It’s a scientific fact that our muscles are made up of many different types of muscle fibre. In fact, a whole spectrum of fibres exists, from very slow twitch to very fast twitch. But, what does this mean, and if we wanted to, can we target specifically the fast twitch spectrum of fibres through weight training?
Fast twitch muscle fibres are the fibres which provide the short-lived but explosive movements – a boxer’s punch for example. Also the high jump, 100 metre sprint and a 90MPH baseball pitch. All of these examples are made possible by the fibres at the fast twitch end of the spectrum.
It should come as no surprise that the world’s best competitors in explosive events will have a lot of fast twitch fibres compared to the regular person.
To get better at a specific task, a person must train and push themselves at that specific task. For instance, a 100M sprinter is unlikely to improve their time by taking leisurely 5 mile trots. No. The 100M sprinter will work at running at 100M or thereabouts. They are targeting specifically what they are good at, and what they are aiming for – and they keep getting better at it. And that’s what we’ve got to do with our weight training.
You’ve probably guessed by now that in order to build the fast twitch muscle fibres, we need to use explosive-type lifts. Power-type lifts. And that’s true. Exercises such as heavy squats, dead lifts and the bench press for low reps (reps of 1 – 5) will cover the fast twitch spectrum well.
But it goes beyond that. Any exercise you perform on any muscle with a very heavy weight which you can only handle for 1 – 5 reps is in effect power training, and is targeting the fast twitch muscle fibres. So, while the core exercises for building the fast twitch muscles are certainly the heavy compounds – bench press, dead lift, squats, etc. – you should remember you can turn any exercise into a fast-twitch hitter by simply upping the weight to such a level you can only perform low reps for each set.
You are now entering the realms of ‘strength training’. And with that territory comes the accept-or-fall reality that very heavy low rep training really gives the central nervous system a beating, so should you stop making progress and even start reversing in progress even if your diet is in good order and you are getting what you think is sufficient rest – you need to take some time off to recover. I would recommend a week or two.
Providing your diet is kept good, you’ll be back bigger and stronger than ever.