You may be wondering how important coordination exercises can be to your performance. And the truth is that coordination is not one of the most trained skills in typical gyms, nor one of the most popular.
Do you know of any friends who have arrived on their first day at the gym to tell the teacher, “I’m here to improve my coordination”? We bet not.
We’re more focused on other types of goals, like strength, endurance or aerobic capacity, for example.
All this is great and we should not abandon it for anything in the world, but there is much more to work on if we want to improve our sports performance.
In this post, we will show you how coordination affects your performance and how to work on it. You will see that it is much more interesting, fun and useful than you thought.
What types of coordination are there and how to get more coordinated
Performing several movements at once is really difficult. You have to divide your brain into several sections and not focus 100% on any one of them. It doesn’t seem to be a good plan when you play a sport and you have to make decisions in milliseconds.
If you play basketball and you want to organize the game, your eyes will be focused on the big picture while shooting the ball to avoid being stolen or calculating the distance to your opponent to shoot at the hoop.
In football, you will watch the distances while keeping the ball away from the opponent and you will trick him by taking your hips to one side and your feet to the other (yes, we know, we don’t do that so well).
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Our brain makes those divisions all the time, even if we don’t realize it. We think we can’t do too many things at once, but the truth is that we do.
On the bike, you have to attend to many stimulae and sometimes it becomes complicated to coordinate. Clutch, gears, balance, line, braking, emotions, fears, body position, breathing?
It sounds like real madness, but you should not desperate because we can train and improve the ability to put on autopilot some actions, to be able to focus on others.
In POWERING we are very clear that coordination is a fundamental pillar for your performance. A long time ago we asked ourselves how to improve coordination skills and we included it in the development of our 8RiderSkills method.
The first thing you should be clear about is that there are different types of coordination.
Manual eye coordination
Are you familiar with the phrase “where I put my eyes I put the wheel”? Eye-motor coordination is exactly that.
When you think about how to improve coordination, you think about how to improve this type of coordination that you use when you use your eyesight and the perception that your eyesight gives you about space.
When you look at an obstacle or a path and you can pass through it, you are making use of this coordination.
It is the one that gives you the ability to perform many movements synergistically. What does this mean? It means that your brain gives orders to your body to work as a team.
To improve this type of coordination you need to teach this team to play by itself because you can’t be the one giving the orders all the time.
It sounds super complicated, but it’s actually training. Your strength didn’t grow overnight, your endurance didn’t grow overnight, why should coordination be any different?
It has to do with the work of your muscles and how they are activated and put into action.
If we talk about pushing, a person trained in coordination will be able to activate many more of their muscle fibers (about 85 percent) than one who has never practiced it, which will only be around 60 percent.
You can train it with fast movements, of few repetitions, and that puts into play 85 percent of your muscular response.
By training it correctly, you can increase your strength without becoming huge and heavy.
You know, a heavier body requires more energy and what you need is to apply strength without losing energy, so this coordination will put you in saving mode.
How harmonious are your movements? The answer often lies in intermuscular coordination.
You may think that only dancers and gymnasts have to work to make everything look neat and in line, but that’s a big mistake.
All athletes put gestures into practice, and you’re no exception. It has to do with the technique of your sport and this type of coordination clearly becomes more difficult when you increase the sequence of actions at the same time.
In off-road sports like enduro, motocross, trial, MTB, etcetera, many times we are controlling five controls with four limbs (our hands and feet) and that’s a lot.
If you are going to train this type of muscle coordination, do it with free weights (yes, forget the gym machines) and with movements that you are going to repeat later on the bike or in any sport you practice.
Ways to improve coordination
Different types of coordination are improved with exercises that go inside and outside of your sport.
Of course, the more you practice your sport the better coordination you will be able to have in those movements required by the activity, but there is a secret formula to boost your coordination ability: get out of your usual sport and train coordination with specific exercises.
To improve your coordination or keep it in shape as a habit you will have to work in stages.
The idea is that you can increase the stimulus as you get to put certain movements on autopilot.
If you want to add difficulty, let’s go this way:
- Simple movements with upper or lower body
- Coordination with external objects
- We add balance to the coordination (This is special for enduro, MX, downhill, mtb)
- Balance and handling of external objects
- Add more avenues of distraction: Spelling out addition and subtraction while you are doing an exercise is phenomenal.
Let’s go for the coordination workouts!
Now, let’s go with a list of 10 excellent exercises to work your coordination and easy to include in almost any routine.
This way of working on skills will give you a plus in many sports. You can add it to your motocross training, for example.
The key for every athlete is functionality. That the exercises point to something and apply to something or serve to solve different situations.
In POWERING we aim at the complete development of the amateur athlete, working skills that go beyond what we are used to, and these exercises go in that direction.
Upper body coordination exercises
It seems simple but it is not. The difficulty is that you have to be aware of your balance and at the same time move your arms as if you were swimming crawl and backstroke at the same time.
It is complicated but very interesting for the bike.
Juggling external objects
Here there is an extra that stimulates a lot of hand-eye coordination.
Each hand does something different and that is already very complex, but you must also be aware of watching almost out of the corner of your eye what happens with the balls, and juggle them at a regular height so that they come back down in the same place.
You almost forget that you also have to keep the balance in your legs, activating your glutes and adjusting your middle zone.
Balance and coordination exercises
Here we introduce another element that gives us tremendous instability. It is a great combination to put glutes and core on autopilot and coordinate our arms. Also, it’s great for our hip balance.
Balance and juggling external objects
The eyes remain looking forward but you make the ball turn around your body opposed to the clock’s direction. Coordination and balance are very well mixed.
Bounce with a bent leg
In a semi-squat position for one leg and with the other leg in the air, we are going to bounce the ball for an exercise that is a little more relaxed and more similar to what we do on the plank.
Lower body coordination exercises
An ideal combo to work your agility and coordination at the same time. In our app, you will find many variations of this type of exercise.
Juggling external objects
These agility drills are as spicy as it gets. Grab a ball (whatever you can get your hands on, if it’s big, better) and move your body from side to side while throwing it and keeping your eyes on the ball.
Balance and coordination exercises
Go fast and hold the pose, go fast again and hold again. Remember to activate your core area very well if you want to keep your balance and your back in place.
Balancing and juggling external objects
We add complexity and greater concentration. You will look like a circus performer but your coordination will grow a lot.
If you include these coordination workouts in your weekly routine we assure you that you will be able to perform several actions at the same time without thinking about it.
Rider, this will give you the incredible ability to not think about your balance. Your movements will already be installed in your head and you will be able to concentrate on choosing the right line or being super focused on your race strategy.
Will you look ridiculous at first? Probably, but take it as a good opportunity to laugh at yourself.
There are no excuses left, if you want to improve your performance, you know that coordination exercises are a must in your workout.
All these exercise options, adapted to your sport, your abilities and your times, are available in our training app. What are you waiting for to download it?