Improving peripheral vision is something that many athletes want to do. It’s an element of vision that is often neglected, but extremely useful.
But here’s the problem:
There aren’t many great resources that show you exercises and techniques that will take your peripheral vision to the next level.
That’s where this guide comes in. In it, you’ll learn how to improve your peripheral vision quickly and effectively.
Let’s get started.
Why Peripheral Vision Is Important For Athletes
It’s a popular misconception that the key to success in sports is having the ability to focus on one core target at a time. Many believe that developing strong “tunnel vision” is the best way to concentrate on the events unfolding on the field.
While tunnel vision focus is certainly important in some aspects of the game, sports are far more complicated than that. No matter what sport you play, there are probably several things going on at once. Somehow, you need to focus on every single thing at the same time. So, how is that possible?
Well, it all comes down to your peripheral vision. The best athletes can take advantage of their peripheral vision to stay aware of everything that’s happening on the field. Even if you are focusing on a single task, your peripheral vision needs to work overtime so that you never miss any of the action.
Let’s take basketball as an example. Say that you’re tasked with guarding a specific player. You must focus your central vision on that player. However, your peripheral vision will be what helps you spot screen or pass attempts.
The same goes for other fast-paced sports, such as football. If you get your hands on the ball, you might be focused on making it to the goal unscathed. So, how do you avoid tackle attempts by the opposing team’s defensive line? Your peripheral vision is helping you spot those moves before they happen!
Needless to say, your peripheral vision is incredibly important in sports. That information picked up in your mid and far peripherals actually travels to your brain up to 25 percent faster than the information picked up in your central vision.
Because those targets in your peripheral vision aren’t in your main focus line, your brain needs to react to stimulants much quicker. Luckily, our brains are already hardwired for that act. That’s because you use your peripheral vision all the time!
It plays an important role in your balance. Up to 20 percent of those peripheral nerves help you stay upright, which is crucial in sports. However, it doesn’t stop there.
Seasoned athletes will tell you that taking advantage of your peripherals can also help you focus. When you tap into that side-view, the game appears to slow down. Because that information is being sent to your brain faster, objects become more visible. You’re able to track events more efficiently without moving them to your central line of vision.
This is a stark contrast to tunnel vision. With tunnel vision, you’re ignoring your peripherals and focusing solely on the events in your direct line of sight. In many instances, that tunnel vision can hinder your performance by limiting what you see and how you react to events.
Improving your peripheral vision offers tons of benefits. Not only can you reach your full potential on the playing field, but you can also experience noticeable improvements in your everyday life.
The Toothpick And Straw Method
There’s no shortage of techniques to improve your peripheral vision. Humans have been doing this for centuries!
One of the easiest and most accessible techniques out there utilizes nothing more than a simple straw and two toothpicks. This exercise is designed to make you more aware of what’s going on in your side vision.
Your central vision, also known as foveal vision, is incredibly sharp and focused. That’s because there are more rods and cones in the center of your retina. Plus, those ocular rods and cones are far more sensitive to light.
As you start moving to your near, mid, and far peripheral vision, things start to get a bit hazier. Thus, you’re typically not able to make precise movements or make out finer details. The straw and toothpick exercise aims to change that.
Start by drawing a black line on the center of the straw with a marker. This line should go around the circumference of the straw. When you set the straw horizontally on a flat surface, the mark should appear as a vertical line that runs around the entire straw. Think of it like a crosshair.
Now, have a friend hold that straw horizontally in their hands in front of you. Take a step back so that you’re one to two feet away from the straw.
With a straw in each hand, focus your central vision on that black line. Now, try to place the toothpicks into each end of the straw. While you’re doing this, keep your central vision focused on that line!
As you continue to perform this exercise, you should train your mind to have a sharper focus on your peripherals. Eventually, you’ll be able to place those toothpicks into the straw without any issues.
Use Cognitive Training Gear
Cognitive training tools offer a more modern alternative to the old toothpick trick. These are highly advanced tools that are becoming more and more widespread in the sports community.
Several big-name athletes implement cognitive training into their workout routine. As you know, sports isn’t just about having your physical capabilities in check. Your mind has to be stimulated and fine-tuned as well.
With cognitive training tools, you’re able to implement a wide range of exercises to enhance your peripheral vision. While there are several high-tech tools out there, one of the best for vision is a light board.
These boards are electronically powered and flash a series of lights. Many have touch receptors built into them, adding another layer of interactivity that could challenge your mind.
To improve peripheral training, you would stand in front of the board and focus on a fixed point. Then, lights would flash in your side view. You would be tasked with touching those lights quickly and efficiently.
The cool thing about cognitive training tools is that you have a wide range of opportunities to train. Rather than using a predictable technique, these tools keep you on your toes. This prevents you from completing tasks based on pure muscle memory.
Of course, cognitive training tools aren’t just about your peripherals. While your main goal may be harnessing the power of your peripheral vision, you’re also going to experience a myriad of other benefits.
Seeing those lights can improve your response time and decision making skills. Meanwhile, the act of touching the lights can help you see vast improvements in your hand-eye coordination. Pair all of those gains with enhanced peripheral vision and you’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the field.
Try Recording Things That Are Outside Your Central Field Of View
Here’s a simple, yet effective, training technique that’s often used by seniors. As we age, our ability to see outside of our central field of view declines dramatically. It’s estimated that natural aging causes the eyes to lose between 20 and 30 degrees of peripheral vision!
This exercise is one that’s commonly recommended by doctors for folks as they get older. However, it can be done by anyone regardless of age or lifestyle. It’s said to increase the amount of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, that’s getting produced by the brain.
Performing this exercise is very easy. All you need is a nice place to sit, a small notebook, and a pen. Find a nice comfortable spot to sit outside of your home. Choose a park bench or outdoor public space. The goal is to pick a spot that’s brand new to you, so avoid doing the exercise in your home.
Now, look straight ahead of you. You can pick a spot to focus on, but you will need to pay attention to everything you can see in your peripherals. Without moving your eyes, make note of everything in your field of view. This includes things in your central and peripheral vision.
Jot down those things you could make out. Then, repeat the exercise and try to find new things that you might have missed the first go-around.
The goal is to stretch your vision further and enhance your ability to focus on things in your side view. It’s an easy exercise that anyone can do. Yet, it can lead to a noticeable improvement in your peripheral vision.
Do Sports Drills That Challenge Your Peripheral Vision
There’s no better way to see improvement with your peripheral vision than by doing some sports drills! Vision-based drills allow you to enhance your peripheral vision in a familiar setting doing familiar movements. You can test your limits and train by doing activities that are similar to what you’d be doing in a real game.
There are a few different drills that you can try out. The first can be done alone.
With this exercise, you’ll need a ball. You can use a bouncy rubber ball or a basketball. A sturdy wall is required, too.
Stand about two feet away from the wall. Then, focus your central vision on a fixed point on the wall. Choose a spot that’s just above eye level.
Now, throw the ball with one hand against the wall. After it bounces off the wall, use your other hand to catch it. Repeat the process by simply bouncing the ball from one hand to the other.
If you have a friend or teammate on hand, you can move onto a more challenging exercise. With this training method, you will stand in one spot and focus on an object that’s directly in front of you. This could be a tree, a goalpost, or anything else that you see.
Once you’re focused and ready, have your friend toss the ball from your side view. Try to catch the ball without moving your eyes at all. This is a challenging exercise that you can do in various stages.
Start at your near peripheral vision. This isn’t too difficult because it’s not that far away from your central focus. Then, move onto your mid and far peripherals.
Continue this exercise until you reach the current limit of your peripheral vision. Once you get to that limit, you can really start pushing your eyes and brain. This exercise can work wonders for your peripheral vision. Plus, it’ll improve reaction times.
Aim For A Good Diet And Lifestyle
Simple exercises alone can help you see some improvement with your peripheral vision. However, if you want to see the best results possible, you’re going to need to make some changes in your diet and lifestyle as well.
Good overall health can dramatically improve your peripheral vision (and vision as a whole). Several studies have shown that dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce your chances of suffering from glaucoma. This condition causes significant damage to optic nerves. Not only does it lead to a decrease in peripheral vision, but it can also lead to blindness.
Making some simple changes can reduce those risks and keep your eyes in good shape. Drink plenty of water and implement some healthy foods into your diet. Foods that are high in beta-carotene are a big plus. Leafy greens are also known to high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, which can help filter out harmful light and prevent damage to light-sensing cells in your eyes.
Avoid eating too many saturated fats. Saturated fats have been shown to make glaucoma problems worse.
Furthermore, obesity has been linked to a wide range of vision problems. In addition to poor peripheral vision, dramatic weight gain increases your chances of suffering from diabetic retinal problems, macular degeneration, and more.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in your peripheral vision. Your eyes can’t reach their full potential if you’re not treating your entire body well, so do all that you can to stay healthy. With a good diet, positive lifestyle choices, and exercise geared toward your peripheral vision, you’ll see improvements in no time.
As you can see, improving your peripheral vision is essential if you want to improve as an athlete.
And with so many different techniques and exercises to try, there’s no reason you can’t get started today. The progress will be gradual, but over time you’ll notice a huge impact on your performance.
If you’re serious about improving peripheral vision for yourself or athletes you coach, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us here to kick things off!