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Many people wonder how some master certain activities better others, or why top athletes are so much better at their sport than other athletes who sometimes train even more?



To find an answer to this, we need to look at more than just the work the athletes do to achieve a goal. In many cases, it’s not only the work put in, but also the person’s genetic capabilities. These qualities guide our movements and possibilities, and make it that one person has better sport-specific technique than another.


The ability to perform precise movements in relation to other objects or places relies a combination of special sensory organs in the body. Some of these organs are exteroceptive (receiving information from outside the body), while others are proprioceptive (receiving information from inside the body). The better these organs are matched to each other, the more precisely you perform movements.

To receive information from outside the body, we use our senses. For sports and exercise, these are mainly the eyes, ears and skin.

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THE EYES:  The eyes are almost the most important exteroceptive organ. They also have various systems that help control our movements:

The focal system: This system recognises objects that are in our central field of view. The recognition of objects is mainly influenced by how light falls on the object.

Example: During a team sport, this is how the athlete recognises their team.

The environmental system: This system specialises in movement control across the entire field of vision. This function detects the movement and position of objects in the environment and determines the relationship between their own movements and that of the object.

The optical pattern: This term is used to describe the reflection of light from the environment on the eye. The optical pattern consists of a range of information about the individual movements in the environment.

  • Stability and balance.
  • Speed of movement through the environment.
  • The direction of movement in relation to the objects in the environment.
  • Movement of objects with respect to the mover.
  • The time between the contact of the mover and the object.

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THE EARS: The ear also receives exteroceptive stimuli, namely sounds that improve the control or response of execution.

Some examples of how sound can affect execution:

  • The sound of the rhythm produced when we walk;
  • Sound can tell something about the power with which you perform an exercise;
  • The sound that a joint makes when it is subjected to a big load.

The functional trainer can use this sense to also consider the extent to which the exercise can be expanded.

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THE SKIN: The skin is full of receptors connected to the spine. Important information flows to the receptors through millions of fibres in the skin. This information provides a host of details about the movement and is therefore transmitted to the brain. The brain responds to the information obtained by adjusting the posture of the body to perform the skill optimally.

Some examples from the world of fitness and sports where the skin plays an important role:

  • When we lie on a fitness ball, the skin gets information about sliding over the ball and the floor. This low-pitched vibration then ensures that we adjust the movement;
  • During an outdoor sport, information is constantly sent to the brain through our skin. For example, during a football match, the wind can be taken into account when a ball is kicked.

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The proprioceptive organs are responsible for the physical body. The most important of these are posture, the tendons, the muscles and balance.

The brain receives proprioceptive information from different structures of the body. Proprioceptive input is part of a complex system that ensures the relationship between the spatial movements of the body and the limb in space. This information ensures, for example, that we can still touch our nose with our eyes closed. The most important proprioceptors of the body are the muscle receptors, the joint receptors and the vestibular system. Table 2 gives an overview of the different functions of the receptors.


Exteroceptive organs

Muscle receptors Function
Spindle cell These cells control muscle length. They provide information about the length and tone of a muscle. When the muscle stretches, they transmit this to the central nervous system. A less elastic muscle sends fewer stimuli, so the muscle relaxes.
Golgi-tendon organ In addition to controlling muscle tone, this muscle receptor also prevents the muscle from contracting reflexively while performing an activity. These tendinous bodies are stimulated both during passive extension and during active contraction.
C fibres Unmyelinated fibres that are responsible for conveying pain, temperature differences and itching.
Joint receptors Function
Type 1 Type 1 joint receptors adapt the mechanical receptors from static to dynamic receptors.

These tonic reflexes also have certain effects on the neck, limbs, jaw and eye muscles. They allow for postural and kinetic perception.

Lastly, they are responsible for helping the tonic muscular system.

Type 2 Type 2 joint receptors adapt the posture rapidly by means of low-threshold dynamic mechanical receptors. They do this by means of a three-phase system where they induce reflexes in the limbs, neck, jaw and eye muscles.
Type 3 Type 3 joint receptors are responsible for the slow adaptation of receptors. They also control muscle tension and reflex generation. This type supports the Golgi-tendon organ.
Type 4 These fibres receive pain and thus induce stimulation of the nerve fibres. They provide tonic effects on the neck, limbs, jaw and eye muscles. They also induce reflexive cardiovascular effects through movement.
Vestibular system Function
Vestibular system The vestibular system is very important to functional training. It is responsible for the movement of the senses and the speed of movement of the head, and this in the three-dimensional planes in which the exercises are performed.

This system is mainly situated in the cervical and ocular systems.


For optimal functional results, the proprioceptors must function better.

The proprioceptive system consists of many receptors, which work as part of the complex neural system, and ensure that the brain is informed about what is happening inside the body. Together with the information from the exteroceptive organs, an image is made about the current status of the body so that the right response is sent back to all systems of the body.

The neural system is important because it has to do with how the brain processes the sensory information in order to produce motor responses. The neural network transports the stimuli that influence the activity of each individual muscle spindle.

During training, the proprioceptors are responsible for transferring the information to the brain. This information is obtained by passing on stimuli about position, pressure, tension, torsion, muscle length and muscle tension.


To achieve optimal functional results with the training programme, we start with a careful analysis of the neural effects on exercise in daily life or sports. We have to check whether the type 1 joint receptors activate the tonic muscle system. These are responsible for stabilising the joints. If this is overlooked, for example by training in isolation, there is insufficient stimulation of the receptors in the joints. This creates reduced motor skills, and in turn leads to poor posture. A final reason for which the tonic muscles need to be stimulated is to avoid joint damage.


The following information is very important when designing exercises. A number of things must be done to achieve optimal physiological effects:

  1. The exercises must always be designed to draw attention to the tonic system and the three-layer system of the body. This produces greater neurological stimulation and requires more skill.
  2. Posture must be paid extra attention, because a poor posture often leads to ergonomic stress, abnormal adaptation to an exercise programme and damage to the body. When an exercise is performed repeatedly with a poor posture, it sends stimuli to the brain that cause it to perceive this that posture as normal. This incorrect position has devastating effects on activities in daily life or sports.
  3. Almost all activities performed in the work or sports environment require the body to move in a three-dimensional unstable environment. The change of speed is also a very important aspect of sports or daily activities. This is why it’s important to develop good balance and coordination. These exercises solicit the tonic muscle systems and the three-phase system.
  4. The role of the functional trainer is to point people to correct training methods, because it’s difficult to return the body to its original state after a serious injury.

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Every activity is a task for the motor system. In order to correctly perform a task, we depend on the power and speed with which the motor system conveys the appropriate responses.

To produce these physiological stimuli in the body, we make as much use as possible of unstable surfaces, such as a fitness ball, a balance board, and devices with which we perform large movements, such as the cable station and free weights.

By developing our ability to quickly stabilise joints and by receiving different stimuli, performance improves and we avoid long-term damage.

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Do sessions have to take place in the Fitness Club? Not at all! I can also provide functional training with you on the tennis court, football field, …, at work or at home, at the seaside, in a forest, …  why not give me a call?

PTC Personal Training Rik Termote Roeselare gsm: +32 498 399 280

Roeselare – Bruges – Knokke – Kortrijk – Oostende Region