Training Tips

Should You Add Reactive Training to Your Fitness Program?

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline, Should You Add Reactive Training to Your Fitness Program?

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Reactive training can include plyometric training, powerlifting, and strength training. It is a focus on quick, powerful, explosive movements. Why are these movements beneficial and how exactly do you incorporate them in your training program? Let’s break it down.

Explosive Movement, Motor Control, and Motor Response

Explosive exercise movements require muscle contractions. When a client or athlete performs a powerful movement, muscles eccentrically and concentrically contract quickly. 

The eccentric contraction is the loading phase, while the concentric contraction is responsible for force production. The transition between the two muscle contractions is known as the amortization phase. This phase is important because the quicker your client can move from one to the other, the better their reactive strength is. 

The nervous system is responsible for all that movement throughout the entire body. Reflexes and muscle movement are controlled by the brain. Motor neurons that are part of the nervous system transmit signals from the spine to skeletal muscle in the body. 

This is what directly influences all muscle movement. Reactive training can help with the body's motor response. The shorter the motor response time, the quicker the movement. Clients can benefit from this by being able to make faster movement decisions while still maintaining a high-performance output.

Why is Reactive Training Important?

Reactive training is just as important for everyday clients as it is for an athlete. It helps athletes generate more force and perform better in their sport. For clients, it helps assist them in activities of daily living. In both scenarios it improves the body's ability to move quickly.

When prescribing a reactive training system be sure to keep one thing in mind: The purpose of reactive training is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible, in the shortest amount of time.

This helps with neuromuscular efficiency and increases a client's ability to produce force. The more force a client can produce, the stronger they become. If a client's goal is to burn fat and build muscle, then being able to lift heavier can benefit them.

Neuromuscular efficiency should not just be a focus for young clients or athletes. Exercises such as squats have been shown to improve neuromuscular efficiency in seniors as well. 

If an athlete can produce large amounts of force in a short time, sports performance increases. The transfer of power contributes to speed, agility, strength, and even conditioning elements. To recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers, you must move fast and rapidly.

When a client's body can withstand sudden movements, they also decrease their risk for injury. Implementing reactive training into each exercise program is important for clients on many levels. 

Balance Training

One way to help clients or athletes achieve good reactive strength is by training with unstable surfaces. Balance training creates variability in the reactive training program. 

Balance training improves stability throughout the entire body, especially in the core. Core strength can determine how an athlete performs and clients need a strong core to support the body throughout exercise movements. Balance itself is a critical component to being able to quickly react.

Before implementing unstable surface training make sure you know the dos and don’ts. 

Balance training should include exercises that use equipment like BOSU balls, slide boards, and single-leg multi-complex movements.

  • BOSU ball squats
  • BOSU single-leg squats
  • BOSU ball battle ropes
  • Single-leg Romanian deadlift rows
  • Single-leg Romanian deadlift to press

Putting it All Together: Reactive Training and Balance Training

With reactive training, you can include segments into existing programs or create an entire program like the following sample. The approach you use to each training session is what will make the biggest impact. 


Single-leg lateral jumps – 3 sets x 10 yards

Box jumps – 5 sets x 3 reps

Speed box squats – 5 sets x 3 reps @ 80-90% of 1RM

Single-leg overhead slams – 3 sets x 5 reps each leg

Weighted BOSU squats – 3 sets x 10 reps


Plyo push-ups – 5 sets of 5 reps

Overhead medicine ball slams – 5 sets x 5 reps

Bench press – 5 sets x 3 reps @ 80-90% of 1RM

PhysioBall pikes – 3 sets x 6 reps 

Single-leg RDL to press – 3 sets x 3 reps each side


Single-leg box jumps – 5 sets of 5 reps each leg

Barbell deadlift – 5 sets x 3 reps @ 80-90% of 1RM

BOSU pistol squats – 3 sets x 5 reps each leg

Single-leg RDL to row – 3 sets x 3 reps each side

Cable lateral loaded single-leg RDL – 3 sets x 6 reps each side

Whether it is a 3-day or 4-day split, always encourage explosive and quick movements. Transitioning from the eccentric phase to the concentric phase as quickly as possible throughout each exercise is the most important aspect. Combine plyometric exercises, compound lifts, and balance training to get the most out of reactive training.

Ready to level up your training tactics? Take ISSA’s Tactical Conditioning course to expand your knowledge on reactive training, mental toughness, deceleration training, and more. Whether your clients work in a tactical environment or just want to improve their overall fitness, you’ll be better prepared to help them hit their fitness goals. Get started today!