I noticed a picture of someone performing a deadlift wearing a blindfold, and barefoot.

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By: Gym Jones

When looking at the site I noticed a picture of someone performing a significant deadlift with a blind fold on and bare foot as well. Got me thinking if the lack of proprioceptive feedback could be applied to other lifts. What I've noticed is the amount of weight that is usually used with a given lift, say the bench press, is significantly reduced. The interesting part is, although the weight is significantly less, there is a burn throughout the pecs that I have never felt when performing that exercise, regardless of weight. My question is which way is more beneficial for increase in performance? In addition, I understand how proprioception works (in a rehab capacity) but not how it applies to functional strength and lifting in general.

I would appreciate any input you can give, thanks and have a great day.

Answer

Note: I addressed this concept in a previous Q/A posted to the General Fitness page but this fellow came at it from a different enough point of view that the reply is also different enough to post here.

Thank you for the note and interesting question. An answer is complicated but first let's start with the idea that the definition of "more beneficial" changes within the context. It is also useful to bear in mind Dan John's adage, "everything works."

Try this test: have the individuals Bench Press with eyes closed, and then have them try it with a true blindfold. There is a difference between voluntary "blindness" during which one knows he/she can open his eyes at any time and "involuntary blindness" during which the player understands he/she must execute the movement perfectly because the eyes cannot be used to save it if balance shifts, etc. A lot of energy and attention goes into the visual reference points, and this sensory input - because it is so dominant - reduces the impact of input from the other senses. It is interesting knowledge but I am not sure how useful it is.

I used to teach people to rock climb blindfolded because by doing so one truly learns how it feels to position the center of gravity correctly in relation to various hand and footholds. In the gym we use the blindfold to help people learn the lift from the inside-out, purely according to feel. If someone can do a Turkish Get-up (smoothly, efficiently) when blindfolded the body knows where it is, how it is positioned and where the KB is, either by way of true sensory input or neuro-muscular memory, throughout the complex movement. The ultimate result is less energy and attention expended when doing the movement under normal conditions. This is, I believe, the main benefit.

To increase strength one must lift over 80% of 1RM, using particular set/rep structures. If the blindfolded lifts are done with significantly reduced loads the gains won't be in the area of strength per se but perhaps in stability, integrity of the connective tissue, etc. and that may (eventually) have a positive influence on strength, or expressing it. The utility of the blind lifting depends on where the individual is in a training cycle, and on how much emphasis you choose to give it.

Onward,
Mark

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