Reflex sports involve automatic movements in reaction to an object or event, such as ball games, martial arts, and weightlifting. Athletes with strong reflex coordination have an advantage in timed sports. Targeted exercises can improve reflex skills, and reflex fitness equipment can condition the body.
There are three main types of reflex sports and a number of different involved moves and exercises that also play a role. Sports that involve physical contact with a ball or other playing device, such as a puck, are the most common and make up the largest category. In this type of sport, players must rely not only on their coordination but also on the responsiveness of their muscle reflexes to make contact with the object and direct it, usually towards another player or a goal. Sports involving controlled and directed muscle movements, such as martial arts and boxing, also fall under the reflexive sports category, and weight lifting may also be included to the extent that it requires dedicated movements of varying intensity and speed. Athletes with solid muscle reflex coordination often have an advantage in a number of other sports, especially those that require timed starts, such as sprinting, swimming, and competitive diving. People often engage in targeted exercises to improve their sports reflex skills, which can be beneficial in many different contexts.
How reflexes affect sport
Reflexes are the automatic movements that a body performs in reaction to an object or event. Thus, reflex sports, also known as reaction sports or response sports, focus on refining the muscle movements that come naturally in any given competitive situation. Many different types of reflexes are part of the human body. Reflexes in sports tend to address skeletal muscle contractions. The more visceral reactions produced by reflexes in the heart and glandular muscle can also occur in almost any type of sport.
Sports that involve the use of a ball are some of the best known and most recognized reflex-focused sports. In these athletic events, the moving ball serves as a stimulus that elicits the body’s action. For example, when a high-speed object is moving towards an individual, a natural response might be to reach out to push the object away. In tennis, this automatic action becomes a sport when a racket is placed in the hand, and baseball works in a somewhat similar way. Although the sport uses a puck rather than a ball, hockey also depends on a player’s ability to hit an incoming object.
Martial Arts and Boxing
Other sports that involve reflexes focus on the instinctive drive of skeletal muscles to back away from an oncoming object. Martial artists and boxers, for example, need quick reflexes to avoid being hit by punches, blows or kicks. In a kind of reversal, soccer or hockey goaltenders have to jerk their body towards the object to stop its movement.
Reflexes can alter the length of muscles, strengthening the individual’s grasping and gripping ability. This response is evidenced when an individual drops an object and quickly grabs it with his hand before he can reach the floor. Some sports rely heavily on this type of reflex action, such as competitive weightlifting. In these displays, the lifter may need to shift weight quickly from the shoulders to the front of the body without dropping the object. Some studies have suggested that weightlifters may have the quickest reflexes of any athlete.
Relationship with timed starts
Because reflex messages have to travel a faster path from brain to muscle, many top athletes in timed sports are elite because of their quick reflexes. Sports that begin with a timed start, such as track events and swimming, are particularly dependent on athletes with reflexes that can propel them off the starting line seconds ahead of their competitors. In such events, these micro-advantages can often be the difference between victory and finishing last.
Training and conditioning
Reflex fitness equipment uses reflex sports methods to condition the body. For example, reaction balls are thrown against a wall, allowing an individual’s reflexes to improve as the ball is caught from different angles. In addition, the spring mats help develop leg reflexes by exposing the lower limbs to unpredictable movements.