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Understanding Reaction Time and Different Ways to Improve It

Updated on Jun 19, 2024
8 mins read

Reaction time is an undervalued element of physical fitness that is surprising to most coaches and trainers today. It is an essential component in all types of sports and is closely linked to performance. While genes and age partly influence it, there are ways to improve reaction time. We will break down: what is reaction time training, how to increase reaction time, and specifically what exercises will help you get the speed you are looking for.

What is Reaction Time?

Reaction time measures how swiftly a player can respond to an external stimulus. In competitive fields, this stimulus could be anything from the actions of other players to commands from the coach, trainer, or referee. For example, in track and field, the sound of the starting pistol is the stimulus. In racket sports, the opponent's serve triggers the reaction.

An athlete's ability to react swiftly to stimuli often determines their chances of winning or losing. In professional boxing, for instance, responding just a millisecond faster or slower can mean the difference between blocking a knockout punch and hitting the canvas.

Athletes must react faster than their competitors to succeed. While it doesn't perfect technique, a quick reaction time is essential for peak performance, giving athletes more time to make the right decisions and execute actions effectively.

If you want to know how to train your reflexes, it's slightly more complicated. We can't improve our reflexes directly, but we can teach ourselves to turn reactions into reflexive behavior. Like recoiling from a hot stove, this natural, involuntary response happens so quickly that the body reacts before the brain processes the pain. You can't technically get fast reflexes from training, but you can train your brain to recognize patterns, process information at high speed, and react instantly, almost as if it were a reflex; this is reaction time training.

Average Reaction Time by Sport

Reaction time paces depend on the sport, as faster responses are more crucial in some than others.

Football

The technical and physical demands of football have made the modern game faster than ever, requiring players to improve their speed to stay competitive. Speed in football falls into five categories: speed of thought, anticipation, reaction, speed of feet, and skill speed.

The average reaction speed for football, roughly 0.3 seconds, is crucial for responding to other players’ actions and is vital for goalies and field players to avoid collisions and intercept the ball. If you want to compete with Mbpabbe, read on for how to improve your reflexive reactions.

Basketball

Elite basketball players use fast reaction times to increase their success. Speed reaction is crucial for shooting, passing, dribbling, rebounding, and defense.

In basketball, reaction time can differ between a good pass and a steal. It’s vital for interacting with players and managing the 24-second shot clock in the NBA, requiring quick decisions on whether to shoot or pass.

Most players have a reaction speed of 0.2 seconds, but top performers often react in as little as 0.15 seconds.

Boxing

Reaction time training is crucial for boxersas all offensive and defensive moves depend on quick reflexes. Regardless of skill, slower fighters will always be punished by those who can dodge and strike faster, especially if the opponent can strike without telegraphing.

Boxing coaches have developed unique techniques to improve reaction time. While amateur boxers average a reaction time of 0.6+ seconds, fighters must strengthen to 0.2 seconds or faster to avoid deadly jabs.

Hockey

Improved reflexes and fast reaction times are essential in hockey’s chaotic environment. Players must constantly pivot towards a puck moving at over 100 mph (160 kph), requiring impeccable reaction times to advance.

The average reaction time in hockey is .177 to .204 seconds. While all players need to be quick, goaltenders must have the fastest reactions to stop pucks at high speeds while wearing 50 pounds of protective gear. To improve your reaction time, take a peek at some team-specific drills for hockey players and partner-specific hockey exercises.

Softball and Baseball

A 90 mph baseball pitch from 55 feet requires a reaction time of .44 seconds, while a 70 mph softball pitch from 37 feet requires .35 seconds.

This means softball batters need a 20% faster reaction time than most other sports. Both softballers and baseballers demand incredibly high reaction speeds, and scouts highly value players who can quickly recognize and hit the ball.

Does Age Impact Reaction Time?

The fastest recorded human reaction time is 0.101 seconds, while the average is 0.25 seconds. Research indicates that reaction time peaks at 24 years of age and then declines by 4-10 milliseconds per year. As such, a 34-year-old player may be up to 100 milliseconds slower than they were at 24.

However, older, experienced players often have faster reaction times than younger ones, likely due to good habits like quality sleep and proper nutrition, combined with a strong desire to improve.

How to Improve Reflexes

Sure, you can take a break to train your brain with video games or puzzles that sharpen cognitive skills. However, combining physical and mental training, like with BlazePod’s Pod light system, dramatically enhances reaction time, boosts spatial awareness, and pushes your body to its limits.

BlazePod's simulated gameplay drills are designed to improve your reflexes and reaction time. By training your brain to recognize patterns and develop reflexive behavior, BlazePod enhances the communication between your brain and muscles. This results in natural, lightning-fast reactions, even under extreme pressure.

With BlazePod’s cognitive lights, access over 200 drills designed to help you analyze gameplay, process information in the heat of the moment, and execute difficult plays flawlessly.

The Best Exercises for an Increased Reaction Time

Legendary sportspeople like Novak Djokovic, Max Verstappen, and David Beckham have shown that impeccable reaction time is crucial to winning championships. While partly genetic, top athletes know that reaction time can be developed and improved through dedicated training. Here is how to increase reaction time with just a handful of engaging but no less challenging BlazePod exercises.

Around the World Shuffles

Regularly performing Around the World Shuffles exercise enhances reaction time, agility, and decision-making skills while engaging lower body muscles and adding cardio to your workout. Plus, you don’t need an endless plethora of equipment to give this drill a go; nothing more than sheer will and determination to beat the global average and your friends’ reaction times.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Arrange 6 Pods lights in a 5 - 6 meter diameter circle.
  2. Start by standing outside the circle behind any Pod.
  3. When a Pod lights up, shuffle around the circle to tap it as fast as possible.
  4. Depending on the designated color, shuffle clockwise or counterclockwise.
  5. Repeat for the duration of the drill.

The default cycle is 30 seconds, but you can adjust it to be as short as 10 seconds or as long as an hour. Customize the Pod colors and set the time limits, choosing either unlimited time or just a few seconds before each Pod times out.

Lateral Hurdle Jumps

A regular Lateral Hurdle Jump drill offers a full-body workout that demands stability, balance, and coordination. Paired with BlazePod reaction training Pods, this exercise pushes your body to its limits while training your mind to become more aware and reactive.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Lay five low hurdles in a line half a meter apart.
  2. Position 4 Pods between every two hurdles, half a meter outside the hurdle line.
  3. To start, stand in the middle between two hurdles facing the Pods.
  4. When a Pod lights up, jump sideways over the hurdles to reach and tap it. Brace yourself immediately to look for the next blazed Pod.

For this drill, stay alert, move swiftly, and maintain balance. This will boost reaction speed for runners, hurdlers, and any sport that demands quick thinking, processing, and reacting on your feet.

ISO Sprints

Isometric exercises involve holding a muscle contraction without moving, like in planks or wall sits, to build strength and stability. They offer numerous benefits, from improved stamina to increased muscle strength. Incorporating isometric exercises with the Pods enhances reaction time by challenging players to respond quickly to sport-related stimuli.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Place one Pod at shoulder height on a mirror, wall, frame, or post.
  2. Stand in an isometric squat position five meters from the Pod.
  3. When the Pod lights up, explode forward to tap it as quickly as possible.
  4. Return to the starting position and hold an isometric position based on the last color tapped (squat for one color, plank for the other).
  5. Repeat for the cycle duration.

Customize your workout on the BlazePod app by adding more colors, ISO holds, or increasing drill intensity.

KO Focus Challenge

The KO Focus Challenge is a top reaction training exercise for martial arts, enhancing quick decision-making, focus, power, and agility.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Strap six Pod lights around a punching bag, ensuring all pods are visible from one side.
  2. Have your coach hold the bag steady.
  3. Stand in a proper stance facing the bag.
  4. Punch the designated Pod color briefly while avoiding the distracting Pod colors.
  5. Repeat this for the duration of the drill or until you hit the wrong color.

Focus Reactions

This fun and simple brain training exercise optimizes focus, decision-making, and reaction time.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Arrange four Pod lights in a one-meter square on a wall, mirror, or window, centered at eye level.
  2. Stand close to the square, staring at its center.
  3. When the Pods light up, tap your color within 1.5 seconds, avoiding other colors.
  4. Continue until the drill ends.

For optimal benefits, perform reaction time exercises regularly. The Benchmark feature allows you to see how your reaction times compare globally, and you can compare your results with friends on the in-app Leaderboard.

Measuring Your Reaction Time Using Blazepod

The BlazePod app provides a precise, digital way to measure your reaction time. The app includes built-in exercises that force you to focus, react quickly, and make exact decisions, all in a split-second. BlazePod also offers live data and result storage, allowing you to analyze performance, create benchmarks, and track improvement. Take a short quiz to find out which kit best fits your needs.

Answering Your Reaction Time Questions

How do you improve your reflexes?

While we can’t technically improve our reflexes, we can train our reactive intelligence to mimic reflexes. By practicing exercises that speed up reaction time, you can develop reflexive behavior and become a more reactive athlete overall.

Why are my reactions so slow?

Slow reaction has been linked to several factors, including age, gender, personality type, alcoholism, and physical fitness.

At what age is reaction time fastest?

A famous study completed by the University of California on the effects of aging on reaction time found that most people have the highest reaction time at age 24.

What is the fastest recorded human reaction time?

The fastest human reaction time ever recorded is .15 seconds. The average human reaction is 0.25 seconds.

How do you measure reaction time?

The human reaction can be measured using the ruler-drop method. The BlazePod app offers another reliable method of accurately measuring athletes’, patients’, or clients’ reaction time while tracking improvement.

How do we increase reaction time?

You must train your cognitive abilities, not just your physical ones. Through video games, brain exercises, or, more importantly, dual physical and mental training, you can enhance your ability to process surroundings, devise solutions, and execute moves with precision. With consistent practice and challenging exercises, your brain will learn to react faster, improving your reaction time.

Conclusion

In sports, quick reaction time can be the game-changer that makes your skills genuinely shine. Being skilled is excellent, but it won’t mean much if you’re not fast enough to act. So, while focusing on your strategies and techniques, don’t forget to train your reaction time too. It could be the edge to turn good plays into game-winning moments.