Have you ever tried to find your way in the dark? Have ever been in a hurry when you were trying to find your way in the dark? Have you ever been in a hurry when you were trying to find your way in the dark in an environment that has many harmful objects in which to avoid?

Believe it or not, these questions – these scenarios – provide a parallel for training, rehabilitation, and prevention. 

Non-functional movement is similar to finding your way in the dark. Functional movement is similar to finding your way in the light. The difference can be summed up in one word: electricity. Electricity (think of a light switch being “on”) sure makes moving easier because we can see what is around us and move accordingly. We at Gray institute® consider Proprioceptors to be the electricity of the body. The more these are turned “on,” the safer our patients and clients are. Furthermore, the more Proprioceptors are turned “on” authentic to the intended task (or function), the safer and better prepared our patients and clients are.

In this blog entry, we take a deep dive into the Functional Movement Spectrum. Specifically, we focus on Proprioceptors, which is included as a principle / truth in the Biological Sciences. In “The Introduction” to this Functional Movement Spectrum Series, we identified the following descriptors for Proprioceptors: Facilitated (functional) vs. Inhibited (non-functional).

Dr. Gary Gray encourages all movement practitioners with the following gem: “When in doubt about the next step to improve your patient’s / client’s function, think about movements that stimulate the proprioceptors.” All movements stimulate the neural sensors in the body’s tissues. But the challenge is to utilize movements for both examination and training that facilitate the proper neural information rather than isolated, non-functional exercises that inhibit normal muscular responses. 

Gray Institute® has published an extensive series of blogs and vlogs (referenced at the end of this Blog entry) on the different mechanoreceptors that contribute to proprioception, all of which are based on the maxim: “Motion turns on proprioceptors, proprioceptors turn on muscles, and muscles control the movement.” This blog will take a deeper look at what constitutes a facilitated movement.

One way to gain some insight into the proprioceptors and the information that they provide is to consider what information, if you had no vision, would you need to orchestrate the proper organization and activation of muscles (synergies). You would want to know the starting position of the body relative to gravity. You would want to know the position of each of the body’s segments relative to each other, which thereby would “describe” the position of the joints in each of the three planes of motion. You would want to know the tension in all the muscles required to support this beginning position. The proprioceptors provide this neuro-perceptual “baseline” upon which movement occurs. Once your patient / client begins to execute a movement, the neuro-perceptual information of the baseline changes as motion occurs. The motion then informs the body about the direction, speed, and amount of motion of the individual joints. This information combined with discharge from the proprioceptors in the fascia creates a real-time, always changing “picture” of the body’s global movement. Based on the intended task, muscle synergies are created and adjusted to produce a successful movement.

It should be apparent to all of us that our programs should closely approximate the intended task or activity that our patient’s / client’s desire. Functional training invokes the process of spiral dynamics that facilitates more effective and more efficient execution of movements. Functional 3D motion facilitates physiological strain in the tissues that causes the mechanoreceptors to discharge. The proper muscle synergy executes the movement and adjusts the muscles during the movement, all of which provides neuro-perceptual information combined with vision and vestibular input to facilitate a more skilled movement the next time. This continual facilitated improvement of successive repetitions (spiral of success) only occurs if the functional training is authentic to the desired activity. Authenticity is comprised of initial body position (both body relative to gravity and the bone segments relative to each other), as well as 3D movement driven by the proper body parts without conscious attention to any individual joint or muscle.

When in doubt, facilitate discharge from as many proprioceptors as possible. How is that accomplished? Take advantage of all the other Principles in the Functional Movement Spectrum!

[Side note: As mentioned above, Gray Institute® launched Proprioceptors Series for both blogs and vlogs. For ready-access to said blogs, please click on the following links:

  • Ruffini Endings


  • Muscle Spindles


  • Golgi-Mazzoni Corpuscles


  • Free Nerve Endings


  • Golgi Ligament Endings


  • Pacinian Corpuscles


  • Golgi Tendon Organs


  • Fascial Proprioceptors