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How to improve Reaction Time - a comprehensive guide

Dec 12, 2021
11 mins read

How to Improve Reaction Time- A Comprehensive Guide

Reaction time is an undervalued element of physical fitness that is surprising most coaches and trainers today. It is an important component in all types of sports and is closely linked to performance. While reaction time is partly influenced by genes and age, it can be improved. And that’s what we’ll focus on in this article: how to improve reaction time.

Reaction time in sports relates to how quickly a player can react to an external stimulus. In a sports context, a stimulus could be anything from other players’ actions to commands from the coach, trainer, or referee. One type of stimulus in athletics is the sound of the starting pistol. In racket games, an opponent’s serve is the stimulus.

How fast an athlete can react to these stimuli greatly determines their chances of winning or losing. Take the case of professional boxing: reacting just one millisecond faster or later could make the difference between blocking a killer punch and being dropped down.

For today’s post, we’ll provide more information on what reaction time is all about and the average reaction time to aim for. We’ve also included tips on how to calculate reaction time and a list of reaction time exercises to help improve this component.

What is an Average Reaction Time?

Athletes should react faster than their competitors to succeed in any sports event. Although it does not help perfect techniques, a higher reaction time is crucial for ensuring that an athlete is performing at their level best.

Generally, athletes who react faster have more time to make the right decision and execute the necessary course of action on the field.

Average Reaction Time by Sport

The average reaction time requirement varies between different types of sports. That’s because faster responses are technically much more important in certain types of sports than others.


The increase in technical and physical aspects of soccer has made the modern game faster than ever before. Players have no option but to work on their speed if they have to remain competitive.

Speed in soccer falls into five broad categories- speed of thought, anticipation speed, reaction speed, speed of feet and skill speed. Reaction speed refers to how long it takes for a player to respond to other players’ actions. Excellent ball reading skill is one thing. But the ability to react super fast is another. Reaction speed is the link between all other abilities.

Soccer players generally have 0.3 seconds to react to other players’ actions. Reaction speed seems vital to goalies. But other players also need incredibly fast reaction times to dodge and avoid collisions in addition to intercepting the ball before the opponents.


A higher reaction time is a strategy used by elite players to increase their success in basketball. Speed reaction is vital for all aspects of the game, from shooting to passing, dribbling, rebounding and defense.

Reaction time in basketball is the difference between a good pass and a steal by a fast and aggressive opponent. This parameter is not only paramount when interacting with other players but in relation to the shot clock too.

In the NBA, players have 24 seconds only to make a shot attempt that either goes through the basketball or touches the rim. The shot clock rule requires the players to make quick adjustments on whether to attempt the shot or pass the ball to a teammate.

Most basketball players have an average reaction speed of 0.2 seconds. But players who are mentally and physically often display reactions of up to 0.15 seconds.


Reaction time training is considered one of the most important components for a successful boxer. While there’s a bevy of other skills that give your fighters an edge in the ring, all offensive and defensive moves in boxing come down to quick reflexes and fast reaction times.

Regardless of how skilled they are, slower MMA and boxing fighters will always get punished by players who can dodge and strike quicker. The beating is even more severe if the opponent can strike without telegraphing the punch. This is precisely why coaches have devised unique training techniques for reaction time.

The average reaction time among amateur boxers is .6+ seconds. However, fighters are expected to improve this ability to .20 seconds and faster to avoid deadly jabs.


In a chaotic on-ice environment like hockey, being able to respond pretty fast is of supreme importance. Hockey is often voted as the game that requires the fastest reaction time. Rightly so, the players need to constantly pivot towards a puck that’s moving at speeds of well over 100 mph. That being said, the players need to possess an impeccable reaction time. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be such good players.

The average reaction time in hockey is .177 to .204 seconds. While all players need to be quick, goaltenders need to have the highest reaction time since they’ll be reacting to a puck flying at extremely high speeds, all while wearing 50 pounds worth of protective gear. There are even team-specific and partner-specific exercises for improving reaction time in hockey.

Softball and Baseball

A 90 mph baseball pitch thrown from a distance of 55 feet requires a reaction speed of around .44 seconds. By comparison, a 70 mph softball pitch released 37 feet from the home plate requires the hitter to react in .35 seconds.

That’s to say that a softball batter needs to have a 20% higher reaction time to respond to a pitch successfully.

All in all, both sports require incredibly high reaction speeds. Players who can recognize the pitch and hit the baseball or softball are easily noted by scouts and are viewed as great players.

Average Reaction Times by Age

The fastest human reaction time ever recorded is .101 seconds, but people react to external stimuli at an average (median) speed of .25 seconds. This suggests that humans take approximately a quarter of a second to react physically to something happening in their environment.

There’s a lot of research going on to determine the effect of aging on human reaction time. One popular study that has sparked controversy among twenty-something-year-olds suggests that the brain’s reaction time peaks at 24 years of age.

The study further notes that reaction time starts to decline by 4-10 milliseconds per year after that. That’s to suggest that a 34-year-old player would be up to 100 ms slower than they were at 24 years.

An important finding by the same study is that older experienced players had comparably faster reaction times than the juniors. The researchers argued that this difference could result from good habits, such as getting quality sleep and eating well, coupled with the desire to get better.

The Best Exercises for Reaction Time Improvement

Legendary athletes like Muhammad Ali, Akani Simbine and Lewis Hamilton have proven once and again that impeccable reaction time is crucial to a great championship. And although reaction time is partly genetic, renowned professional athletes have also affirmed that it can also be developed and improved through various reaction time activities.

So how do players improve reaction time?

Around the World Shuffles

Performing this exercise regularly is a great way to increase reaction time, agility and decision-making skills. The lateral movements also fire up lower body muscles in addition to adding cardio to a player’s workout regimen.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Place 6 Blazepod reaction training lights in a circle with a 5-6 diameter.
  2. Set one of the pods as the home base,
  3. To start, the player stands outside of the circle near the home base pod.
  4. When a surrounding pod lights up, the player shuffles around the circle to tap it out and then shuffles back to the home base pod to tap it out. The player shuffles clockwise or anticlockwise depending on the color of the pod.
  5. Repeat for the duration of the cycle.

The default duration per cycle is 30 seconds, but this can be customized from 10 seconds to one hour. The Blazepod app also allows the players to set how the pods turn out during the activity. They can set the pods to go out only after a hit or a timeout of between 0.5 and 10 seconds.

Lateral Hurdle Jumps

Lateral hurdle jumps are a full-body workout that demands excellent stability, balance and coordination. When coupled with the Blazepod reaction lights training pods, these exercises offer a great way to develop quick reactions in all types of sports.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Start by laying five low-lying field hurdles in a line half a meter apart.
  2. Position a pod every two hurdles, around half a meter outside the line of hurdles.
  3. The player stands between two hurdles facing the pod in front.
  4. When one of the pods lights up, the player jumps with both feet sideways over the hurdles to reach the pod. The player taps out the light and looks out for the next pod to light up.
  5. Repeat until the cycle ends.

The Blazepod app allows the players to customize this workout to their experience level by adjusting the activity duration and how the pods “light out.”

ISO Sprints

There are over ten benefits of isometric exercises ranging from improved stamina to high endurance and increased muscle strength. By adding the Blazepod app and pods to the workouts, ISO sprints add to the list of exercises for reaction time that challenges and trains players to respond to sport-related stimuli fast, in addition to reaping other benefits.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Set the pod at shoulder height by sticking it to a mirror, wall, frame or post.
  2. The player starts by standing in an isometric squat five meters facing the pod.
  3. When the pod lights up, the player explodes forward to tap it out as quickly as possible.
  4. After tapping it out, the player returns to the starting position and performs the next isometric hold depending on the last color tapped out.
  5. By default, this drill has only two colors. The first color requires the player to hold an isometric squat, while the second color calls for a plank.
  6. Repeat for the duration of the cycle.

As with other drills on the Blazepod app, the ‘customize’ button offers the player several options of making this workout more challenging. Add more colors if there are more players or more ISO holds to try out. The player can also increase the intensity of the drill by setting the pod to turn out after a few seconds.

KO Focus Challenge

One of the best exercises for reaction training for martial arts players, the KO Focus Challenge, tests the player’s ability to make correct decisions fast. This exercise trains them how to focus and react fast to changes in their environment. It also develops power and agility.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Use straps to tie six Blazepod reaction training lights around the punching bag. Ensure all the pods are easily visible from one side of the bag.
  2. Have another player hold the punching bag firmly so that it does not swing with every hit.
  3. Stand in a good stance facing the punching bag. When a pod lights up in the player’s color, they punch it out within a second without hitting the distracting colors.
  4. Repeat for the duration of the cycle or until after punching out other colors accidentally.

Focus Reactions

This is a fun and simple brain training exercise that helps optimize your focus, decision-making and reaction time.

Set-Up and Execution

  1. Use four Blazepod light pods to make a one-meter square on the wall, mirror or window. Ensure the center of the square is at eye level.
  2. Stand close to the square of pods staring at its center.
  3. When the pods light up, the player taps out their color in 1.5 seconds or less. The player should be keen not to tap out other distracting colors.
  4. Continue until the cycle ends.

When it comes to how to improve reaction time, it’s important to remember that this is not a one-off thing. Players should perform exercises for reaction time regularly and consistently to gain maximum benefits.

Need help jacking up your reaction time? Blazepod Flash-Reflex Training Lights got you covered. Tons of customizable reaction time exercises at your fingertips and a user-friendly app to track your progress. Find out more now!

How to Calculate Reaction Time

There are multiple suggestions when it comes to how to calculate reaction time. One common method is the ruler drop test.

In this method, person A stretches out their arm with the thumb and index finger held out. Person B holds a 30 cm ruler so that the 0 cm end is just above and between the outstretched thumb and index finger. Person B releases the ruler without warning, and person A has to catch it between the thumb and index finger as quickly as possible.

The point at which person A catches the ruler is noted and rounded off to the nearest centimeter. Readings are estimated from the bottom of the thumb.

Use the table below to convert ruler readings into reaction time in seconds.

Ruler Measurements

Reaction Time (ms)

Ruler Measurements

Reaction Time (ms)





























































Measuring Your Reaction Time Using Blazepod

The Blazepod pods in combination with the app(available on Play Store and App Store) offers a digitized way of measuring reaction time with pinpoint accuracy. The app uses built-in exercises to challenge your athletes to focus and react fast while making correct decisions. The package also includes live data and result storage enabling you to analyze your clients’ performance and create a benchmark against which you can compare results and track improvement. Take a short quiz to find out which kit fits your needs best.


To a larger extent, reaction time in sports determines whether game-related skills will pay off or not. In many sports, being skilled doesn’t mean a lot if the player isn’t quick enough to execute the necessary action.

Thus, in addition to developing sports-related strategies and skills, athletes should also focus on how to train reaction time. Join the Blazepod community today and get access to an ever-growing list of exercises. Learn more here.


What are three things that can improve reaction time?

There are several fact-proven ways of improving reaction time: stay active, play cognitive reaction time exercises and games regularly and get quality sleep.

Why are my reactions so slow?

Slow reaction has been linked to several factors, including age, gender, personality type, alcoholism and physical fitness.

At what age is reaction time fastest?

One popular study on the effects of aging on reaction time found that most people have the highest reaction time at age 24.

What is the fastest recorded human reaction time?

The fastest human reaction time ever recorded is .15 seconds. The average human reaction is 0.25 seconds.

How do you measure reaction time?

The human reaction can be measured using the ruler-drop method. The Blazepod app offers another reliable method of accurately measuring athletes’, patients’, or clients’ reaction time while tracking improvement.