Proprioceptive (Spacial awareness) training

It’s likely that you will never had heard of the proprioceptive system or be aware of what propriocetive senors within your body do.

Yet having good proprioceptive awareness can elevate your training to the next level and truly enable you to stand out from the rest as someone who has truly mastered their own body in terms of movement. It makes sense that that by having control of your own body it’s going to then help you have better control when you start to pick things up and move them around….like weights.

So what is proprioception?

Proprioceptors reside within our body inside muscle spindles, ligaments and joints. It’s these sensors that give us an awareness of where our body is relative to the space around us. This spacial awareness is something we take for granted. During our early years of development we crawl, roll and creep around and it’s this exploratory movement that develops our proprioceptive system and ignites these sensory neurons which gradually become more and more efficient. It’s at that point we are sent to school for the next 12 years and then into adult life and our propriceptors are left to dwindle.

We all know someone who is really clumsy and often trips and falls. These people are likely to be inactive and sedentary individuals who get little movement into their lives. There sensory proprioceptive receptors are untrained and they have a reduced spacial awareness. When these people come into the gym I can identify them straight away. They struggle with movement patterns when lifting weights, most types of body weight movements and general coordination. However with the correct type of training we can all improve our proprioceptive system and enjoy the benefits in our everyday lives.

Proprioception is something I have always been unconsciously aware of and that comes from training in MMA from a young age. The sport of Juijitsu or grappling requires an incredible amount of spacial awareness as you engage and grapple with another person. The basic premise is to negotiate your limbs into a more dominant position than your opponents in order to achieve a submission. Part of my MMA training was to grapple with eyes closed and that further enhanced my proprioceptive awareness and from my years of training this way it has really helped me adapt and take my training into to new realms.

It wasn’t until I studied physiology that I found out what proprioception actually is and having looked into it more and more I began to realise that all the unusual movements I have been training for so many years as part of MMA actually lend themselves to an enhanced proprioceptive system.

The majority of well known fitness options out there are relatively limited in terms of the movements that are required. Whilst there are a ton of benefits to weight training for example, it is predominantly done within 2 planes of motion and with restrictive movement patterns. Adduct/abduct, flex/extend all take place within the sagittal and frontal planes of motion and fewer exercises are done within the transverse or rotational plane. It’s amazing how many gym goers I come across who have fantastic strength within limited movements but really struggle when it comes to moving their own body weight around. I mean how often in our everyday lives do we actually perform a bicep curl type movement pattern! On the flip side, how often are we required to stand up, turn around, side step out of the way etc. Everyday movement in far more functional yet few of us train to become more functional and over the years our bodies become less and less mobile.

In my experience, once you have mastered your own body and can shift it within all planes of motion and movement patterns with ease all other training just becomes easier.

You know those annoying people who just seem to be good at everything….they all have great proprioceptive awareness.

When I was around 15 I started to hit the gym a lot. I was a skinny kid and wanted some muscle mass. I did all the usual stuff, bench press, bicep curls, shoulder press, etc etc and gained some strength. I felt great. Much stronger and could feel the muscle mass I had developed. Not long after I discovered MMA and it was then I found my true calling. It wasn’t so much the actual fighting I loved as much as it was the strength and conditioning that went with it. Some of the most bizarre exercises and movements I had ever come across and to this day rarely see them being utilised within the fitness industry. Although some of it has become more popular. When you clinch up with another person with an objective to overpower them you are forced to recruit every single muscle in your body to constantly adapt to the new pressure that’s being applied at the most acute angles. This type of resistance will develop and bring about a new type of strength. If you’ve ever clinched up with a trained wrestler or Juijitsu practitioner you’ll know exactly what I mean.

After starting to train this way I felt like my fitness totally transcended everyone else around me. It was like having a secret code that no one else knew about. I became acutely aware of everything around me and started to think intricately about movement. It’s something I am extremely passionate about to this day. Anyone who knows or who has trained with me will have seem me doing weird and wonderful movements on the gym or studio floor and I always incorporate these types of movement into my own client sessions.

Start to think about your everyday movement a little more and implement movements into your fitness that will help develop your proprioceptive awareness. Quadrupedal movements (Crawling based movements) are a great place to start!

Let me know if you have any q’s.