As a trainer who has personally worked out in an array of gyms, it’s not all that common to get funny looks when I pull out the SwissBall, or BOSU ball for myself or a client. I’ve had lengthy discussions with trainers who personally feel that their use is simply a waste of time for themselves or their clients and that those tools belong in a Physical Therapy clinic or Pilates Studio. Truth is, proprioceptive training is one of the most underrated and overlooked aspects of ones health and it applies to all client populations. But what does “proprioception” mean? Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to perceive position, direction and rate of motion in any given spatial plane. Here’s an example, if your clap your hands together with your eyes open its not big feat that you can make contract as your eyes are able to guide your movements. But if you close your eyes you find that it’s really not any harder to clap, this is an example of your proprioceptive faculties at work. Proprioceptors are the given name for the mechanically receptive neurons that exist within our joints, tendons and muscles. We seldom give these a second thought, but our ability to perform tasks such as standing on one foot to kick a soccer ball or giving someone a high five without accidentally smacking them in the face is dependent on them. Without functioning proprioceptive ability these feats would pose quite the challenge. Most of the time we don’t become aware of proprioception until it becomes impaired, either by disease, injury or age. Fortunately it can be improved by regularly challenging the system and truthfully there is little reason that you shouldn’t be incorporating proprioceptive training into your routine. If your a bodybuilder it will improve your ability to isolate specific muscle groups, if you are a powerlifter it will increase your strength potential and improve your technique, if you are a football player it will improve your agility, baseball pitcher? It’ll improve your accuracy. If you are getting older and find that your balance isn’t what it used to be, then you need to incorporate proprioceptive training ASAP.
If you are recovering from an injury, there is a good case for making proprioceptive training up to 70% of your training volume. Injury greatly impairs your level of proprioception and without intentional rehab it is unlikely that your will ever fully recover to prior performance levels, especially as you age. The Good News is that by following a sound rehab protocol you have the potential to enjoy even greater levels of performance than before.
Leave a comment if you would be interested in learning some specific movements to help your proprioception and balance.