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Proprioception and Balance

Most sports and physical activities require you to make a lot of demands from your body and this means you have to optimise your performance in so many aspects in order to avoid overuse and acute injuries. One of the main ways to make yourself better prepared and more capable of avoiding injuries is by strengthening and conditioning.

Balancing muscles and positioning

Unfortunately, more mainstream S & C approaches tend to get more attention than aspects such as proprioception and balance which often get slightly neglected

They can be just as vital for helping you reach your peak performance regardless of whether you're a pro athlete or an amateur sports enthusiast. 

Proprioception exercises and balance training can also help with core strengthening because you need to use your core quite a lot so proprioception and balance exercises are worth considering if your aim is stamina or a more toned core

What is proprioception?

This is your body's ability to sense movement and understand where you are in a given space. Another name for proprioception is kinesthesia which when broken down using the greek origin of the words simply means the ability or action of moving, and perceiving movement.

So it essentially allows your body to move more freely without having to constantly calibrate itself through thought. 

What is balance and what's the difference?

Balance has a lot of definitions but in this guide, we will be talking about your ability to stabilise yourself. Although this might sound a lot like proprioception, it's not quite the same thing. This is because balance is only concerned with making your body more steady through the use of joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons but you would still need your sense of proprioception.

So your proprioception helps you to achieve balance by sending signals and feedback to your brain which then re-adjusts the body appropriately.

Proprioception isn't only useful for balance and stability though, it helps maintain your posture and basically influences the position of your body depending on the environment. Other factors also determine your posture but it plays an important role.

Athletes balancing

Other factors important for balance training and improved proprioception:

  • Core and muscle strength 
  • Motor skills
  • Agility
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Coordination
  • Reaction time

We've already discussed what proprioception and balance are good for but the factors above mean that they are also good for rehabilitation and recovery from injuries or inactivity.

This is because you are basically fine-tuning your body when you do the right exercises for proprioception and balance training; with the right tools.  

Products for Proprioception and Balance training

Balance and stability gym ball

Gym Ball

An exercise ball or gym ball can be pretty useful for balance training but it is more for your proprioception.

Doing exercises with the gym ball will help you to strengthen your core and constant adjusting will also help you strengthen certain muscles that will improve your stability. This, in turn, will help to improve your sense of proprioception 

man balancing on wobble cushion

Wobble cushion

This is a tool designed specifically for improving your proprioception and it's especially good for balance training too.

The cushion forces you to stabilise yourself and every time you do; you will find yourself having to readjust again so you'll be doing a lot of stabilisation and this obviously helps to develop the muscles needed for good balance.

Your sense of proprioception will improve as a result of using it regularly. Your agility and posture can also benefit from wobble cushion exercises

man balancing on wobble board

Wobble Board 

Wobble boards, like wobble cushions, are good for improving your balance, core strength and range of motion.

The exercises that you do on a balance board are good for proprioception as well. All this helps you avoid injuries in sports that involve a lot of jumping and landing

Balance trainer

Bosu Balance Trainer 

As the name suggests, this is the ultimate tool for balance training. It's a stability ball with a flat bottom so it can be used either way around for different exercises. 

The BOSU Balance Trainer PRO challenges the entire body with integrated, multi-joint movement that requires muscle groups to work together. It is used in health, fitness, sports conditioning and rehabilitation facilities.

The BOSU Balance Trainer PRO is known industry-wide for training balance, building strength, fine-tuning skills for sport, enhancing flexibility and delivering amazing cardio workouts

woman balancing on mat

Balance Pad

The balance pad is designed for use in balance, coordination and reaction training as well as posture stability and motor skills exercises and rehab.

This makes it a great tool for improving your overall proprioception and strengthening your body for better stability. 

Balance and core ball

Soft over ball

Just like the gym ball, you can use a soft over ball for your exercises and conditioning as well. It has a very diverse range of uses, you can use it as shown in the image but you can also use it for pilates and yoga exercises. 

Another way this ball comes in handy is for making your wobble cushion and balance board exercises more effective by holding the ball out in front of you while trying to balance yourself.

Sliding disks for core exercises

Sliding Disks 

These are actually primarily used for core strengthening but since this helps improve your proprioception and stability, we've included them in this guide. 

You use them by putting your hands or feet on them while on a flat surface like the floor. The green side is better for carpet and the black side is better for sliding on the floor. 

Not only will you improve your balance and proprioception, but you'll also get a stronger and toned core!

Sources and References 

ScienceDirect - Proprioception information

Balance Training - Jrank

 

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