9 Proprioception Exercises to Improve Balance and Agility

Once you carry out a squat, a dumbbell press or a single-arm curl, you could suppose you’re coaching your muscle mass — however that’s solely half the story. You’re additionally coaching your proprioceptors.

Say what?

Proprioception is trainer-speak for the physique’s consciousness of the place it’s inside its atmosphere, and it’s extra complicated — and essential — than you may suppose. “It’s the flexibility to sync your physique along with your thoughts,” says Sarah Brannon, NASM-CET. “It’s how your physique adapts and responds to gravity.”

Catching a vase earlier than it hits the ground? That doesn’t occur with out proprioception. Holding your steadiness whereas strolling on an icy sidewalk? Proprioception. Smashing the sport successful put-away, knocking down a rebound, scoring the successful landing? Proprioception, proprioception, and proprioception.

Some name it our “sixth sense.”

Thankfully, there are methods to coach proprioception. Similar to you’ll be able to train a muscle to get stronger, you’ll be able to practice your proprioceptors to be extra correct and responsive. Wish to tune up your steadiness and coordination? Take a look at the 5 proprioception workout routines beneath.


What Is Proprioception?

Proprioception is your physique’s unconscious capacity to sense the place it’s inside its atmosphere, explains NASM efficiency enhancement specialist Cody Braun, CPT.

Want an instance? Shut your eyes. Now contact your nostril along with your index finger. Wasn’t laborious, was it? That’s due to proprioception.

Each second of daily, receptors (known as mechanoceptors) all through your physique ship info to your mind about how your muscle mass and tendons are lengthening, shortening, and dealing — proprioception!

Inside milliseconds, your mind tells your muscle mass how you can reply. Then your arms, legs, and no matter different physique components your mind’s speaking to at that second do as they’re informed.

Relating to train, two main proprioceptive receptors are the muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTOs). Each are a part of the musculoskeletal system.

proprioception | receptors | muscle spindle | golgi tendon organ

Muscle spindles

Muscle spindles are specialised fibers inside the stomach of skeletal muscle that detect when and how briskly that muscle is lengthening, Braun says. For instance, when your physician hits your patellar tendon (slightly below your knee cap) with a rubber mallet, it causes a tiny, however lightning-fast, stretch within the quadriceps muscle.

Your muscle spindles inform your mind, “Woah, one thing’s stretching the muscle! We have to contract it to maintain it secure.” The end result: Your decrease leg flies up with the well-known knee jerk.

Golgi tendon organs

In the meantime, Golgi tendon organs (GTOs) are positioned between a muscle and the tendon(s) that join that muscle to bone. GTOs detect rigidity within the tendons, which is brought about when a muscle contracts, Braun says.

Once you lift weights, the GTO senses whether or not a muscle is being overworked. If it detects that you simply’re lifting a weight a lot heavier than it’s used to, it really shuts off the muscle to maintain you from injuring your self. In case your arms have ever “given out” mid bench-press, you’ll be able to thank (or curse) your Golgi tendon organs.

Different receptors

Muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs get probably the most love, however dozens of different types of proprioceptive receptors exist.

  • Joint kinesthetic receptors use an array of mechanoreceptors to find out adjustments in joint angles.
  • “Even your pores and skin senses adjustments in stress, temperature, and ache, because of cutaneous receptors, which add to the suggestions your mind makes use of to course of motion,” Braun says.
  • “Relating to sensing rotation or acceleration, the vestibular system in your internal ears has little hair-like buildings that detect directional motion,” he provides.

Collectively, all of those proprioceptors are what maintain you balanced and secure, and your joints working in synchronicity. They enhance train efficiency and, in response to mounting research, may also help scale back the chance of accidents like strains and sprains.


Check Your Proprioception

“Steadiness is without doubt one of the largest assessments of proprioception,” Braun says. Utilizing a scale of 1 to 4, with 1 being completely secure and 4 being wobbly as all get-out, have a buddy rating your stability in every of those 4 proprioception assessments, carried out for 10 seconds every. The much less sway you show — and, consequently, the decrease your rating — the stronger your proprioception.

  • Stand on two ft with eyes open
  • Stand on two ft with eyes closed
  • Stand on one foot with eyes open
  • Stand on one foot with eyes closed


Newbie Proprioception Workouts

Single-arm, single-leg (a.okay.a. unilateral), stability, and steadiness workout routines are important to honing proprioceptive actions.

“Most workout routines that require some steadiness element may also help to extend proprioception,” Braun says.

Bonus: Bettering proprioceptive management in single-limb stance is a key think about decreasing the chance of ankle and knee sprains in addition to low again ache, in response to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

There are a number of ideas rookies ought to take note when performing proprioception workout routines:

  • Attempt performing any train you are able to do safely with one or each eyes closed.
  • Go slowly, performing every motion with maximal management.
  • Experiment with performing standing workout routines on one leg as a substitute of two.
  • Yoga is a wonderful ancillary exercise to enhance proprioception.

Single-leg standing hip abduction

single leg standing hip abduction woman band proprioception

  • Safe one finish of a resistance band to an anchor level at ankle top and the opposite to your proper ankle.
  • Stand perpendicular to the anchor level along with your proper ankle farthest from it, sustaining slight rigidity on the band.
  • Holding each legs straight, increase your proper ankle immediately out to the fitting so far as attainable.
  • Pause, then slowly launch the contraction in your hip to return your ankle to the beginning place.
  • Repeat for reps and change sides.

Single-leg steadiness

people balancing on one leg | proprioception exercises

  1. Stand on one foot, lifting your free knee up towards your chest.
  2. Maintain for as much as 10 seconds.
  3. Repeat in your reverse leg.
  4. Carry out the drill 3 times on every leg.

One-arm ABCs on the wall

one arm ABCs wall woman ball proprioception

  • Stand a number of ft from a wall along with your ft hip-width aside, holding a soccer or volleyball in your proper hand.
  • Lengthen your proper arm straight out in entrance of you, holding the ball in place in opposition to the wall.
  • Roll the ball round on the wall as should you’re writing the alphabet.
  • Swap sides and repeat.


Intermediate Proprioception Workouts

When you’ve established a gainly proprioceptive base, you’ll be able to progress to more difficult maneuvers.

Unstable bilateral squat

man squatting on bosu ball | proprioception exercises

  1. Assume a shoulder-width stance on a foam pad, half foam curler, steadiness board, or Bosu ball.
  2. Lengthen your arms immediately in entrance of you.
  3. Holding your again flat and your gaze ahead, bend at your knees and drive your hips again, slowly reducing your self till your thighs are parallel with the ground.
  4. Pause for a one-count, then return to the beginning place.
  5. Repeat for as much as three units of 10-15 reps.

Single-arm, single-leg Romanian deadlift

man performing single-leg dumbbell deadlift | hamstring exercises

  • Seize a dumbbell along with your left hand and stand along with your ft hip-width aside, holding the load at your facet.
  • Holding your again flat and your core engaged, elevate your left foot off the ground, and push your hips again to teeter your torso ahead.
  • Holding your hips degree and the load near your physique, lengthen your left foot behind you till the load is simply in entrance of and beneath your proper knee.
  • Pause, then slowly push your hips ahead to return to begin.
  • Repeat for reps, then change sides.

Unstable break up squat

woman doing unstable split squat | proprioception exercises

  1. Stand along with your ft shoulder-width aside a few steps in entrance of a foam pad, a half-foam curler, or a Bosu ball, and step again along with your left foot so the ball of your foot is on the unstable floor.
  2. Sustaining an upright posture and preserving your ft parallel, slowly bend each knees, reducing your left knee till it hovers a couple of inches from the ground. (Your knees needs to be bent about 90 levels.)
  3. Maintain the low place for a two-count, then return to the beginning place.
  4. Repeat for a complete of 10-15 reps, then change legs and carry out the identical variety of reps.
  5. Carry out 2-3 units on every leg.

Progress it: Experiment with putting your entrance foot on the unstable floor. Grasp that? Destabilize each ft.


Superior Proprioception Workouts

At this ability degree, you’ll be able to start experimenting with agility drills or different actions that require split-second timing and management.

Skater leap

skater jump demonstration | Heisman Exercise

  1. From an athletic stance, shift your weight onto your left foot and bend your left knee to decrease your hips a number of inches whereas lifting your proper foot off the ground.
  2. Pushing off your left foot, leap to your proper, and land softly in your proper foot. Cross your left foot behind your proper ankle barely with out letting it contact the ground, as your arms swing in the identical course as your legs.
  3. Pause, and instantly spring again to the beginning place by propelling your self off your proper foot and touchdown softly in your left foot.
  4. Repeat the transfer, bounding backward and forward repeatedly with out stopping for a complete of 10-20 jumps (5-10 per facet).

Ladder drill

man doing ladder drill | proprioception exercises


  1. Place an agility ladder on the ground and stand at one finish, straddling the primary field.
  2. As shortly as attainable — and with out stepping on the ladder — carry out the next sequence: step into the primary field along with your proper foot; step into the field along with your left foot; step out of the field along with your proper foot, putting your foot to the fitting of the second field; step out of the field along with your left foot; putting your foot to the left of the second field.
  3. Repeat the earlier step, transferring ahead alongside the ladder one field at a time, till you’ve gotten stepped out and in of every step within the agility ladder.
  4. Repeat the complete sequence, beginning the stepping sample along with your left foot.
  5. After getting mastered this drill, carry out it whereas taking part in catch with a companion, utilizing a tennis ball, a lacrosse ball, or a lightweight medication ball.

Single-leg (pistol) squat

single leg pistol squat bench woman proprioception

  • Stand along with your ft hip-width aside and lift your left foot off the ground as you lengthen your arms in entrance of you.
  • Holding your again flat and core engaged, push your hips again, bend your proper knee, and decrease your physique so far as attainable towards the ground, your left leg floating off the ground in entrance of you.
  • Pause, after which press by way of your foot return to the beginning place.
  • Repeat for reps and change sides.

Tip: Begin reducing your self to a excessive bench or step, and progress to reducing your self unsupported by way of an entire vary of movement.

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