Any active or serious athlete will have heard about proprioception and how important it is to injury avoidance and to maintaining a high performance level as an athlete. Proprioception (also known as kinesthia) refers to our innate ability to sense the movement and position of our bodies. It is actually a function of cells (neurons) in our muscles, tendons and joints. These neurons are also referred to as proprioceptors. In this post, we suggest 3 exercises that we can do at home to increase our body’s proprioception.
As we have mentioned above, proprioception plays an important role in helping us avoid injury. In fast moving sports, our bodies can often instantaneously enter positions that are unnatural and present a risk of injury. Proprioception increases our ability to instinctively sense and avoid these positions, thus reducing the risk of injury and helping us to remain in the game. It is one of the benefits of using athletic taping products such as adhesive tape to treat or prevent injury.
You can easily perform the exercises we suggest below at home without the supervision of a personal trainer. However, these exercises will help you to increase your level of proprioception. In doing so, they will increase the amount of time you can spend with your favourite pastimes and reduce the time you are forced to spend on the sidelines recovering from injury.
Exercises To Increase Proprioception
Exercise 1 – The Single Leg Balance
This is one of the simplest exercises that you can do to increase your ankle proprioception:
- Stand on one leg;
- Bend the knee of the non weight bearing leg until it is well off the floor;
- Hold the position for one minute, and then repeat after 20-30 seconds of rest;
- Repear 3-5 times on each leg.
Once you are comfortable with this exercise, you can make it a bit more challenging by standing on a pliable object such as a BOSU ball. This is an inflated rubber ball secured to a stable platform. You can also try the exercise on a foam or gel pad. As you increase the degree of challenge of the exercises, your proprioception will also increase.
Exercise 2 – Crossover Walk
To perform this exercise, stand with your feet far apart, keeping your arms aligned with your shoulders. Face directly ahead, walk to your right by crossing your left leg over your right. Then return to your original position. Repeat this movement 5 times on each leg. Do this exercise slowly, concentrating on the movements.
As with the single leg squat exercises, the crossover walk helps to increase knee proprioception. It is also helpful to individuals looking to recover from knee injuries.
Exercise 3 – Single Leg Squats
This is a great exercise for engaging the proprioceptors situated around the knees and ankles and thereby increasing proprioception:
- Stand with your arms extended in front of you;
- Balance on one leg, keeping your non weight bearing leg extended forward and as high as you find comfortable;
- Squat as much as possible on the one leg while keeping your non weight bearing leg off the floor;
- Raise your body back to its original upright position;
- Repeat the motion five times, and then on the other leg.
You can see this proprioception increasing exercise in the feature image for this post. However, in its purest form, and as shown in that image, this is a very advanced exercise. If you are attempting it for the first time, or if your fitness level is not high, you should modify it by either:
- Using a handrail to help you maintain your balance; or
- Resting the toes of your non weight bearing leg on the floor throughout the exercise.
By engaging the knee proprioceptors, single leg squat exercises increase knee proprioception and reduce the risk of future knee injuries
Other Exercises To Increase Proprioception
There are many other exercises that you can try to improve the level of your body’s proprioception. In general, exercises that test and improve your dynamic balance will pay benefits in the area of proprioception. Whatever you do, however, try to match the level of difficulty of the exercise with your level of fitness. Failing to do so may result in injury, which is exactly the result you want to avoid.