A look at how proprioception affects mechanical kinematic sequencing and awareness.
Close your eyes. Touch your nose.
You were able to do this because you understand where your nose is without having to look. Your own proprioception, or senses of your body in space, allowed you to do so.
Internal nerve impulse receptors in the body’s joints, muscles and skin send information to the brain. Cueing reactions and reflexes. Training this system in diamond sports athletes specifically can be loaded with benefits.
Ball velocities in diamond sports today reach an excess of 100MPH. Being able to react fast and stay under control while having balance is inevitable for a diamond sport athlete.
Proprioceptive Training in Baseball/Softball
Athletes and more commonly youth athletes who are constantly growing struggle to feel their centers of gravity. During this awkward phase athletes are sometimes referred to as a “baby giraffe”, “baby deer” or a player that “hasn’t grown into his/her body”. Most frequently due to a lack of functional strength or a side-effect of fatigue. This effects their kinesthetic awareness, which is based on proprioception.
This is why it should make sense that repeating mechanics is difficult for youth athletes and athletes who lack strength. The athlete understands the task or drill, but has a poor understanding of how their body is moving. Thus the athlete posses inadequate kinesthetic awareness. This is many times described as poor muscle memory.
Incorporating proprioception training, especially for youth athletes, helps facilitate a stable core position. In turn alleviating additional stresses on the body during movements.
Martial Artists, Olympic skiers and soccer players are more commonly known for incorporating proprioceptive training. Doing so in a effort to prepare for compromising situations they may encounter in their respective sport. Assisting their ability to react and reflex out of a potentially injury causing position and/or situation.
However, in baseball and softballs training, these method are too often overlooked or undervalued. Yet, the benefits of implementation into such a hand-eye and skill-required activity are astounding. There is a potential for diamond athletes to see almost instant benefits. Teaching them to disassociate upper half from lower half, or as we commonly refer to it as hip-to-shoulder separation, a key component of both pitching and hitting. And how often when fielding a ball does a player have to move without actually watching where they are going.
The Bodies Sixth Sense
Proprioceptors are the sensors in our joints, muscles, and fascia, that provide information necessary to produce coordinated movement. Kinesthetic awareness goes hand in hand as it is our ability to navigate through space and the awareness of how we move. Which is why combining proprioceptive training and functional exercises with skill and drill work is the ultimate recipe for maximizing kinesthetic awareness!
By incorporating proprioception training athletes are able to feel how their own body moves around their center of gravity. In turn allowing them to sequence through movements more efficiently. Proprioceptive exercises for baseball players specifically, have shown to improve overall balance. Improving kinesthetic awareness which improves the efficiency and repeatability of mechanics. Thus the athlete is able to understand how their body is moving through their sequence of hitting and pitching or throwing. Further maximizing their own outputs and potentials.
Understandable, practice, skill and drill work specific to the sport is the pinnacle proposition for improvement in that particular sport. Especially in sports/activities that contain hand-eye coordination and high levels of skill. If you want to hit a moving object with more consistency, practice hitting a moving object. If you want to improve your free-throw percentage in basketball, then practice shooting more free-throws.
Feel vs Real
Secondary to sport specific practice, skill and drill work is understanding one’s own body. How it feels and how it feels when it moves. This is where functional exercises and proprioceptive training play a huge role in benefiting athletes and their kinesthetic awareness.
Functional exercises strengthen the muscles relative to the activity/movement. While also improving the bodies ability to perform the activity/movement efficiently.
Proprioceptive training intensifies the bodies ability to interpret movements. Which comes in handy since it’s virtually impossible to improve the efficiency or mechanics of a movement that you can’t feel. When paired with the movements, activities and exercises you’re looking to improve, proprioceptive training has shown to be optimal in working out inefficiencies.
At Throw Smart we understand that whether it’s hitting, pitching or fielding, proprioception work is extremely beneficial. Which is why we functionally incorporate it into exercises and drills prescribed in our Throw Smart training app. By training and enhancing our body’s balance and awareness you’re sure to create a deeper sense of your body in space and it’s surroundings.
Simple balance training tools to help athletes further their own proprioception and overall balance are: balance beams and uneven surface trainers (bosu ball,wobble/board). Incorporate proprioceptive training and kinesthetic awareness drills into your next training regiment and reap the instant benefits!
To learn more about “functional training” and how it can be beneficial in performance and health, check out our previous blog article discussing functional movement patterns.