What is a Safety Roll?

Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle


If you’ve ever watched an action- packed chase scene on television where the characters leap from building to building or from the roof to the ground then you know what this fall looks like. I certainly don’t suggest doing any of the above (unless you’re a stunt double). However, learning the proper technique when leaping or falling from a great height is a critical skill for ALL gymnasts.

People ask me all the time about the most important lessons gymnastics taught me.

There are countless lessons I learned over my 20 plus years as an athlete and many will eventually be covered in the “Shannon’s Corner” section of my website. However, one lesson does stand out as I sit and watch my 5 year old son run, jump and flip around the gym.

I learned how to FALL!

In fact, I would eventually be considered one of the most graceful “fallers” in the sport. Practice make perfect, right? If you’re a gymnast, you will fall…..period. Get used to it, embrace it, and learn how to do it correctly.

When bracing for a landing it’s important to understand how your body will react to the impact. Falls are common place in the gymnastics environment, especially as you learn new skills. It’s best to be prepared to fall by understanding and practicing safety rolls. Safety rolls allow you to absorb the impact of a fall over a greater area of your body.

You should never try to stop your fall or brace yourself by sticking your arm out. I learned this the hard way when I reached out my hands during a wayward uneven bar dismount, dislocating and breaking my left elbow just 10 weeks prior to the 1992 Olympic Trials. After that I never once tried to break falls with my hands.

Rather, if you are off balance, pull your arms in and roll in the direction your body is traveling – this is a safety roll. To perform a safety roll properly, make a fist, pull your arms in towards your body and cross your chest, and roll in a tucked position.

Try doing a safety roll like this one:


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