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What is it?
Proprioception is the sense through which we perceive the position, movement and action of the parts of our body, including our sense of balance. It incorporates our perception of joint position, movement, muscle contraction and effort. Proprioception arises from signals created by sensory receptors found in the skin, joints and muscles.

Proprioception enables us to know where we are in the space we occupy, to judge limb movements and position, and to locate external objects relative to the body.

Can you remember the last time you stubbed your toe on the coffee table that’s stood in the same place for years and you swear it must have moved on its own accord? This is proprioception (or a lack there of). Other examples include how we know our arm is raised above our head even with our eyes closed or how we can move across an uneven surface without scrutinising the ground we walk on.

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Why is it important?

Well, aside from (usually) preventing us from banging into tables/doorways/ walls, proprioception is important as it assists with coordination, posture and body awareness.

Improvements in these areas will improve the quality of your movement. If you ever find yourself wobbling when performing compound exercises such as the squat, you would benefit from improving your proprioception.

Furthermore, increased awareness of where your limbs are can reduce your risk of injury. For example, it has been shown that rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament is associated with poor sense of joint position. Proprioceptive senses deteriorate with age, which is associated with an increased risk of falls. Additionally, if you’ve ever had an ankle sprain, it is likely that your levels of proprioception are impaired, increasing your risk of incurring the same injury a second time.

How to improve your proprioception?

Proprioception training starts with a few simple exercises that are gradually scaled to become more difficult, recruiting more of the proprioceptors in your body. Exercises can be completed at home or in the gym and will improve the quality of your movement.

1.Standing on one leg 
Sounds simple but this is one of the easiest ways to both test and improve your proprioception. Stand tall with you legs together. Shift your weight to your right leg but keep your pelvis level. Begin to slide your left foot up the inside of your right leg until your knee is bent and you are standing on only one leg. Stay in this position for 10 seconds and aim to increase the time each time you practice.

Progression:
– Do not slide the foot but bend your knee as you lift it up instead
– Close your eyes and cross your arms across your chest- this removes visual cues and reduces your ability to counterbalance with your arms. 

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2. Standing on one leg on a Bosu Ball or Balance board 
Once you have mastered balancing on the ground, we can introduce an unstable surface to the exercise. This forces the proprioceptors in your ankle to fire even more as they work to support your body and fight the instability of the balance board.

Progression:
– Close your eyes and cross your arms across your chest- this removes visual cues and reduces your ability to counterbalance with your arms. 

3. Bosu ball or Balance board plank
This exercise improves the strength and stability of the shoulders, chest and core muscles. By placing your arms on a bosu ball or balance board the basic plank is boosted by incorporating an element of proprioception. Keep your neck aligned, engage your core, and extend your legs straight back. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.  ​​

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