SCIENCE BEHIND A BETTER REACTION TIME
CAN REACTION TIME BE IMPROVED?
Visual vs. Auditory (Lights vs. Beeps)
State of the Nervous System
A person with a high HRV score would react much quicker to a random signal, such as the random gate than a person with a low HRV.
Not that kind of arousal you pervert! I mean how stressed, nervous, excited, stoked, pumped, jacked are you when it’s time to perform. This really matters when it comes to your ability to react in the gate. What sport scientists have found is probably what you have also noticed. Too much and too little arousal is NOT optimal. What you want is somewhere in the middle. Walking your bike up to the gate in a semi-comatose state isn’t ideal, but neither is listening to Pantera and punching yourself.
Fixed vs. Variable
If you were like me, you were probably wildly inconsistent. You possibly screwed up and clicked the wrong pattern. This is a perfect example of how thinking too much can slow your reaction time dramatically. Consider how difficult it is to respond quickly to an unknown signal the next time you are working with your child or even your own gate. If you have trouble balancing. Difficulty executing perfect mechanics. Then adding in the variable of a random cadence will make reactions that much more slow and/or inconsistent.
To get consistent gate starts that you see the high-level riders pull off lap after lap, you need to be using subconscious thought during your start. The mechanics need to be drilled before you can react quickly. One really fun game that I like to play with my kid’s group is Rock Paper Scissors Tag.
This perfectly demonstrates just how bad reaction times are when you need to process information first. Try it – Losers have to chase the winner. Best case is your reaction time will be super slow. Worst case, you will most likely both get confused at some point and run into each other. Compare the reaction of Rock Paper Scissors Tag to a simple test of catching a falling stick.
Simple to Complex
One of the biggest mistakes new coaches make is using complex methods too early. I spent years making this mistake. Not considering how hard certain things were for some people. When learning new skills, it’s important to take as many variables out of the movement. Move from simple to complex.
If the mechanics of the riders gate starts are less than ideal, then improving them while reacting to a random gate cadence is about as complex as possible. This is where sprints can be very useful. Although a sprint is not a gate start (nor should be treated like one), it is a more simple movement. If the rider has the habit of throwing hips into the bar without shoulders moving forward during gates, then teaching them proper mechanics moving slowly, on a slight downhill, with no time constraints could be a good place to start.
Spark Weekly BMX Training Tip: This week I’m showing you a simple and effective way to get a rider into a better position as they sprint and do gate starts. ………………………………………………………. Breaking the bad habit of throwing hips forward without also moving head and shoulders forward is critical if you want to develop a great gate start. The rider should slide their hips, shoulders, and head forward on the initial movement. …………………………………………………… One way to ensure that the rider moves forward rather than up is to create a constraint. The beauty is that you don’t have to coach them. They will most likely figure out the correct movement needed to accomplish the task. This leads to more efficient movement and retention. …………………………………………………….. Also, you have now created context with the rider. You should only have to use this drill a few times and after that you can just tell them to IMAGINE the stick while sprinting or on the gate. ……………………………………………………………….. As the rider learns a new skill, do not worry about speed or timing yet. Think of each part as a building block. First they learn the movement without having to overthink. Then they add speed without sacrificing movement. Then you can have them do it all perfectly as you work on reaction time.
Reaction time can be improved through training such as exercises like the stick drop video I shared earlier. You can incorporate running sprints and other athletic skills where the athlete reacts to a particular signal. Structuring drills in order of simple to complex would look something like this – Have athlete start by giving them a countdown (3,2,1, GO!). Then you would just give them a visual signal (drop a flag). Next, you may give them an auditory signal at a random time (GO). Then to make it more complex, alternate between the two.
You can also improve the physiological side of reaction time by optimizing arousal levels and HRV scores. Maybe a switch from lights to beeps will help some too.
These drills will help, but remember – training reaction time at best can be improved only a very slight amount. Where you are going to find big improvements in reaction time and consistency will be through turning conscious mechanics into more of a subconscious movement.
NEED MORE HELP?
I’m running a BLOWOUT SPECIAL on my 3-Month Expert Peaking Program. This was designed to take a rider with a good base level of strength and optimize it through smart weight and a sprint training program. This was used by riders as they trained for the 2016 USABMX Grands. I intended it to be for riders that are around 15 – 30ish age range that take racing seriously. It addresses mobility, warm-ups, and foundational endurance on and off the bike. You will build power as you find peak performance by the end of the program. You will have PDF printouts of the program that you can take to the gym to follow along. Or you can click on the link and watch the video of me coaching you through each movement. You will also have access to a private Facebook coaching page where you can ask any questions and get almost immediate answers.
For the next week, the price is only $14.95! This is the lowest the price has ever been. In fact, it normally retails for $34.95. Sale ends Friday May 12th.
Enter promo code – BMXBLOWOUT for a $20 discount!
Click on the picture above to find more details.