Training Blind


By: Kelly Baggett


Strength, movement efficiency, and safety of all movement is primarily determined by neuromuscular factors, in particular the kinesthetic sense and the underlying proprioceptive mechanisms which tell us about where all the components of our musculoskeletal system are and what they are doing relative to one another at any given time. The integration of information from all the senses (sight, sound, hearing, and touch), together with this proprioceptive information, enables us to execute a given movementin the most appropriate way in terms of pattern, speed, acceleration, and timing. The involves coordination of hand-eye, eye-foot, or bodily processes, which receive a greate deal of attention in technical training. Adequate time, however, is generally not devoted to specific training of proprioception.

One way of improving proprioceptive efficiency is to diminish or block input from other sensory systems such as the eyes. Thus training with weights executing the olympic lifting or powerlifting movements while blindfolded, or practicing sports skills blindfolded, can be a valuable way of enhancing technical skills and producing strength, power, and movement efficiency, more effectively. Research has shown that blindfolding does not disrupt motor activities. On the contrary, it has been found that exercises are performed with greater precision and stability when the eyes are closed or in darkness. The athlete remembers body position, joint angles, the degree of muscular tension, and the amplitude of movement and movement patterns best with the eyes closed and he or she then reproduces them much more easily. Subsequently, when the movements are done with the eyes open, the athlete's enhanced motor sensitivity is preserved and his technical skill improves.

During normal training, most people are largely unaware of their errors and generally feel that the exercise or skill is being done correctly. When the exercises are performed blindfolded, proprioceptive sensitivity is increased and this makes it possible for the athlete to make more accurate internal visualisations of technique, thus enabling him to correct errors more easily.

In engaging in this practice, the eyes are normally covered lightly with a soft, dark material. The athlete assumes the starting position several times to become familiar with location and balance, with the coach making any necessary verbal corrections. The athlete then executes the full strength training movement with light weights, or the full technical movement at slow speed, with the eyes first uncovered, then covered, until the action begins to feel natural and stable. The coach offers constant guidance and correction, which diminishes as the athletes expertise grows. The athlete progresses to heavier loads or more technically demanding movement patterns, still alternating between movements done with the eyes uncovered and covered, until the action is fully mastered with the eyes closed. Finally, when his technique with blindfolding has been perfected, he moves on to heavy weights or full speed movement patterns or drills.

In resistance training, the body is in contact with the bar or apparatus throughout all movements, so it is possible to use this technique for all strength exercises with free weights or machines. One can also use this deprivation training for many other movements and skills (e.g. jumping, track and field events, basketball skills, throwing etc.) to improve proprioception. For example, if you want to quickly improve your basketball skills then perform your ballhandling skills blindfolded, or with your eyes shut, for a total of at least 20 minutes per week. If you want to increase your proficiency in basic lifting movements, execute 1/3 of your squats or olympic lifts blindfolded once per week. Do the same if you're a gymnast or martial artist. You will find your technical mastery will quickly improve as you learn to fully engage your senses.

-Kelly


References:

Siff, Mel. Supertraining 2003