Spider-Man Training: Proprioception and Reflex Strength to Unlock Your Potential

By on June 2, 2014


Powerful exercises that will increase your power in the gym and agility for traceurs. Unlock the full potential of your body and make yourself into a real-world Spider-Man!

Proprioception or kinaesthetic awareness describes our awareness of where our own limbs are in space at any given time. Reflexive strength meanwhile describes the ability of our supportive muscles to help react to external stimuli to keep us upright and on track. If you trip for instance, your body will automatically right itself before you hit the floor. This is an example of proprioception and reflexive strength working together with your balance centres in your brain to keep you upright.

Training these abilities is an important way to prevent injuries throughout your body, but it’s also a great way to get more from your workouts as you improve your fine control of every little muscle group. It will also help to increase your agility and your ability to pull off amazing bodyweight moves. For break dancers these factors are of utmost importance and for Bioneers it’s a way to make yourself faster, more agile and more powerful than everyone else: like Spider-Man.

Meanwhile we can consider in some senses that our ‘intelligence’ is spread throughout our central nervous system: that thinking occurs in our muscles to at least some degree. This is due to many systems that have evolved to keep us upright and to allow us to move efficiently and effective. Controlling our body through space is too much processing for our conscious brain alone: so it sends it to the cloud. The MUSCLE CLOUD

More precisely, this works through the cementing of networks in our cerebellum. Years of walking and standing upright have caused deeply ingrained behavioral patterns that allow us to walk almost automatically and without thought. This uses input from the muscle spindles which tells us about the length of our muscles at any given time, along with information about our orientation and balance.

Scientists who developed the ‘Big Dog’ robot actually took inspiration from reflexive strength by building sensors into the legs that worked in a ‘decentralised’ manner. Research is uncovering how more and more of our movements and reflexes actually occur without direction from the brain. Training our reflexive strength and embodied cognition is crucial to make this process more efficient and thus move through 3D space more gracefully and powerfully…

Watch the video below for a demonstration, or skip to the content below for further detail…


Training Your Reflexive Strength

To train your reflexive strength and proprioception you should use any exercise that requires you to balance using the small supportive muscles in your legs and in your core. That means things like calf raises and like sissy squats – stop supporting your body and train your balance at the same time as you’re training your strength. Curls while standing on a balance board will also help.

I think it’s particularly important to also train your upper body’s reflexive strength and balance. This is something we’d have done a lot when we still climbed trees and I feel we lose out by not using this sort of training. Rock climbing and tree climbing is one awesome way to improve these abilities, and so too is using hand balancing exercises like handstand press ups and planche. Develop these and you’ll also burn loads of fat and build all those tiny muscles for more power in the gym and a ripped, balanced physique. This is what’s lacking from most guys’ workouts.

Contralateral Movements

Also important is to use contralateral movements. These are movements that task us with moving our right hand and left leg, or our left leg and right hand. That’s effective because these two limbs are neurologically linked in the brain with the nerve connections running in an ‘X’ shape through our core (which is why we move the way we do when we walk). Training with exercises like this can actually make your central nervous system more efficient and this can translate to better athletic performance across the board. Of course these kind of exercises are ideal for a traceur doing parkour.

The best contra-lateral exercise is a one handed press up with only one leg (the opposite one) touching the floor. To build up to that though you can use the ‘Spider-Man crawl’ or Lizard crawl where you crawl along the ground staying low to the floor and training your core and pecs in the process.

Other Things That Can Help

Other things can also help with your general balance, agility and kinaesthetic awareness though too. Playing computer games for instance can improve your spatial awareness, as can using visualisation exercises. Also useful is to train your balance by performing moves with your eyes closed, or while moving your head (to throw off your balance systems).

Likewise, training for ambidexterity may also be able to help in the same way that those contralateral moves can do: by improving the communication between the left and right parts of the body and by improving your awareness of your non-dominant limbs. Yet another reason to train for ambidexterity!

So there you go: plenty of reasons to start incorporating these exercises into your routine and lots of ways to improve your full body awareness and control. Let me know if you’ll be using them or if you have any other contributions in the comments below!

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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