Fast Twitch Muscles
The importance of building fast twitch muscles to boost your sports performance and strength cannot be overemphasized. With all things equal, it can take your vertical jump and overall athletic quickness to another level if you train your fast muscles.
The fast twitch muscle fibers possess a greater peak energy and give you more drive at higher speeds. An example, if you want to increase both the velocity and height of your vertical jump, you must train your fast twitch muscles with exercises that target them.
However, building fast twitch muscles will not be enough. You need to develop the other set of muscles, the slow twitch muscles. These hold the most oxygen and play a major role in how much stamina and endurance you have. It’s not a surprise that most long distance cyclists and marathon runners have highly developed slow twitch muscles.
Maybe you don’t need a marathoner’s kind of endurance if you play basketball or tennis. But wouldn’t you like to have a little of their stamina and ability to maintain a constant level of energy for hours at a time? Even though you should target your fast twitch muscles and do very specific exercises to train them, do not forget to train the slow twitch muscles as well.
Now all of us have a certain proportion of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibers, even if we’re not athletes. In most people the ratio is about 50/50. Once you begin your training program, that proportion will change, and can vary from person to person. The ratio of fast twitch muscles to slow is determine by a number of things, and the first is what you were blessed with at birth. Genetics plays a role, and while you can’t change your genes, you can work on both types of muscle fibers to improve and build them.
Which brings us to the second factor: developing your fast twitch muscles by means of exercising. We’re not saying you can take “pure stamina” muscle fiber and convert it into an entirely fast twitch muscle fiber. Our bodies contain something called “intermediate” fibers which comprised of both fast and slow twitch fibers, and that’s great for anyone who wants to improve their athletic quickness.
These intermediate muscle fibers can be transformed into fast twitch muscle fibers with the right exercises (followed by appropriate rest). You can even work out your slow twitch fibers so that a little bit of them start to behave more like a fast twitch fiber.
What type of workouts can grow your fast twitch muscles to improve your sports stamina? You can form fast twitch muscles by concentrating on strength, power, and speed training. The best exercises for fast twitch muscles are:
- plyometrics using weights
- jump squats
- “drop and catch movements”
- drop jumps
- olympic lifts
- depth jumps
- speed benches
- speed squats
- and reactive squats.
Most ballistic type routines, which you execute precise movements at high speeds or maximum force will train your fast twitch muscles as well. This brings us to the whole concept of tempo. To build fast twitch muscle fibers you need to concentrate on increasing the tempo of a movement. That’s how you develop quickness – by building up the muscle fibers that are responsible for bursts of speed.
Any sports player seeking to improve speed and agility should focus on developing fast twitch muscles. First grow a solid base of strength, then build power and speed. In fact, deceleration exercises, core strength and even single leg strength exercises play a role in developing quickness. You can’t just work only on acceleration of your forward running speed. If you do, your ability to decelerate or change direction will suffer, which reduces your agility.
So even though conventional medical wisdom might say that you can’t make a major impact on your ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibers just through exercising, most athletic fitness trainers know better. The most up-to-date studies have shown that you can definitely modify the chemical mechanisms through which fast twitch muscles are developed and supported.
If you’re an athlete who wants to get that edge on the field with improved quickness, power and agility, learn more about your fast twitch muscles and perform exercises to increase them!