How to Improve Your Reaction Time
Improve your bunch riding reaction time with these simple exercises. Reaction time is an increasingly important aspect of every sport, especially short duration events when the difference between competitors is marginal. Not only is reaction time a great indicator of the speed and effectiveness of an individual’s decision making, it is also a major component in every day living. Reaction time can be defined by the amount of time that elapses from presentation of a stimulus like a starter’s gun to the initiation of movement like the first pedal strike.
Reaction time is made up of three stages:
- Stimulus identification
- Response selection
- Response programming
Assuming that these three stages do not overlap, then any factor that shortens the length of one or more of these stages will reduce the total reaction time. This reduction can potentially be the winning margin between competitors. There are other benefits that can be gained from improving your reaction time. One of considerable importance is your safety on the road.
There are many factors that can influence the speed of an athlete’s decision making and therefore reaction time. The higher the number of possible stimuli available to the athlete will increase the number of possible responses, in turn increasing reaction time. However, a more experienced athlete can decrease the number of choices available if the same stimulus always leads to the same response. For example, when a cyclist in a peloton hears the shifting of gears, they automatically change gears to prepare for hard effort to avoid being dropped.
Anticipation can be beneficial or detrimental to an persons reaction time. If a rider can correctly anticipate an opponent’s upcoming movement, it almost appears as if they move simultaneously to their opponent. However, to anticipate incorrectly could be costly. To improve reaction time, we must understand the three information processing stages and the mechanisms behind them.
During the first stage, stimulation identification, the athlete identifies a stimulus by a variety of sensory system such as sight and sound. Characteristics of the stimulus such as direction and speed, if any, are identified and passed on to the second stage: response selection.
In this stage, the response to the stimulus is decided. For example, a cyclist that trained might decide to swerve instead of braking to avoid an obstacle.
During the third stage, response programming, a motor program is retrieved. Muscles are prepared for the upcoming movement and the sensory system is orientated appropriately. Once all of this takes place, movement is initiated.
How can we improve our reaction time?
By improving neural response, the essential component of quickness, we can maximize force while minimizing the time it takes to achieve that force.
Plyometrics focuses on the speed of muscle contraction and involves the technique of lengthening, then shortening the muscles to produce increased power output. This is referred to as the stretch shortening cycle and is based on mechanical and neurological components of the neuromuscular system.Take for instance a rubber band. When it is stretched and released, it shortens very quickly. The more it is stretched, the greater the force when the stretch is released. This is due to the greater amount of elastic energy.
Plyometrics is composed of three phases:
- The eccentric phase
- The amortization phase
- The concentric phase
The eccentric phase is when the muscle is stretched and the slack is removed from the muscle. This is followed by the amortization phase, the amount of time between the eccentric phase and the concentric phase. The quicker the transition from eccentric to concentric activity, the greater the force is produced. However, elastic energy is lost if this phase is too long. In the concentric phase, if the first and second phases are optimal, there will be an increase in force production with greater speed.
Many things need to be taken into consideration before attempting plyometric exercises. Intensity, volume, recovery period, frequency, age, body size, and competition level will all impact on the type of plyometric exercises an individual should do. However, there are some basic exercises that most people can perform either at home or somewhere nearby. As a general guide, you should maintain sets of between 5 and 10 reps, and it is recommended that there should be 48-hour recovery period between plyometric exercise sessions.
Jumps in Place
These jumps begin and end in the same place and vary in intensity depending on the height and number of jumps. Start in a squat position and jump very quickly with the aid of our arms and end up in the squat position in preparation for the next jump.
Standing Long Jump
In this exercise, your feet should be shoulder width apart. Jump as far forward as possible from the same squat position, and use your arms to assist you in the air.
Standing Long Jump with Sprint
This one has the same technique as the standing long jump. However, immediately after landing, you need to sprint for 10 meters as fast as possible.
In this exercise, you need to jump one stair at a time using both legs. You should be rapid without stopping up the stairs. If you want to increase the intensity, try jumping 2 stairs at once.
To improve the reaction time, we need to improve the communication between the nerves and the muscles. Plyometrics achieves this while also increasing the elastic properties of the muscles, which is important as the amount of acceleration gained from pushing off a surface depends on the amount of elastic energy in the muscles. This type of training can be very intense, and if signs of overtraining are experienced, allow your body to recover over the next few days or even weeks.