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Reactive Ability: Can it Be Trained?

An athlete must possess certain qualities and skills to be successful. These qualities and skills are highly trainable, and this is why sports performance training is the way to spend your offseason.

Some athletic qualities include, sprinting, jumping, absorbing forces, producing forces in a short amount of time, and reactiveness.

Some athletic skills include eye-hand coordination, multi-object tracking, and sequencing/timing of movements.

Athletes must be able to REACT in their environment in order to succeed. This time of year, we are getting very reactive with our programming.

Let’s take a speed drill for example. Rather than just focusing on close-loop drills (specific endpoint) to enhance pure speed, we will be shifting towards more open-loop drills (non-specific endpoint) where the athlete must react.

We will give either a visual or an audible cue that will force the athlete to react. So far, however, I’ve seen many athletes who love to anticipate what will happen next, rather than react.

If you anticipate in competition, sometimes you will be lucky, but most of the time you will get burned. Athletes are far more successful when they react to a stimulus rather than anticipate what the stimulus will be.

The most important variable to consider is the way our eyes behave in competition. Our body follows our eyes, and our sensory input (what we see/feel) dictates motor output (how we move/react).

Here are some ways we include reactiveness into our programming this time of year.

Speed Drills

As previously mentioned, we either have closed-loop or open-loop drills. It’s not that one set of drills is better than the other, rather it’s about the application of these drills.

I like the use of open-loop drills not only for the physical output, but the mental output as well. It puts the athlete in a mental state of competition, which is what they need when they are on the field.

I’ll pair kids together during a speed drill so they must react to one another. It makes training fun and competitive too!

Resistance Training: Plyometric Focus

While it is still important to chase strength gains this late in the offseason, we must be able to translate this strength into power. Not only pure power production, but specific, repeatable and sustainable power production.

For the baseball player, for example, a swing/pitch is highly dependent on rate of force development. However, it is also reactive in nature.

Increasing your rate of force development can give you that extra velo-boost for your swing or your pitch.

With our training, pairing a plyometric drill with a heavy strength movement enhances the development of the athlete this close to the season. The swing and the throw is a full-body movement, so we must utilize the entire body as such.

If you want to be explosive, then you must train to be explosive.

Visuomotor Ability

Eye-hand coordination, reaction time, and depth perception are all needed skills to be successful in the game of baseball.

We’ve been programming visual/motor reactive drills that put the athlete in an unpredictable environment, and they must rely on their natural athletic ability to perform the drill.

During these drills, the athlete must use their current depth perception, reaction time, and eye-hand coordination to successfully perform the drill.

Just like any other muscle in the body, there are local fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Our eyes are the most important in this regard. As stated previously, sensory input dictates motor output.

Our body responds to consistency, which is how it adapts and gets stronger. Once the body becomes familiar with the stimulus, it adapts and seeks more. When we train our eyes, this same principle applies.

It is very hard to train for these specific skills because there are so many variables that interact with one another. However, it is still important to work on these drills to get the nervous system prepared for a long season of work.

Any visuomotor drill can be performed during the season because of the low demand it puts on the nervous system.

The near-far charts that we have posted at Infiniti Sports Performance will be getting a lot of attention this time of year.

Near-Far Chart

So, do you even react, bro?

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