Fast reactions are clearly an integral part of athleticism. However, when it comes to the trainability of reaction time, things are questionable, to say the least.
Ultimately, we need to define exactly what we mean by reaction time and also what physical attributes we are specifically targeting.
Reaction Time is defined as the amount of time it takes to respond to a stimulus – we could describe it as “Quickness”. However, it is not just our ability to react to a stimulus. It is also the ability to change the position of the body in accordance with the stimulus. Therefore, qualities such as coordination, balance, and mobility are important factors.”
When people think about testing an individual’s reaction time, they think about the ruler drop test or pressing a button as quickly as possible after the light comes on. However, there is only so fast a human can react, and in most cases, an average Joe will perform just as well as a world-class athlete in these sorts of tests.
Two hundred milliseconds is about the minimum time it takes for the eye to receive information, for the brain to process the information and send a signal to innovate the relevant muscles. Yet many sporting scenarios require an athlete to react far quicker than they do when catching a ruler between their fingers.
A boxer that dodges 7 punches in a row isn’t reacting to each punch individually. They take on board countless perceptual and decision-making factors, using both tactical knowledge and technical ability to evade the punches.
Ultimately, if a reaction time test mimics a specific sports scenario, elite athletes within that sport will tend to excel, not through sheer reaction times, but a perceptual intelligence of the sport.
This all being said, general reaction time-orientated drills are some of the most enjoyable training drills and are a great way to warm up and potentiate the athlete both physically and mentally.
Reaction time drills may not directly improve the ability of your brain to process information. However, they will get you moving quickly, and that is never a bad thing.
Do you train Reaction Time, and if you do, what are your favourite drills?
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