All of us need to train in a proprioceptively enriched environment. What does that mean? By definition, proprioception is a vital source of information that the nervous system utilizes to gather information about the environment to produce the most efficient movement. The body feeds information to the central nervous system about everything having to do with movement and position. Based on this information, the central nervous system provides the body with commands so that a specific movement task can be accomplished.
The more proprioception your training provides, the more the body will learn how to interpret it and use it. The greater your ability to use proprioceptive information, the greater your ability will be to control a new complex and diverse environment. The greater control you have over new and diverse environments, the better you can perform and the less chance you have of incurring an injury.
How does this translate in the gym? Machine training, with all its seats, back rests, and fixed paths of motion provide little to no proprioception. Free weights, cables, medicine balls, and resistance bands all provide user-defined motion. All of these apparatuses can also be utilized while standing in the upright position, which then utilizes ground reaction forces and gravity (forms of proprioception). These same apparatuses can be utilized while standing on one leg, which increases core and balance demands that further increase proprioceptive demand.
Research has demonstrated that proprioception is altered following an injury. This means the body has more difficulty communicating with itself to provide the correct postures and movements during activity. For this reason it becomes even more important for people to engage in functional core and balance training to enhance one’s proprioceptive capabilities, increasing postural control and decreasing tissue overload.
Remember, low back pain and a twisted ankle constitute an injury that can alter proprioception, and these are incredibly common among our population.