Backarm Roll

The “backarm” is the side of the arm opposite the forearm (duh!).

When you are learning to roll on the backarm, it is important to first get a feel of where the muscles are. Hold your arm out in front of you so it is parallel to the chest, palm down. Run your hands over the arm while alternatively clenching and unclenching your fist, hand muscles, and arms. You will notice that the backarm is much lumpier than the forearm. This is why you should learn forearm rolls first.

Before beginning your rolling, you should plan out where are the points that the ball should stop or go through. If you tense your biceps, you’ll see that a flat area appears on the inside of the elbow. This is one place you could stop the ball. Another is at the base of the biceps – it is not necessary to tense anything to balance here, but if you tense the back of the upper arm, the muscle helps form a wall just above the elbow which may help while you are learning. Of course, you will have to be feeling the area in order to notice this. They are difficult to see.

Each of those areas will help you during Backarm rolls towards the elbow. The balance point in the middle of the backarm is directly on the opposite of the one for the forearm. Luckily the backarm doesn’t really get bumpy until near the elbow.

If you straighten out the arm, you’ll see that the backarm muscles form a triangle, with the thin end at the elbow. This makes it difficult to roll with a straight arm, so we’ll learn with the arm bent at a right angle – parallel to the chest.

Choose which spot you want to stop the ball in on the elbow, and mentally plot a course from the cradle to there. This is for two reasons: 1) you will know what you’re doing at all times, and 2) you will have accomplished the move already in your head, making the physical act much easier.

Now, roll the ball. Concentrate on the stopping position so you really know what you’re doing as the ball gets there. Make sure that the elbow is in the right position, with the appropriate muscles tensed. Difficult, yes? It gets easier with practice.

It is much easier to do a Backarm Roll if you don’t have to worry about stopping the ball. Place the right arm in position, with the ball on the cradle, then place the left arm in front of it. The right hand should rest on the left bicep, and the left arm should be pressed against the right. Roll the ball right down to the elbow, and then pass the ball forward to the left hand’s cradle. Then bring the right arm under the left (if you bring it over, it will obscure the audience’s view) and bring it against the right’s, so you are in the opposite starting position. This is a very extended Back-Back Pass.

A variation of this is called the “Genie Roll”. Start with the right arm in front with the ball on the cradle, and the left arm behind, hand resting against the upper arm. Roll the ball down to the elbow, and pass back to the left cradle, which then rolls to its elbow and passes forward to the starting position again. It is called the “Genie” Roll because of the position the arms take.

A lot of people simply roll the ball right off the elbow in a straight line onto the opposite arm’s cradle. The receiving hand should be poking out past the starting arm’s elbow. This can be continued on the opposite arm then.

Rolling down the backarm is a bit harder, as you have to figure out how to get into a position where you may have to roll from the elbow to the cradle. This can be done with the exact opposite move as just above. Place a ball in the left cradle; arm parallel to the chest, extended to the right. Place the right arm over it, extended to the left, and toss the ball to the right elbow, and roll to the cradle – if you toss it with a lot of sideways motion, you will not have to balance on the elbow before starting the roll.

A very good way to practice your backarm rolls is to vary how you pass from one arm to the other. You can roll a ball to the elbow and pass to the other arm either inside or outside the bend of the arm, or behind the upper arm. By varying the pass, you are learning both to strengthen your backarm rolls, and also essential moves for recovering mistakes. The more ways you can do a move, the more likely you will be able to recover it smoothly when something goes wrong.

 Of course, the above variations can be reversed as well.


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