What’s up with LeBron’s latest training technique?

Basketball players practice at a Sanford POWER basketball camp.

If you’re a basketball fan or active on social media, you probably saw the recent Bleacher Report story (and video) detailing the way that NBA star LeBron James uses “yoga bubbles” as part of his training.

Well, this practice isn’t entirely new – it’s been in use for some time at Sanford POWER by coaches and physical therapists plus biomechanists at the Sanford Sports Science Institute. Here are some insights into how and why we use it. Reach out to the POWER Center in your area, if you’d like to try it:

“It’s another tool used to prepare athletes for the chaotic nature and demands for their sport. Many coaches incorporate some type of proprioceptive techniques during pre-game warmups as a way to improve stabilization and promote mind/body awareness and movement responsiveness. We have used similar techniques without balance balls/equipment, by simply balancing on one leg and closing their eyes and have them maintain their balance. You can vary difficulty by adding movements or equipment.”
Hunter Glascock, POWER strength and conditioning coach

“Defined as a person’s ability to sense where their body is in space, proprioception is an often overshadowed aspect of movement. A person’s understanding of their environment and how they interact with it governs how efficiently they move, and more importantly, react to external stimuli. For an athlete like LeBron, this is more important than most people readily understand. The activity LeBron is seen doing helps “prep” his proprioceptive awareness, by putting him on the more unstable surface of the air discs (mimicking an awkward landing or being bumped by a defender) while still passing or dribbling a basketball. If he can prepare his neuromuscular system to react and adapt more quickly to unexpected stimuli, which occur constantly in games, he can be more seamless and efficient in his movement, which would lead to another poor defender being “posterized.”
Zadok Isaacs, SSSI Biomechanist

“We use very similar air inflated discs here for proprioceptive exercises for a lot of different purposes.  Some of it is activation of the neural system, which is how LeBron is using it pre-game.  We also work on proprioception after even a knee/shoulder surgery, as those signals of joint awareness are slowed from the joint to the muscle to the brain.  Muscle activation is a very important prior to exercise.  Proprioception is essential in any dynamic warm up and can be done at varying levels of difficulty.”
Melissa Moyer, Sports Physical Therapist