Training Methods Increasing Speed Ability and Reaction Time

Methodical characteristics

The following three methodological elements, are significant to speed training and will aid in understanding the subsequent material:
1. THE INTENSITY OF STIMULI employed in training, if any improvement is expected, should lie in the range between submaximum and supermaximum. However, a pre-condition to such intensity of training is a good technique. The acquisition of good skill has to be achieved by employing stimuli of intermediate, medium, and sometimes subrnaximum intensities. An optimal training effect results when training stimuli are optimal, which usually occurs when speed training is not preceded by any other training but the customary warm-up. Furthermore, speed training is more effective when it follows days of rest or low intensity training. Similarly, if such abilities are to be developed in the same training lesson, they have to be planned for the end of the lesson.

2. THE DURATION OF STIMULI like any other component of training has to be optimized. A minimum duration is considered to be the time required to accelerate to maximum speed If the duration of stimuli is too short and maximum speed is not reached, the only outcome is the improvement of the phase of acceleration but not optimal speed. Both the minimum and maximum duration of stimuli cannot be categorically specified although for sprinters a suggested range is 5-20 seconds. A much longer duration would enhance anaerobic endurance. As in any other component of training, the duration of speed training stimuli is individual, and necessitates a knowledge of the athlete’s abilities, especially his/her potential to maintain maximum speed. When, as a result of acquiring fatigue, maximum speed cannot be maintained, the exercise should stop.

3. THE VOLUME OF STIMULI   Stimuli employed for speed training are among the most intensive to which the CNS and neuromuscular system is exposed.  Therefore, the optimal volume of stimuli, though individual differences exist, should be low. The volume of stimuli is a function of intensity and the phase of training. Stimuli employed to develop aerobic endurance, present mostly during the preparatory phase, may prevail for up to 90% of the total volume of training, which may range between 10-20 times the competition distance per training lesson. As for stimuli with maximum and supermaximum intensity, they may endure for two-thirds up to double the competition distance (Harre, 1982), with a total volume of work between 5-15 times that of the competition distance.
4. FREQUENCY OF STIMULI The total amount of energy expended during speed training is low as compared to endurance training, The energy expenditure per time unit, however, is much higher than in many other events or sports. This explains why fatigue shows quite quickly in a speed training lesson, which in tum suggests that maximum intensities may be repeated 5-6 times per lesson, 2-4 times per week during the competitive phase (Harre, 1982).
5. REST INTERVALS. Between any repetition of training stimuli, the athlete requires a rest interval which should ensure almost a complete restoration of his/her working capacity, otherwise high intensity work may be impossible to repeat Therefore, file rest intervals ought to facilitate an optimal recovery, during which LA should be reduced, and O2 debt restored almost entirely. Lactic acid, which plays a restrictive role in speed training, reaches a maximum level between 2-3 minutes following the termination of a stimulus. On the other hand, the interval should not be so long that  the CNS’s excitability level fades away (Harre, 1982). Consequently, considering in* dividual characteristics, the rest interval between intensive stimuli may be around 4-6 minutes. If longer intervals are employed (say 12 minutes) a short warm up is recommended so that the CNS excitability level is elevated. Should the coach employ sets of short distance repetitions, then following each set a longer rest interval (6-10 minutes) is desirable.
During normal intervals (2-6 minutes) an active rest such as a light jog or walk is advisable while for intervals that exceed 6 minutes, a combination of passive and active rest is suggested.

Training methods to develop reaction time

1. THE DEVELOPMENT OF SIMPLE REACTION TIME may be achieved by employing the following methods (Zatzyorski, 1980):
a. REPEATED REACTION, which is based on the arousal of an individual following a stimulus, cither at the instant of a signal.(visual or sonar) or altering the conditions of performing a skill. Examples: repeated starts at varied time lapses between “get set” and the starting signal; changing the direction of travel at the signal of the coach, anticipate and react differently to a known skill or movement performed by an opponent, etc.
b. THE ANALYTIC method refers to performing parts of a skill or technical elements under relieved (easier) conditions, where the reaction to a signal or the speed of movement is facilitated. For instance, an athlete reacts faster to a suiting signal if his/her hands are placed on a slightly elevated spot compared to his/her feet. Under such conditions, the athlete’s body weight is not equally distributed; therefore he/she may react with the arms faster than under standard conditions.
c. THE SENSOMOTOR method (Gellerstein, 1980) refers to the liaison between reaction time and the ability to distinguish very small time lapses, or micro-intervals of-tenths of a second. It is assumed that those who can perceive the time difference between various- repetitions are equipped with a good reaction time. Such exercises throught to be performed in three phases:
Phase 1: at the signal of the coach, the athlete performs starts with maximum speed over a short distance (say 5 m). After each repetition the coach tells him/her the performance time.
Phase 2: as above, but the athlete has to estimate the performance time before the coach tells the exact time. In this manner, the athlete learns the perception of his/her reaction time and speed.
Phase 3: at this time the athlete has to perform starts in times previously decided. As a result, the athlete learns to direct his/her reaction time.

The improvement of reaction time depends very much on the athlete’s concentration, and to where his/her attention is focused. If the concentration is directed toward the movement to be performed rather than on the starting signal? then the athletes reaction time is shorter. The reaction time is also shorter if for a few tenths of a second prior to the start the muscles are, isometrically tense (i.e., press the feet against the starting blocks). And finally, reaction time depends also on the time lapse prior to the starting signal. Zatzyorski (1980) suggests that optimal time between the “get set” and the start itself is 1.5 seconds.

2. THE DEVELOPMENT OF COMPLEX (CHOICE) REACTION is achieved by the development of two abilities:

a. REACTION TO A MOVING OBJECT, which is typical for team sports and those involving two opponents. For instance, when a team mate passes the ball, the receiver has to: see the ball, perceive its direction and speed, select his/her plan of action and perform it. These four elements comprise the hidden reaction, which takes between 0.25-1.0 seconds (Zatzyorski, 1980). The longest period of time is required by the first element especially if the object is unexpectedly received by a player. The sensory time, the time necessary to perform the other three elements is much shorten 0.05 seconds. Consequently, during training the coach should stress mostly the first elements, the ability fo visualize the moving object. Various exercises where the ball (or actions in boxing, fencing, etc.) is sent toward the player from unexpected positions, directions, or at unexpected speeds, enhances the reaction to moving objects. Also, the   use of various games, or playing in smaller areas than standard also improves the reaction to a moving object.

b. SELECTIVE REACTION, or selection of the appropriate motor response from a set of possible responses to the actions performed by partners and/or opponents or even as a result of a quick alteration of the performing environment. For instance, a boxer takes a defence stance, and chooses the best reaction to respond to his/her opponents’ actions. Similarity, a downhill skier selects the optimal posture according to the slope and snow. The development of selective reaction ought to be performed in a progressive manner. For instance, in boxing or wrestling, the athlete is first taught a standard reaction to a given technical element. As the athlete automizes the skill, he/her is taught a second variation of this standard reaction.

By now the athlete has to select which of the two~variations is more efficient at a given time. At a later phase, new elements are added so that he/she will know all the defence and counter-offence skills appropriate for a given action, and must select the most appropriate and effective one under various conditions. Zatzyorski (1980) implies that top class athletes react with the same speed for both simple and complex reactions. He suggests that each movement has two phases:
1. the isometric, or the phase when the muscle tone is high, equally distributed in the muscle, and ready to act.
2. the isotonic phase, when the actual movement, or reaction occurs. Often, top class athletes have such a good reaction that they react even before the opponents execute the second phase.

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