This article discusses what proprioception is, why proprioceptive skills are important and how to target them through training.
If you work out, the last thing you need to deal with is an injury. Using good form during resistance training and doing a balanced workout that targets all the major muscle groups helps lower your risk for injury by improving muscle strength.
So does having good proprioceptive skills.
Proprioceptive skills are especially important if you play sports. All sports require that you have proprioceptive skills to help to quickly adjust your movements based on what’s going on around you.
What is Proprioception
Proprioception tells your body where it is in space. Because you have proprioceptive capabilities, your body can detect and respond to changes in body position by making adjustments that allow you to remain stable.
For example, if you stumble over something while you’re walking or running, good proprioceptive skills help you recover quickly to avoid injury.
Proprioception also helps you navigate in the dark. You depend on this capability when you don’t have visual input to tell you where you are and what’s around you.
Without good proprioceptive skills, you couldn’t find your way to the bathroom when the lights are out.
Proprioceptive skills also make it possible to do things like swing a golf club or baseball bat without looking at your hands.
Proprioception works in conjunction with your vestibular and visual system to help keep you balanced.
Pretty good system, huh?
How Do Proprioceptive Skills Are Vital
Why is proprioception so important? Good proprioceptive skills reduce your risk of injury when you play sports, exercise and when you do daily activities.
Having these skills enables you to react quickly to changes in your environment so you can avoid injury. Improving your power of proprioception can even improve your athletic performance. When your muscles are able to react quickly, you can produce more power or force per unit time. Plus, developing these skills improves coordination.
If you ever injured a joint such as an ankle, the mechanoreceptors responsible for proprioception may have been damaged since mechanoreceptors are located on joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments that attach to the ankle.
This damage increases your risk for future injury since proprioception is impaired. An important part of rehabilitating an injury is restoring proprioception the injured part.
Sharpening proprioceptive skills is especially important as you age. Sharp proprioceptive skills are especially important as you age.
Unfortunately, proprioception decreases with age. This decline leads to problems with coordination and balance and is a major contributor to falls and injuries.
It can also lead to changes in joint biomechanics and a greater risk for the degenerative joint disease.
The good news is research suggests you can improve your proprioceptive skills with training.
Assessing Your Proprioceptive Skills
First, how good is your sense of proprioception? While standing on the floor, place one foot in front of the other, heel to toe, with your feet touch another.
Raise your arms above your sides. Hold this position as long as you can. You should be able to do it for 30 seconds or more. Now try it with your eyes closed. It should be quite a bit harder because you don’t have visual input to help you out.
Work at it until you can hold this position with your eyes closed for 30seconds or more.
Improving Proprioceptive Skills using Unstable Surfaces and Dynamic Balance Exercises
Once you’re comfortable doing static proprioceptive exercises, like the one above, on the floor, try them on an unstable surface.
One way to improve your proprioceptive skills is to do exercises you normally do on a flat surface on an unstable one like the curved surface of a BOSU ball.
Challenge yourself by doing squats, bent-over rows, calf raises, biceps curls and other exercises while standing on a BOSU ball.
Wobble boards and foam rollers are also effective tools for proprioceptive training because they create an unstable surface.
Dynamic balance exercises are also effective for improving proprioceptive skills. These exercises are especially important if you play sports since they mimic the movements you do during some types of sports.
Dynamic balance exercises help develop better balance while you’re actively moving. Examples are exercises that involve lateral movements or running backward. Plyometric exercises like lateral jumps on to one leg also help enhance proprioception.
Research shows the exercise, in general, reduces the loss of proprioception due to aging but adding static and dynamic balance exercises to your routine will have greater benefits.
The Bottom Line?
It’s easy to get so tied up with endurance and resistance training that you don’t work on sharpening your proprioceptive skills, the very thing that protects you against injury.
Doing so will help you perform better in sports and, lower your risk for injury when you play sports and carry out your daily activities.
Proprioception declines with aging, but doing targeted exercises can help you keep your proprioceptive abilities sharp.
Having good proprioceptive skills helps you perform better in sports and reduces your risk of injury.
Idea Fitness. “How to Improve Proprioception”
The Sports Injury Doctor. “Proprioceptive Training and Injury Prevention”
Eur. Rev. Aging Ph. Act (2007) 4: 71-76.
Am J Phus Med Rehabil. 2002 Apr; 81(4):241-6.