is the weak link in a well scored FMS or SFMA.  It can be used in other patterns as well as a regression or lateralization.
3) Stiffness is maybe better stated as challenging.  Stiffness may not always be from soft tissue or joints.
4) Strength is not a part of Segmental Rolling.  Sequencing is the better word.
5) There are other ipsilateral/rolling patterns in higher positions that are ideal options to develop strength or other fitness qualities.

So everything that I have suggested appears to have a very Functional Movement System lens, and this is accurate. And as we know, 1/4 of the foundations of that system is the Neurodevelopmental Perspective. However, the Neurodevelopmental Perspective is quite different from the more standardized approach of using Developmental Kinesiology as the primary foundation of training and rehab.  I use many things that I have learned from DNS that would qualify as Developmental Kinesiology underneath a different systematic approach.  Unfortunately many are confused and insulted at the assumptions that you have to use Gray Cook’s exercises when you use the FMS or SFMA as your evaluation umbrella.  This is unfortunate and incorrect; in fact, you can use anything like McKenzie Method or Windsor Pilates or DNS to train. The FMS or SFMA is just the comparable sign.  I’m actually quite partial in using Method A to beat Examination B.  Beat my test with your stuff, and it’s a powerful victory.  Using your stuff to beat your own tests I’m not sure has quite the integrity.  It doesn’t mean you don’t use the tests and exams that come with the commercial model you prefer to decide which specific technique to use.  However, I would suggest to simply bounce final success, the final report card, against some other model’s evaluation where there is value or evidence.  I’d refer you this Systems vs. Methods article I wrote a little while ago.  For the purposes of this article, SFMA or FMS is the System.  Rolling may be the Method.

So I use DNS and Developmental Kinesiology to beat the FMS and SFMA.   So if I were to use Rolling or Reflexive Turning as per what I have learned from DNS instruction, it would be wildly different from what we have learned as “Rolling” from FMS instruction.

So now I’d like to further discuss these difference as I expand on a recent dialogue that Art Horne, Neil Rampe, and I were having on e-mail.
“………..can [you] point me to, or perhaps explain why test rolling the SFMA way if baby doesn’t roll that way vs an ipsilateral roll in DNS?” “Is the SFMA roll simply easier for the general public and thus perhaps a better screening tool with appropriate kick outs to specific interventions?”

1) The FMSystem rolls a baby would never do unless it was holokinetic, meaning non-purposeful or randomly occurring. The FMSystem uses the neurodevelopmental perspective as one of its tenets in which you can bounce decisions and defenses off of. The most key generalization is using the 4×4 matrix where the first number describes the position in terms of unloaded, quadruped, kneeling, and standing. So of course the FMS rolling pattern is ipsilateral, and there are many DNS techniques that can improve the FMS rolling’s execution, but this is 1) because the DNS principles are really just PNF or just human neurology, and 2) applying the vectors’ support or stimulation can really work with any pattern.  Vojta allegedly just made up the original Reflex Locomotion patterns, and Kolar added more positions in Reflex Locomotion According to Kolar.  So quite frankly, the Segmental Rolling patterns that we know from FMS are also accessed through the stuff Kaiser Permanente teaches, and they are pretty much pictured exactly the same in Adler’s PNF In Practice, which is one of the best practical teaching media of Kabot, Knott, and Voss’ work.

Yo, he ain't gettin' over with that lousy neck.

Holokinetic never gets through spellcheck.

2) FMSystem doesn’t say because baby moves this way, we should move this way.  It is more of an extrapolation of baby’s movement where DNS IS the movement and specific joint positions. DNS, as I’ve interpreted via my learnings, is closer to if Baby doesn’t do it, you shouldn’t do it.  Furthermore, somethings to keep in mind are that DNS is traditionally practiced by 1) folks that only work with initially-injured individuals, and 2) S&C folks that are terribly under-educated in restoring and improving fitness qualities of strength, endurance, and power.  The DNS message that I detest is that because they typically see folks handling big loads as being injured, they say don’t handle big loads.  You just have to move well, and with good centration, you’ll be “powerful.”  This is a sack of crap right there.
Many of the elite athletes that have trained out of Prague trained with big loads, got hurt, and then carried on their greatness with the brilliant movement-only approach of Developmental Kinesiology.  Except they leave out the part that these athletes entered this movement or rehab phase of training with exceedingly high levels of fitness, perhaps levels that even if dwindled when ignored were still very appropriate for World-level competitions.  This is just a longer scaled example of the Block Method – get overwhelmingly good at one thing, then work on something else while you worsen a little bit on the previous quality. Lesson = when we look at excellent results from a movement-based approach that speaks out against traditional ass-kicking resistance training, let’s look at the big picture and see what these folks did before they got to DNS.  That doesn’t cheapen the quality of DNS.  I still think it’s the most powerful tool I have.  I am just very disappointed by teaching fitness folks that they can continue to basically just work on the car’s alignment without passive resets and ignore putting in more horse power or get better gas mileage.

There is more Centration in Columbus, Ohio than anywhere not named Prague.

There is more Centration in Columbus, Ohio than anywhere not named Prague.


3) Both DNS and FMS value the joint by joint, except the active exercise approach of DNS uses rolling in terms of Reflexive Turning more as a set up of a series of positions for treatment directly of the brain. You may never actually roll or move.  So you may use a mobility or stability issue and treat/train it with Reflexive Turning.  You would not use segmental rolling if you had a mobility limitation as we spoke of before.  DNS I believe still values fixed points a la the Joint by Joint, but the “book” provides just a very different construct on how to train movement. Many years ago, Bill Hartman asked me, “Why should I do these exercises?  I could just use a band and get them to centrate much easier and progress to training.” This is a notion that I agree with which is why I rarely use the active exercise component of DNS, but I gave this answer.  The assumption, and it’s an assumption that I think has a lot of teeth to it, is if I train motor control in THAT pattern, the one THEY SAY TO DO, I am accessing a very different level of CNS function based on this part of my body in this exact position uptaking tactile input in this specific direction.  I think there’s money in that.  And it’s straight magic when it works. The role of DNS active exercise in capacity training is to maintain our 2s in the FMS by counteracting less than efficient choices in specific skills of our sports or preparedness.  It’s a recovery piece because it does appear to have a more direct link to the CNS where preparedness and perceptions of threat “live.”

Developmental Kinesiology and Joint Centration just makes stuff FREE.

Developmental Kinesiology and Joint Centration just makes stuff FREE.

4) I see nothing “easy” about segmental rolling, and I don’t think anything about the FMSystem is specifically geared to a general public palate. It is certainly more user friendly in terms of its layers, but I don’t think segmental rolling is easy for people. Should you value the rolling as a screen unto itself, it does have the built-in value to look deeper for causations as to why this terminal movement is not successful.

Is it easy, Joe?

Is it easy, Joe?

  • March 23, 2013

Leave a Reply 7 comments

Mike Scott Reply

Charlie great read. Having just taken DNS A and getting a first hand look at what DNS is truly about, I had one immediate thought when it came to joint centration. What about the TGU? In oblique sit and low oblique sit we were taught that the head and neck must remain centrated. However with the get up, the head is rotated to look up at the bell when posted on the elbow and hand. Do you feel that the scap and shoulder centration are possibly compromised by keeping your eyes on the bell? What are your thoughts on this?


Charlie Reply

Upper cervical rotation wouldn’t be a loss of centration in my understanding. It is lower cervical that can stay packed and still turn to glare angrily at the bell.

Charlie Reply

I also do not think we should exclude positions, exercises, sports that we know are useful just because they are not beholden to what DNS folks say.

Mike Scott Reply

Thanks for the quick response Charlie! Good luck with t=r2

Ryan Van Matre Reply

Charlie, a perceptive commentary. I agree with your assessment. I would add that clinical/environmental logistics also factor into exercise utility. Many of the DNS exercises stem from a hospital setting where in-patients often receive tx twice a day for two weeks. Very different than many rehab environments here in the States. Once an acceptable level of stability is reached, perfecting bw bear walking or baby get-up doesn’t tell me as much as bear walking while dragging double 88 KB’s or a getup with 80# GI bag.

It was very nice to meet you.

Charlie Reply

So there are now 3 humans on Earth that can do Reflex Locomotion and drag double bulldogs in bear crawl!!!

Well done, Dr. Van Matre. Well done, Sir.
You have joined Dr. Mike Davis and I. Reply

Great article Charlie. I seem to remember learning to roll at SFMA at AP and we both looked like a couple turtles stuck on our backs! No mobility dysfunction that I recall, just no ability to motor plan it

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