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Training Blind To Enhance Proprioceptive Efficiency

Earlier this week, I posted a short Instagram clip of me skipping rope while blindfolded. Since I was wearing a Superman shirt, I jokingly mentioned that I was testing my x-ray vision. Afterward, I received a few emails from athletes who were curious if the blindfolded work was performed as a joke or if there were actual performance benefits.

To answer the question, I did post the clip as a joke, but there are potential benefits to performing certain skills while blindfolded. I first read of blindfolded practice many years ago in Mel Siff’s classic Supertraining text. His writings brought back memories of movies such as Bloodsport. If you recall the 1988 film, you may remember seeing Jean-Claude Van Damme practicing with a blindfold.

Blindfold martial arts

Blindfolded practice goes far beyond any Hollywood movie however. For example, Mel Siff highlighted the potential of such work to enhance proprioceptive efficiency. In layman’s terms, proprioception is our sense of position and movement. It has been described as our sixth sense. In other words, we don’t just see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. We also possess a sense or awareness of the position of our bodies.

As for relevance to training, Siff wrote the following:

The integration of information from all the other senses (sight, sound, hearing and touch, in particular), together with this proprioceptive information enables us to execute a given movement in the most appropriate way in terms of pattern, velocity, acceleration and timing. This involves coordination of eye-hand, eye-foot or body-apparatus, processes which receive a great deal of attention in technical training. Inadequate time, however, is generally 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… 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 joint angles, the degree of muscular tension, the amplitude of movement and movement patterns best with the eyes closed and reproduces them 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.

With this in mind, it can be useful to briefly practice certain skills blindfolded. Jumping rope is one of many examples. Initially, you may find yourself drifting off in one direction. Shadow boxing for a fighter is another useful option. Many fighters will be surprised at how their balance fails when throwing combinations without vision. A few minutes of light practice can certainly prove useful. Siff even mentioned practicing Olympic lifts and powerlifting movements without vision.

In summary, I am not suggesting that you should always train in the dark. Blindfolded work does pose a unique challenge however that can enhance qualities that are otherwise ignored. Just a few minutes, a few days per week, is often all that is necessary.

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision. – Helen Keller

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RossBoxing.com Is Back

For those who do not follow my posts on Facebook or Twitter, I wanted to let everyone know that I am bringing back my original website.

RossBoxing.com

I started RossBoxing in 2001. Many of the older readers here may know me from that original site. I look forward to bringing it back to life with a variety of boxing related entries. The revised site will naturally focus on boxing training with a particular emphasis on old school methods and fighters.

RossTraining will certainly remain as well, but will be updated within the next month or so. First, I will be moving the forum to a new server. Once the forum has been moved, I will then update the blog to become more user and mobile friendly.

I am not a techie by trade however so I cannot guarantee that the transition won’t come without a few hiccups. I will do my best to make the transition as seamless as possible though. If you wish to stay in touch with related updates, I will be posting any new developments to Facebook and Twitter.

I look forward to taking RossBoxing and RossTraining to new levels in the weeks and months ahead.

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Homemade Obstacle Course Training

There is no denying the increased popularity of obstacle course races in the last five years. It seems like there is a new course or event popping up in my area every month. Consequently, people from all walks of life have taken interest and begun to participate. As a result, it is not uncommon for my inbox to be flooded with questions about these events.

For instance, I am regularly asked how one can go about training for some of the specific tasks that will be required during the obstacle run. Others have asked if it is possible to construct a mini-course for general training.

Fortunately, it appears that obstacle course training can be easily replicated without breaking the bank. The video below offers a prime example.

You will be hard pressed to find a more low-tech course, yet you can be certain that this small space provides countless challenges. My mind is already racing with new ideas after seeing this brief clip. I am eager to add some obstacles around the outdoor hill sprint path that I created last year (see here).

Once again, it is amazing what can be accomplished when you combine creativity with ambition. Anyone who believes that a formal gym setting is required for general fitness has been brainwashed by the industry. The average person needs nothing more than to get up, get outside, and get moving.

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It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project. – Napoleon Hill

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Inexpensive Jump Rope Demonstration

If you are familiar with my site, there is a good chance that you have seen me jumping rope. The jump rope clips that I’ve posted to Youtube have received several million views. As a result, it is not uncommon for me to receive questions about skipping. Perhaps the most commonly asked questions are related to rope selection. For instance, I am often asked if high-speed cable ropes are necessary for fast turning styles such as double or triple unders.

Fortunately, specialty ropes are not required. Expensive ropes are not necessary either. In the video below, you can see a brief demonstration that I filmed with an inexpensive PVC freestyle rope. It is actually the same rope that I used in my jump rope DVD. The PVC cord was purchased for only two dollars. Clearly, rope speed is not compromised and the rope is also useful for a variety of freestyle movements.

In summary, while high-end ropes have become popular in recent times, the old school ropes that I started with almost 30 years ago are still as useful as ever. And while certain cable ropes will undoubtedly turn faster, more speed is not necessarily an advantage. As an athlete and trainer, the rope is just a tool. We are not training for the rope. We use the rope to improve other athletic qualities. Therefore, working with an easier rope may not help us in the long run. I have seen many athletes who can perform double and triple unders with stainless steel ropes who are completely lost when attempting the same feats with a regular rope.

Call me old school, but I would rather develop the skill to function with any rope. As the old Michael Jordan commercials would say, it’s not the shoes. We can modify that famous slogan to say that it’s not the rope. What matters more is the athlete behind the rope. Develop true skill and you can use any rope that you find.

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Price is what you pay; value is what you get. – Warren Buffett

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Homemade Thick Grips

In my last entry, I demonstrated how a foam pool noodle could be attached to a doorway pull-up bar to prevent damage to the door trim. You will only need a few inches per side to protect the trim. Most pool noodles are sold in much longer pieces. Fortunately, you can use the excess material for another do-it-yourself project.

High density foam can also be used to create an inexpensive pair of portable thick grip attachments. Simply cut the foam into two small pieces and then slice an opening on each piece to fit around a bar. You should then thoroughly wrap the foam in a few layers of duct tape for added protection. The result of this low-tech set-up can be seen below.

Homemade fat grips

These portable attachments are inexpensive and effective. Thumb strength will certainly be challenged when performing pull-ups from these grips.

Thick grip pull-ups

As for longevity, high density foam is much more resilient then some initially assume. I have used foam attachments for many seasons and have not noticed any compression or loss of shape. I have also had success using foam to create very durable dip belts. I have used the dip belt below for several years. I have loaded it with well over 200 pounds without any problems. The dip belt consists of nothing but a foam pool noodle, chain, duct tape, and a carabiner spring-link.

Homemade dip belt

In summary, if you are looking for an inexpensive and effective way to challenge thick grip strength, a foam pool noodle is one option to consider. And while I do demonstrate additional options in my Untapped Strength book, these foam attachments are perhaps the easiest to make. It will take a few minutes at most.

Lastly, if you already purchased foam to protect your door trim, these thick grips are an added bonus that can be made for free. Free and effective are two of my favorite words. You can’t go wrong with these inexpensive attachments.

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Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. – Arthur Ashe

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