Proprioception. What is it? A pill that is meant to help with baldness? No, that’s Propecia. Sweating? Nope – perspiration. It’s about instability, and your body’s ability to stay balanced by sensing what it needs to do in response to the instability and then doing it.
The definition of it from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (of which I’m a Certified Personal Trainer) is:
The cumulative sensory input to the central nervous system from all mechanoreceptors that sense body position and limb movements.
See? Just like I said. It’s your body’s ability to deal with the undulations under foot (or other body part that’s responsible for balance or movement). An extreme but clear example would be walking on a tight rope or a slack line. A simpler example would be running on something other than a paved surface like sand or a trail.
Creating a proprioceptive rich environment to workout in is a way to increase the difficulty of an exercise. If you don’t increase the difficulty or intensity, you won’t keep progressing, so this is a good thing to know as you master an exercise at a given level of difficulty. Most people think, “I need to add a few minutes/miles/pounds to my exercise,” to make it tougher, but here’s another way to keep getting results from your efforts.
It’s not about ‘more’, but rather ‘many’. By that I mean it isn’t about doing the same exercise with more weight, moving farther or being more powerful in your movement. Rather, it’s about how many things you’re asking of your body in the process of the movement. So with a squat, it isn’t that you’re now wearing a weight vest, holding dumb bells, going down deeper or explosively charging back up. It’s about activating all the muscles from your core to your toes to help keep you balanced, and asking your prime movers (quads, hamstrings) to activate more broadly and more finitely at the same time (triggering more of the muscle, and using each fiber more acutely). There’s nothing wrong with ‘more’, but ‘many’ can do more for you depending on your current fitness level and goals. It’s also more likely to give you usable benefits for everyday life.
Combine more and many, and you’re in a great position, but you have to work up to that. But that’s the whole point of making progress. Work up to many, more and better. That’s what it means to enlighten.your.body.