The muscular system comes into play for such responsibilities of function such as maintenance of posture, mobility and control of various circulatory systems. Muscle tissue is typically divided between voluntary and involuntary controlled and morphologically striated and non-striated.
There are three forms of muscle tissue that perform a wide range of functions. First of all there is skeletal muscle that mainly attaches to the skeletal system, this maintains posture and control, then there is cardiac muscle tissue which is simply found in the heart where cardiac contractions pump blood throughout your body and maintain blood pressure.
And then there is smooth muscle tissue which is associated with the organ and tissue system, for example the digestive and respiratory system.
In today’s subject I will be covering fast twitch slow twitch muscle fibers in an analogy of muscle and how this topic can better help you to understand what specific methods of training can help you to achieve your own specific goals whether it be running a marathon or achieving your goals in powerlifting.
Fast vs slow twitch
Fast and slow twitch muscle fibers are different in many ways and also reflects in the names of these fibers, slow twitch muscle fibers are named such because of the speed at which they contract when stimulated, fast twitch fibers contract much quicker.
Slow twitch are also considered red fibers due to their being a dark reddish in color and fast twitch muscle fibers are considered white fibers because of their pale whitish color.
Us humans are designed with both fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, generally 50% of each. Slow twitch muscle fibers have a better efficiency at using oxygen, they tend to fire more slowly than fast twitch and can go for a lot longer period before they fatigue.
So you have guessed it, slow twitch fibers are great for marathon runners and cyclists, while on the other hand fast twitch muscle fibers use anaerobic metabolism to create fuel so they are better at delivering short bursts of energy but on the downside they will fatigue much quicker.
Fast twitch training
The best way to train for fast twitch muscle fibers would be to incorporate a combination of heavy strength training and speed training and Olympic style training. Hypertrophy of the type II, fast twitch fibers increases in power output and also helps to recruit type II fibers faster and also can change type I, slow twitch fibers to type II fibers.
Strength training and speed training can make for a very beneficial program for developing maximum force. When you train heavy with a slow acceleration will increase maximum force and when you train with a lighter weight with faster acceleration will increase maximum force as well.
Deadlift, squats and the bench press are good ways to increase your fast twitch muscle for maximum force so is running sprints and agility drills.
Plyometric and Olympic lifting style training are also effective fast twitch muscle builders, they do this by using (SSC) or stretch-shortening cycle which involves a pre-stretch followed by a rapid contraction of the same muscle and from this results the production of maximum force which would include broad jumps, vertical jumps, power snatches, power cleans and depth jumps.
If you are shooting for fast twitch muscle for maximum force training you should try to avoid any slow twitch training which would involve running, cycling and lifting lighter weights for higher reps, anything that involves a higher endurance or cardio should be avoided if you are training for fast twitch muscle fibers.
Slow twitch training
In order for you to train slow twitch muscle fibers you should work with a lighter weight for 12 reps and up, when you are training for higher reps you are engaging your slow twitch muscle fibers.
When training for any type of endurance activity it is important that you train for that element, this will help you to train for endurance but it will also help you to improve muscle support for your joints as well when training for an endurance event it is necessary to train with weights for muscle strengthening so that you can be strong for the endurance event.
First of all you need to train for higher reps, 12 or more, you need to keep your focus on a slower tempo and use shorter rest periods like 30 seconds or less, this is important for the purpose of training your muscles with time under tension and train to failure for maximum repetitions and always try to beat your prior record.
You will always need to be diligent about getting your cardio training in and it is a good idea to vary your cardio program between various endurance activities like running, cycling and swimming for a well rounded program.
High levels of cardio will help improve your aerobic capacity and will help to increase capillary density, the more capillaries you have the more aerobic energy you will have thus will give you more endurance to keep going for a longer period of time.
You will need to build up your endurance activities so that your slow twitch muscle fibers will be more efficient and less likely to fatigue. The best type of cardio training that I would recommend is interval training for longer durations. For other training that you can incorporate for your slow twitch training would be box jumps, jump squats and kettle bell swings.
Isometrics for speed
Here is an idea you may have never thought of is the idea of building speed using isometrics, isometric exercises are a great way to ad overall agility and speed.
When training fast twitch muscle fibers you don’t necessarily need to train fast, fast twitch muscle simply means that they are the fastest to fire and the fastest to fatigue, the type of training you do between the types of muscle fibers is not only reliant on how fast you train but also your training intensity.
If you was to do an isometric exercise holding your arms straight out in front of you holding a one pound weight in each hand for a couple hours a day you would be developing your slow twitch muscle fibers because the intensity over time is low.
Likewise if you follow the opposite approach and was to hold a heavy weight at arms length in front of you it would naturally be for only a matter of seconds but you would fatigue the fast twitch muscle fibers following this process.
So you ask, which is a better way to train fast twitch muscle fibers? isometrics or plyometrics, I’ll leave the decision up to you, isometrics build the strength of the tendons and ligaments while plyometrics tear down and can tend to inflame your joints.
When it comes to which athletes can exert more power at a given time and which athletes have more fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, it could be very well so that football players can jump higher because they have the highest amount of fast twitch muscle fibers due to the majority of the motions that football players contribute involve high velocity movements.
Most of us have different amounts of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers due to our training one type more than the other or due to genes. Questions come up on this subject as to which sport produces athletes that are the most elite in power? studies have been done but the findings are not 100% accurate but they do show that activities that calculate power, football players contain the strongest and the most fast twitch muscle fibers.
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