What is Proprioception?
Proprioception is the way a person’s parts of the body rotate in specific movements, engaging with the space around them. Whether or not we realize it, we are using proprioception constantly in our everyday actions and workout routine. Proprioceptive exercises are often used in the rehabilitation of injured joints. These can be from a variety of sources and can occur as commonly as a sprained ankle.
An easy way to think about proprioception is to consider how to balance your body in the midst of a workout. As mentioned in the case above, a sprained ankle, once healed, could be re-trained through a balancing board. The exercise of balancing on this board would force the ankle to regain strength. The proprioceptive exercise would be more effective in healing this injury than other methods. However, proprioception exercises can have massive benefits, even when used in a regular workout routine, outside of an injury recovery process. Each time we exercise, we are engaging in proprioception without realizing it.
Proprioception exercises are beneficial in this first simple way: they make us aware of how we engage our bodies within the space around us. No matter what exercise we choose to engage in, whether yoga or traditional bodybuilding, we are utilizing proprioception. By introducing proprioception into our exercise routine, we increase our physical performance and the control we have over each of our micro and macro movements.
Stability training is a common form of proprioceptive training. Most athletes have engaged in this, as it helps to stabilize the core. Additionally, this type of proprioceptive training helps any movements with one or both arms and/or legs. For example, when using proprioceptive exercises before a weightlifting session, the athlete will be more aware of their body in the space. They will be able to perform each rep or movement with a perfected form. This will also be more energetically economical: less or no unnecessary movements, twists, turns or potential injuries will come out of the session with proprioception.
It is important to first practice proprioception exercises without any equipment. To first perfect a squat on solid ground is critical to then move on to more complex exercises. Using a BOSU Balance Trainer board, many useful proprioceptive exercises can be performed. This board forces the user to constantly regain balance, making it difficult for them to stand straight. The use of this board can make simple squats more challenging and train our physiology for increased balance and movement control. Lunge exercises can also be an effective proprioceptive challenge. Throwing a ball while on the machine also helps to have an even more dynamic movement, engaging the entire body, including core and legs into one complex movement. Proprioception training is an excellent addition to a workout routine. Not only does it help to heal injuries, but the consciousness of how one’s body activates the space around them is critical to avoid future injuries. No matter what level or type of physical training we choose to engage in, proprioception is paramount to a healthier and happier workout and body.