Understanding Movement and Spatial Learning

Spatial orientation allows you to physically navigate the world around you. It enables you to perform basic tasks, like picking up objects and avoiding walking into things.

By working on your spatial learning, you can speed up reaction times, better navigate obstacles, and feel more comfortable in your body.

How Your Body Moves

Gaining Greater Body Awareness

Body awareness, or proprioception, allows you to move your body parts without looking directly at them. This is necessary for any type of physical coordination. Improving proprioception is key for success in sports, but it also makes working out in general more enjoyable. You will become more agile, be able to execute more difficult moves, and avoid discomfort.

There are a few main ways to improve body awareness:

- Training with the eyes closed. It is surprisingly difficult to perform even familiar movements with your eyes closed. However, this is an excellent way to improve communication with your muscles. You will also learn to better trust your body, a great way to give yourself confidence if you ever need to execute a challenging move.

- Strength training. As you build strength, your body improves awareness of your muscles and gains a better understanding of their capabilities.

- Plyometrics. Fast, high-impact movements put your body to the test. With speed and repetitions, you develop stronger connections between your brain and body.

Enhancing Your Body Balance

Balance is linked to proprioception, but it is extra important because it leads to greater core stability. Core strength does more than give you great abs — a strong core will allow you to hold positions longer and will prevent injuries, including to the back and knees. This is important for everyone from serious athletes to people looking for casual training.

To improve your balance, you could invest in fitness gear like a BOSU Ball or other unstable surface equipment. Alternatively, if you’d rather save money for a fun workout, a better option is to balance using your body’s weight and nothing else. Here are a couple examples of exercises to get you started include:

- One-legged squats. If you are bored of regular squats, try a one-legged version. Start simple, just lifting one heel from the floor. As you progress, left your leg higher. Try holding your leg in different positions to keep things interesting. Remember to repeat everything you do with the other leg raised, giving you the same workout on both sides. If you feel particularly wobbly, keep a chair nearby for you to grab if you lose your balance or stand near a wall.

- Tree pose. There are many balance poses in yoga; tree pose is just one example. Stand on one leg, placing your other foot either on the side of your calf or the side of your thigh, depending on your ability to balance. Never place the foot against the knee joint. Place your hands together at your chest or hold them over your head. Maintain the pose for a few breathes before changing to the other side.

Using the Functional Movement Screen

The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is an exercise philosophy designed to prevent injuries. It is based on scientific evidence that found the main cause of injuries is muscle imbalance, rather than weak or tight muscles.

The FMS ranks your ability to perform movement patterns necessary for normal body movement. This allows you to identify any limitations or asymmetries that could impact your training, both in terms of conditioning and body awareness. An FMS professional will assess your current abilities, gives you a score, and assigns you exercises. You can use the score to track your progress in your problem areas.

Spatial understanding is useful for everyday life but priceless for workouts. With better spatial orientation and body balance, you can perform exercises to your full capacity. This means you will gain more benefits from training — and have more fun. Most importantly, if you take part in a competitive activity, you’ll have a significant advantage over your rivals.


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About the Author: Laura Jean Holton

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