Developing Fast-Twitch Muscle to Improve Power Output

16 Aug

Most sports are played with alternating intervals of high-intensity, short-duration bursts of energy (sprinting, jumping, etc.), and lower-intensity, longer-duration phases.  For example, the average football play lasts about five seconds, followed by about 20-25 seconds when the players regroup and prepare for the next play.  Your body’s fast-twitch muscles are responsible for these quick, explosive surges.

With regard to sports performance (as well as most other activities) your body utilizes three types of muscle fibers:

  • Type I are slow-twitch muscle fibers; they are designed for endurance.
  • Type IIb are fast-twitch muscle fibers; they are responsible for “all-or-nothing” jumps, sprints, and lifts; these muscles are your body’s largest, and have the most growth potential.
  • Type IIa are “in-between” muscle fibers; these muscles can stay on task for minutes at a time.

When it comes to recruiting muscle, your body is very efficient.  It doesn’t use its type IIb fibers unless it has to.  To produce movement, your body recruits muscle fibers in an orderly progression from smallest to largest.

If you pick up the pace, you send larger fibers into action – starting with the IIa kind.  The IIb fibers don’t figure into the mix until you’re working at about two-thirds of your maximum capacity – the equivalent of a fast run or a moderately heavy weightlifting set.

When your goal is to target IIb fibers and make them bigger and stronger as a result, you have two options:

  • Lifting a near-max weight
  • Lifting a lighter weight as fast as possible

What won’t work is grinding out sets of 10 to 12 reps at a steady, deliberate speed.

There’s also a third way to recruit your IIb fibers: balance exercises.  Here’s how balance exercises work to facilitate force development: Your body relies on feedback from loops of nerves that travel from muscles to spinal cord and back again.  Balance exercises help develop force faster by activating IIb muscles sooner and, in the process, helping muscles grow bigger and stronger.  Balance training is also a proven injury reduction strategy, but more about that in a later post.

Put these principles to work for you; improve your performance and gain an edge on your competition!


Your thoughts?

3 Responses to “Developing Fast-Twitch Muscle to Improve Power Output”

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  1. Improve Your Vertical Jump Performance with Jump Training | Athletic Performance Training Center - May 1, 2013

    […] determinant of force production.  For more on fast-twitch muscle development, please refer to Developing Fast-Twitch Muscle to Improve Power […]

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