A reflex is the body’s reaction to changes either inside or outside of the body. These responses are immediate and involuntary, meaning no thought process has to occur for the action to take place. Enhancing these spontaneous automatic actions can be accomplished through a series of specific exercises called reflex training. Such training can take the form of physical therapy, targeted workouts or athletic training, or specific challenges that improve speed and accuracy.
Reflex training, or reflex exercises, are tailored to the needs of the individual to improve physical abilities and response time. This form of exercise can be used to improve impairments in activities of daily living caused by injuries or prolonged immobility. Reflex training is also a key component to develop or enrich athletic abilities.
Balance is an example of a reflex required for almost every activity including sitting and standing in a stationary position. When balance is impaired, difficulties can be experienced with the simplest of activities involving even a minor change in position. To improve balance reflex training in the form of challenges to stability can significantly increase the body’s steadiness and ability to adapt to changing circumstances. An example of challenging balance is performing strengthening exercises with a change in base of support by bringing the feet closer together or standing on one foot. To further the level of difficulty, reflex training of balance can also be performed by standing or performing exercises on an unstable surface such a wobble board, a platform resting on a circular or moving pivot point.
Every activity or sport requires a certain group of reflexes in order to perform the proper movements necessary to avoid injury. In many sports, a quick response time and an efficient, well executed response to changes in the playing field allow the athlete to excel. By incorporating reflex training into the workout routine, the athlete can improve skills by performing sport-specific training exercises. Golf, for example, requires changes in body positions with the feet remaining stationary, whereas soccer demands intricate foot work as the body is propelled forward.
To improve reaction time and accuracy when the body is in motion reflex training in the form of obstacle courses or sprints with specific foot movements such as crisscrossing can be effective. Depending on the movements necessary for the activity, running with lateral propulsion, also called sidestepping can enhance abilities. Jumping rope is another form of reflex training that can increase reaction time. Different speeds, using two ropes or jumping backward may also help boost the body’s ability to quickly adapt to change.