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Think faster! This is how you increase your ability to react

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Discover how your brain reacts to stimuli and how you can train this ability.
Ellie read time 3 min.

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Responsiveness is a skill that is often underestimated in sports. It determines how quickly an athlete can react to a stimulus. But that's not all, because short reaction times are important in almost all sports and also in everyday life. The good news: you can train your ability to react.

So, if you're one of those people who often stumble while running outdoors or never catch a ball in team sports, here's all about responsiveness, how it is made up, and how you can improve it.

The basics

What does responsiveness mean? Our reactions are determined and controlled by our nervous system; more precisely from the central nervous system (consisting of the spinal cord and brain) and the peripheral nervous system (all nerves outside the spine and the brain).

When your body senses a stimulus that it needs to respond to, a signal is sent from the optical sensors (the eyes) to the brain via the neurons. These signals are processed by the central nervous system, whereupon a decision is made. The signal from the brain is then passed on via the efferent, motor neurons to the responsible muscles that carry out the instruction. It all happens in a split second.

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Reactions and reflexes

Is there actually a difference between a reaction and a reflex? In short, yes. While we can consciously react to a wide variety of stimuli through our reactions, reflexes have the specific function of protecting us from danger. Because reflexes have to happen faster than a reaction, the signals travel directly through our spinal cord without going through the brain. Our reactions, on the other hand, must first be processed by our brain.

This is how you improve your ability to react

Short reaction times are not only important when sprinting. In many other sports and situations, too, it is a great advantage to be able to react quickly to stimuli. The good news is that you can practice this skill using these four methods:

1. Sprints on signal

You can practice sprinting on signal together with a friend or training partner. Vary the timing to really test your responsiveness. Over time, your body will learn to process impulses faster.

2. Technique training

By doing exercises at a slow pace, your body gets used to the movements and internalizes them. If you then have to do them as quickly as possible in a workout, your brain and body already know exactly how the movements work and can do them correctly at a fast pace without much thought.

3. Plyometric training

A high explosive power is crucial for good responsiveness. With plyometric exercises such as squat jumps or split lunges, your muscles apply maximum strength in a very short time. This strengthens them and increases your explosive power.

4. Forest runs

By running on uneven ground, you train your brain to react quickly to obstacles. If there are also branches and stones lying around in your path, your body is forced to process signals more quickly, which helps to increase your ability to react.

Summarized

Your responsiveness is an important but often underestimated skill. Improving it brings you countless benefits - regardless of the sport, your fitness level or your age. Try to integrate one of our four tips into your training and experience the benefits on your own body.

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