Power and strength training exercises like Squats and Deadlifts can take athletes only so far. Young athletes need to know how to apply the power and strength they develop with these exercises in situations that require movement and body control, similar to how the body is used on the field of play. That’s why I prescribe landmine exercises and other proprioceptive exercises. They teach your muscles to work together in a complex interplay that promotes balance and compensates for weak joints. Some athletes are better than others in carrying out these conscious and unconscious movements, and as a result they perform better than their peers.
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Proprioception is achieved through muscles, ligaments and joint actions using messages continuously sent through the Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS relays information to the rest of the body, telling it how to react with the amount of tension/action. “Stretch/reflex” sensors within your muscles respond to pressure, stretch and tension. They allow you to see and manipulate the functions of your muscles and balance against gravity.
One exercise I have my athletes do is the Elevated Landmine Reverse Lunge with Tennis Ball Pick-Up. In this move, you must hold the bar while doing a Reverse Lunge—in addition to following the signals from your brain to pick up the tennis ball. After awhile, as the skill is learned and mastered, as memory is formed, signals from the spinal cord are acted on automatically.
Another proprioceptive exercise is Lateral Plank Walks Over Hurdles with Tennis Balls. As you can see in the video above, you must work on a plank movement while laterally moving over the hurdle with tennis balls. Using only your peripheral vision, you raise your arm high enough to move over the hurdle, which develops proprioception. To further increase the challenge, I add Cone Touches in the third exercise.
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Although they are different, the two mechanisms work as a safe platform for smooth, efficient and safe movement and athletic performance. For example, a basketball player whose body acts subconsciously (proprioception) to stay upright while going for a layup (kinesthetic awareness), while processing data regarding an opponent trying to block his shot, changes his entire body position for an effective outcome (which is usually practiced).
Watch the videos above to learn how to perform each move.