|Increasingly today the term proprioception is used in relationship to sports performance. What exactly is it? Put simply, it is the ability to ’feel’, to communicate where a body part is without having to actually look at it.
Increasingly today the term proprioception is used in relationship to sports performance. What exactly is it?
Put simply, it is the ability to ’feel’, to communicate where a body part is without having to actually look at it. Like scratching your nose without poking out your eye or knowing where to place your feet on uneven terrain while running. Much less instinct, more ‘sense’. Along with kinaesthesia, proprioception basically determines how you move and feel your way around your world from the simplest action to a multi-layered one such as a golf swing.
The frustrating thing is that some people certainly seem to have better proprioception than others.
Recently, simple tests conducted on PGA pros have shown they have considerably greater proprioception skills than the average player. For example, in the basic eyes closed test below in Photo A the Pros averaged 28 seconds before losing their balance, while in our experience many golfers have difficulty in sustaining this position for more than 5 seconds.
So why is it important for golfers? A golf movement requires great awareness and sequencing, it is not easy for many people. Your body needs to be able to respond quickly to changing body positions and varying forces throughout the action. To compound this difficulty, traditional golf teaching has failed many players because it continually focuses on faults and fixes, while not realising that students in fact have great differences in their ‘skill levels’ or indeed even how comfortable or aware they are in their bodies. Focusing on player’s ‘problems’ while not improving their general balance, stability and proprioception is indeed limited. The increased popularity of Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi and similar other practices have shown that people feel the need to be much more connected with their bodies and the trend towards ‘whole’ teaching continues to gather pace.
The good news for golfers is that these skills can be developed at any age, although certainly evidence suggests the earlier you start the better.
So what do I do?
Through using awareness and cognitive training exercises the central nervous system and sensory receptors can be trained to improve skills over time. In our experience, great improvement comes not only from deep repetition of these exercises but by using a variety of changing skills in a short period of time. This is why this kind of training can be so much fun and extremely interesting for both golfers and teachers.
What to use?
There is such a variety of equipment and many combinations of training that can be utilised. This can include BOSUTM, Balance Boards, Swiss Balls, Vibrational Training, TRX, Resistance Bands and various Weighted Balls, while never forgetting the usefulness of a good floor surface or the earth. The secret is to combine and interchange much of the equipment and exercises, keeping much of the session in that ‘uncomfortable’ zone of attaining and reaching out for success. There is little to be gained from continually training skills you are already good at unless you are purely doing them for fun. Ultimately improvement comes from challenging your whole ‘system’.
Begin by finding someone who specialises in this mode of training; together you can create a realistic training plan which ideally should consist of coached sessions supplemented with your own regular individual practice.
Below we show examples of basic but important exercises, using no equipment.
Start to build up skills as shown, firstly with eyes open then with eyes closed. Eyes closed training is so important because they are typically the body’s main source of balance.
Exercises can also be done without shoes (as shown) to gain more feedback and body connection while by wearing shoes there will be added stability.
Development can then continue by adding two important aspects:
- Stability Challenge - BOSU, Balance Cushions, Vibrational Plates etc.
- External Components - General Balls, Weighted Balls, Golf Clubs, Frisbee etc.
The most important thing is to enjoy it, mix it up and don’t get too caught up in measuring or timing, just let it all sink in. We suggest you work with a partner as much as possible as this adds much more variety and enjoyment to the sessions.