So many recommendations are out there on the best way to warm-up. I am sure we have all tried at least a dozen different ways in search of the quickest way to get ready for sport. First, what does getting ready actually mean? Well, a warm-up should serve to allow you to operate at full speed safely. Any delays in this process will cause unnecessary fatigue, which has been proven to both reduce performance and increase injury risk.
Fortunately, there is one critical aspect of every warm-up and it can be done immediately. In fact, you are already doing it, but are you focusing on it enough to maximize its effects?
Proprioception: What is It?
Proprioception comes from the Latin root “sense of self” and can be defined as the awareness of movement, the body’s joint positioning system. Most people think it simply refers to balance, but it is much more. It is the ability to know where a body part is without having to look. Proprioception is dependent upon on the nervous system (see neural fatigue), particularly the ability of the brain to integrate information from the muscles, joints, and the senses, such as vision. It is what allows a major league pitcher to replicate 90 mile an hour fastballs, or a basketball player to shoot the same way every time. Unfortunately, the loss of proprioception is also one of the biggest consequences of getting injured, as the receptors providing information are everywhere, especially in your muscles and joints. And when these areas are damaged in injury, this information is compromised.
Proprioception is the biggest reason why your warm-ups should be sports specific, fine tuning the movements and joint positions needed for sport success and health. But you cannot just hop right into your sport skills without some brief general movement.
Fortunately, there are 3 specific things you can do every day to fine tune that proprioception as part of a warm-up.
Love Your Fascia by Releasing It
The fascia is a thin soft tissue highway covers all of your muscles, transmitting information throughout your entire body.
Full Range of Motion
High concentrations of nerves called mechanoreceptors live in your joints and ligaments, so exercising through full range of motion exercises will stimulate more of these receptors to give you more feedback!
The most important stability movement to activate joint proprioceptors is a single leg stance shown in the video below. Research has clearly indicated a loss of proprioception in the ankle after a sprain, common referred to as instability, so this exercise restores this position sense. Notice this position is also vital for Ground Reaction Force (GRF), or the transmission of force into the ground.
Once mastered, we have the athlete close their eyes, as vision gives invaluable feedback to establishing the moment-to-moment information of balance.
Proprioception is a long word so we call the first part of our warm-up, PREVENT, because that is what proprioception’s first priority is; to prevent injury by balancing GRF.
But if everything is “proprioceptive”, then the real question becomes are you really focusing on this critical aspect in your warm-up?