Proprioception is best described as how things “feel”. It is the combined feedback from our bodies which tells us the tension in our muscles/joints/tendons, and the inertial forces we are experiencing (balance and momentum transfer in the case of rowing, but more complex in a diver in the middle of a twisting triple!).
Proprioception is a combination of General System (effectively tension and pressure receptors in the muscles, tendons and ligaments) and Special System (middle ear receptors – balance/momentum).
The proprioception benefits of the Indoor Sculler are particularly obvious in the sport of rowing, but there is abundant evidence that development of proprioceptive systems is beneficial for other sports: If you can learn to row on the Indoor Sculler, it really could improve your ability to control your golf swing/kick a football/land after leaping to take a high mark. May seem implausible, but it is true.
Cross-Education / Cross-Lateralisation – Using Indoor Sculler To Aid Recovery After Injury Or Surgery
Both terms describe the effect whereby when one limb is exercised the contralateral (“other side”) limb is also stimulated by the equivalent nerves on its side. The un-exercised limb will gain both strength and coordination – not as much as the exercised limb, but very significantly more than would occur had it not been stimulated.
The implications for recovery after injury or surgery are enormous: not only can the person maintain their aerobic capacity after say a knee injury, but when the knee recovers enough to be used again, it will be supported by muscles which are far more advanced in their recovery than would be the case if he/she had not used their Indoor Sculler during the rehabilitation process. And of course the inertial forces acting on that rehabilitating knee will be up to six times less than would be the case if the rower was using a stationary rowing machine.
Rowing, whether on a Indoor Sculler or in a boat, places the user in an “unstable environment”. One of the great benefits of the Indoor Sculler is the Limited Tilt seat, which enables only 5 – 7degrees of movement, with an added bonus: the rower does NOT get wet if he exceeds the limit and falls off!
Operating in an unstable environment crucially tends to involve excellent activation of the abdominal and spinal stabilising muscles – the core stabilisers we hear so much about today. Why are the core stabilisers so important? Clearly, it is this group which enables us to absorb or transfer energy or force between the feet/ legs and the hands/arms while keeping the information processor (a.k.a. the brain) as safe and stable as possible – in summary, the core muscles tend to be working whenever we operate in an unstable environment. With the added complexity of balance and the interaction with a dynamic mass, “real” rowing may well be the ultimate example of a repetitive core stability exercise, particularly one involving true resistance training.
Correcting / Avoiding Bilateral Deficits
Bilateral deficits are very common – most of us have one. A bilateral deficit occurs when one limb is stronger and/or more coordinated than another, and of course most of us know that the hand we use most is stronger and has better fine control than the other.
What we often don’t realize is that one leg is also stronger than the other – we use it differently, stand on it preferentially and so on.
The Indoor Sculler, perhaps more than any previous exercise machine, can be used to identify AND CORRECT bilateral deficits
Whether with or without the RP-Mate, row using one leg at a time (rest one leg on the floor).You may quite quickly realize that one leg is definitely stronger – you may be shocked at the size of the discrepancy . However, by regularly doing 20-30 strokes one-legged before each session (whether on- or off-water session) you should rapidly find the strength evens up.
You may find that as a result of the increased awareness you have developed, that your general posture improves, and this alone has been known to improve some longstanding lower back problems. The Indoor Sculler, especially with the RP-Mate, can both identify and (with qualified direction) correct Bilateral deficits.
Bilateral deficits are implicated in the development of chronic back pain and certainly eliminating them is likely to improve the performance of any athlete, especially if that athlete happens to be a rower who has been subconsciously applying unequal pressure with his feet, or a tennis player who favours one leg, and so on.