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How to Improve Reaction Time

Ever wonder how professional athletes get so good at their sport?

There has been plenty of debate about this, for simplicity lets just say it’s about 50% genetic 50% good training/hard work.

You might think that an ability like reaction time is purely genetic, but there is mounting evidence that you can improve your ‘reaction-time-ability’.

Consider a penalty shot in hockey or soccer, the goal tender has to come up with a NEW and UNIQUE way of moving to respond to the movements of the other players and the puck/ball. Such complex tasks as this are so variable it would seem impossible to imitate and train in the gym.

The processes that occur in the nervous system when we react to an incoming object have been well studied, and when we look at the components of reaction time it allows us to understand how it is possible that you can improve reaction time…

 

What is Reaction Time anyway?

  • Reaction Time is a measure of the speed of a decision making process : that is, the time it takes for your head to get out of the way of an approaching soccer ball.

There are three major steps in any decision making process

  1. stimuli Identification (input)
  2. Response Selection (decision making in brain)
  3. Response programming (output / action of body)

This link is a visual that will go into more depth about the internal workings of the nervous system while it is performing a complex task.

What the Coach and the Athlete need to do now is analyze the type of skills and their requirements of their sport – and then decide where overall response gains can be made. You must consider the following when testing and analyzing reaction time:

  • ensure proper warm up so the sense organs and nervous system is ready to transmit information, and so the muscles are able to fully act.
  • optimum motivational levels – get psyched (but not too psyched).
  • Controlling anxiety – anxiety slows reaction times by adding conflicting information.
    • Breath control / breathing exercises will go a long way in keeping the mind and body calm in any situation : try ‘box breathing’ and for an extra challenge try it while walking – what you do is breath in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breath out for 4, hold or 4 – repeat.
  • Detecting the (relevant) cues – must analyze which environmental cues are helpful.
    • if you are able to; detect, remember, and respond appropriately to an environmental cue, your reaction time will dramatically reduce (which is good)
    • this process is trained when you link many different exercises back to back to back – EX: kettlebell swing/clean/press/snatch complex – you are forced to respond to ever changing force vectors and load demands … it also plays a role in the next point….
  • Change in attention focus – being able to switch quickly from one main object of focus to another without losing sight of ‘everything else’.
    • Peripheral Awareness or peripheral vision, declines with age, however there is the possibility of slowing down this presbyopia. Incorporating some simple peripheral awareness tasks into your training will go along way in 1) reducing vision related falls, 2) staying relaxed (focusing on your peripherals is much like the opposite of what happens when you have tunnel vision) and 3) increased ability to identify relevant cues/stimuli = better reaction time.
  • Decision making – involved in all of the above. Good coaching and lots of quality practice is key here.
    • this processes is highly driven by genetics and there are a number of factors to consider when concerning reaction time

Major Factors that effect decision making:

  1. the number of possible alternatives – try to reduce to only relevant alternatives
  2. Practice + the type of movement the response requires – quality massed practice for about 3 months will automate most non-complex movements.
  3. Anticipation – can be trained with practice as well

 


 

This is probably too much information and might quickly feel like too much to think about.

If you can’t or just don’t want to figure this all it out yourself feel free to ask me – or at least ask another qualified physical trainer.

 

Remember, it is MUCH harder to improve than it is to maintain a fitness level.

So, you might as well build up a reservoir of abilities while your young,

so that you can coast on them when your older!

 

Here is a link to a simple and one of many online reaction tests – finding a baseline in different postures (seated/standing) and test every 4-6 months : Reaction Time Test

don’t do the test too much, you will lose the element of surprise and what should be a ‘test’ will turn into ‘practice’.

 

I hope this is useful

Cheers 🙂

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Workout Organization Principles 2 :

HELLO FRIENDS

This is a continuation of an article Series;

1) StrongFirst: Principle Based Strength.

2) Workout Organization Principles 1 : mobility, reactivity, speed, skill.

3) Strength Principles part 1 & part 2

This Post will explain the last 4 points of the StrongFirst ‘S‘ : principles of workout organization

5) Power  6) Strength  7) Conditioning  8) Relaxation/Recovery


 

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I want to remind you have this is not THE way, this is just one of many ‘ways’.

All I am trying to do it make your life easier.

If your reading this then you more than likely care about your body, you already workout and want to know more about the health and fitness world.

Well, if you follow these 8 principles you will not have to worry about one of the most important areas of workout organization. If you order the different exercises in your workout according to the template described, based on the information at each point ( each point corresponds to a section of your workout) you will be following the body’s natural way of using and fatiguing it’s energy systems.

You will therefore be getting the most out of each workout.

Don’t you just love efficiency?

 

without further ado here are the last 4 points on the StrongFirst ‘S‘ : Workout Organization Principles –

 

5) Power

  • 10-20 minutes
  • rep range will increase from previous section to between 2-5reps
  • weight will increase from previous section, thus shifting the focus from speed to power
  • choose compound movements with 3-5 minutes rest between sets
  • this section will recruit high threshold motor units and will encourage myofibrillar hypertrophy

 

6) Strength

  • 10-20 minutes
  • In the original article strength is mentioned at 3 points, this was to distinguish them from being confused with what you might think speed and power mean. In this context Strength represents a section of your workout where you stress your body out with a certain weight for a certain rep range. The meaning of Strength beyond this has been dealt with else where …
  • lighter weights than previous section, due to accumulated fatigue training speed at this point would be useless, thus the focus shifts to pure strength
  • choose a grinding compound movement for sets of 3-6 repetitions
  • no more than 3 minutes rest
  • this section may encourage some sarcoplasmic hypertrophy

 

7) Conditioning

  • Conditioning in this template means anything more than 6 reps
  • If your ‘explosive’ movements stay explosive, and your form remains strict this section can last for as long as you do.
  • this section is highly goal dependent:
    • if you want slow-twitch muscle hypertrophy = sets of continuous movement for 40 – 120s, equal amount of rest, specificity is key.
    • if you want to burn calories = sets of full body exertion followed by weighted carries and planks, keep your heart rate high.
    • (skeletal) muscular conditioning/endurance …. cardiovascular conditioning (the ability of the heart and the lungs to transfer oxygen) … each has its own considerations and ideal training methods …
  • some conditioning methods may not leave you panting while some necessarily have to.
  • this is why it is a good idea to find yourself a qualified strength and conditioning coach – one who doesn’t confuse strength and conditioning with conditioning and more conditioning.

 

8) Relaxation/Recovery

  • this section should be as long as needed, some need 5 minutes, others 15. however long it is make sure you 1. breathe deeply 2. decompress your spine.
    • decompression exercises include : hanging of various types, child’s pose and cobra, other various yoga moves, foam rolling etc…
  • I have written elsewhere on this subject of Recovery so I will not spend too much time on it here.
  • there is a 6-9 hours window post workout that if you time either your recovery procedures or sleeping cycle to correspond with this window you will enhance your recovery and your ability to train the following day.
  • meditation and other mental practices will help tremendously for those athletes committed to their progress. Since mental practice takes time, and time in our current society is valued as money, unless the individual highly values their physical progress, there will not be much effort invested in mental practices – However, even 15 minutes will go along way.

 

WELL Well well, this concludes the article series on StrongFirst inspired workout organization and strength principles.

I hope you found the StrongFirst ‘S’ visual useful, if you are a dedicated SFG like I am I know you will appreciate its use. Besides, graphs and tables are boring.

 

If you have any questions ask me in the comments below or contact me on social media or email.

 

All the best in your health and fitness journey,

 

MC – your friendly neighborhood trainer 🙂

 

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“Over Head Press Rules”

Hello Comrades

this post is about Rules,

the Rules of overhead pressing.


 

The Over Head Press Rules!

The OH Press is my favorite exercise for both health and strength reasons.

 

Health reasons:

  • if you never lift your arms up past your chest, you will loose the overhead range of motion needed for a healthy shoulder – current Neurosciences agree:  “if you don’t use it, you loose it”
  • using a greater range of motion improves movement mapping in the brain, allowing the athlete to become more in touch with their body and maximizing their movement abilities

Strength reasons:

  • with greater range of motion more muscles are used, increasing stability at the shoulder joint
  • a much higher abdominal contraction occurs as you press overhead, more so than in any other type of press – that’s right, pressing will give your abs a hell of a workout ( when done properly)
  • the OH press is a better test of athleticism than the bench press because the bench press artificially decreases stability demands and is not as ‘functional’ as the OH press – being stable is more important than being strong in the long run.

 

So,

If you are convinced to press overhead here are some RULES to follow when pressing, if you follow them you will most likely be doing it well enough and safe enough to practice on your own.

  1. keep you legs (glutes and quads) tight!
  2. keep your shoulders down (LatsOn!) – especially as your arm starts to move and throughout the entire movement.
  3. your elbow MUST remain UNDER your wrist at all times (if you are having difficulty with this try a ‘Bottoms Up’ Press or a ‘wall-slide press’)Bottoms Up Press
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    * note the elbow alignment (and Tyler in the mirror:)

    Wall-Slide Press
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    * keep elbow away from wall, but hand close to the wall, this creates ‘external rotation’ or torque, while pressing which increases the stability of all the joints involved.
    ** try squeezing a ball as you slide your arm up and down the wall, the trick is to manipulate the shoulder/elbow so that your body does not have to move away from the wall

  4. Breathe out on the way up, Breathe in on the way down.
  5. Do NOT use the muscles of your face and neck – never let your enemy know you are struggling! Zen-Buddha face, always.

 

Keep these Rules in mind and remember to work without pain and within your own limits and you will have safe, healthy and strong shoulders for life.

All you have to do is practice with patience and awareness!

 

All the best 🙂

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Training Considerations: REST, SET TYPE and MENTAL MANAGEMENT.

Hello My Friends!

 

This Post is about REST!

and how to get make your workouts more efficient by considering these 3 simple ideas:

  • Rest
  • Set Type
  • Mental Management

 

So,

what is the ideal rest period anyway?

well – that depends on the type of load you place on your body relative to your physical capacity.

A gentleman named Seluyanov has a lot to say on this subject, however I could not find much info about him.

I do know that Seluyanov believed  in an ideal work : rest ratio of 1 : 4-6!!

That means if your set is 40 seconds in duration – your rest should be no LESS than 160 seconds

(If you want to find out more about Seluyanov check out this article from TrainAdaptEvolve.com)

 

the SECOND consideration to ‘efficientize’ your workout is:

what TYPE of SET are you doing?

Bellow there are a few ways of thinking about SET TYPES and the ideal rest associated with them

SET TYPES

PRIMING sets – up to 1 min rest

  • these are your warm up sets

POST PRIMING sets – 2-3 min rest

  • sub maximal set that finishes well before exhaustion
  • sub maximal set =  50-70% 1rm with a work duration of 1-5 minutes in length

EXHAUSTION sets – 5-7 min rest

  • near maximal set that finishes with close to complete exhaustion
  • near maximal set = 70-90% 1rm with a work duration of 20-50 seconds in total

MAX ATTEMPT sets – 10-20mins

  • exhaustion set with maximum weight for maximum repetitions
  • max power set = 90-100% 1rm with a work duration of about 20 seconds

 

 

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS for a more efficient workout:

MENTAL MANAGEMENT

Here is a quick outline of how to use the power of your mind to control the pace of your workouts, and to make them much MUCH more efficient

(1) PRE-EFFORT psyche up. (2) POST-EFFORT simmer down. (3) walk-breathe-visualize (4) REPEAT

1) right before you do a movement, focus on how a perfect rep should feel, take some deep breathes, get your mind and body ‘set’, then go! Now is the time to elevate your emotional involvement.

2) you never see a sprinter stop right at the finish line : after you ‘lift’ move around, shake out, repay the oxygen dept your body goes into whenever you strain. Remember to let go of the previous set and move on to the next one, a little effort is spent on analysis of the previous movement but most of this is the time should be focused on recovery.

3) this is the most mentally active part; you should just breathe and visualize the movement you are going to do next. When that get easy try matching each breath with a step – as you visualize the next movement.

4) REPEAT the psyche up stage

 

  • All this might take a while – but if you listen to what is written above you will notice that you actually have plenty pf time to try this out

 

 

Well I hope you learned something and maybe even enjoyed doing it

I know I enjoyed doing this!

 

All the best my friends,

your friendly neighborhood trainer 🙂