Traditionally, “reactive training,” or “power training,” has been viewed as exclusively applicable to the athlete. Although this is an important part of an athlete’s protocol, it’s an equally important component in exercise programs for the typical gym member. Every activity we perform, both on the playing field and in everyday life, requires us to react to certain demands placed on our structure and to generate forces quickly enough to meet those demands. Therefore, in order to decrease the risk of injury and enhance overall performance, it is critical that people train at speeds that are functionally applicable to everyday life, as well as sports.
What is Reactive/Power Training?
Reactive Training is defined as quick, powerful movements involving an eccentric contraction (force reduction) followed immediately by an explosive concentric contraction (force production). It incorporates the stretch capabilities of our tissues to store energy (as potential energy), then utilize this energy (as kinetic energy, the energy of motion) to generate force efficiently. Reactive/power training also teaches the mechanisms of our nervous system to recruit muscles quickly, thus enhancing the rate in which the muscles can generate force.
Why is Reactive/Power Training Important?
No matter the population or the activity in question, an individual’s ability to react and generate force quickly is crucial to overall function and safety during movement. Reactive/power training can enhance a person’s ability to dynamically stabilize, reduce, and produce forces at speeds that are functionally appropriate to the tasks at hand.
The nervous system will only recruit muscles at speeds for which it has been trained. If the nervous system is not trained to recruit muscles quickly, it will not be able to respond appropriately when met with a demand that requires a speedy reaction. For example, if two basketball players of the same height are going up for a jump ball, the one who can react and generate force the fastest will win the toss.
The same holds true for both the typical gym member and the overall population. Stepping off a curb that is deeper than expected, you can lose your balance and fall. But if the nervous system has been trained to react quickly, you can recruit the right muscles at the right time, allowing you to regain your balance and decrease your chance of injury. It is important to note that reactive/power training should ONLY be incorporated into an exercise program once the individual has obtained proper flexibility, core strength, and balance capabilities.
Reactive/power training is no longer just for the athlete. It is an important component in all exercise programs to enhance function and performance, and decrease the risk of injury. Hopefully, this fact will become better understood and more people will incorporate reactive/power training into their exercise regimen. Using the example above, try a reactive training exercise. Instead of repeating the jumps, hold the landing position to begin until your body is prepared to handle repeating jumps.