Fast Twitch - Slow Twitch Muscle Fibers

Jade Tigress

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So as not to hijack this thread, I am starting a new one.

I have heard of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers but never really understood the function of each on training. I remember being told that doing push-ups fast will develop the fast twitch muscles as opposed to doing more push-ups slower, and building muscle.

I also understand that the amount of fast vs. slow twitch muscles someone has is genetic.

Is there a way to train slow twitch muscles to become fast? I feel like I have alot of slow twitch muscles. I have endurance and stamina, but not speed. And speed is important to the art I'm training in. For some reason, I just cannot move quickly. I can move slower and more precise but as soon as I try to speed up I lose quality. And also even my fastest attempts seem snail like.
 

bushidomartialarts

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my understanding (and i could be completely off base) is that fast twitch/slow twitch doesn't describe the muscle, but the movement.

punches are fast twitch. bench press is slow twitch.

a front kick is fast twitch. hurdler stretch is slow twitch.

that sort of thing.

it was explained to me originally under why i can front kick above my head but can only slowly lift my leg up to about chest level.

again, i could be making this up.
 

terryl965

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my understanding (and i could be completely off base) is that fast twitch/slow twitch doesn't describe the muscle, but the movement.

punches are fast twitch. bench press is slow twitch.

a front kick is fast twitch. hurdler stretch is slow twitch.

that sort of thing.

it was explained to me originally under why i can front kick above my head but can only slowly lift my leg up to about chest level.

again, i could be making this up.

No I understand it the same as you and have been told that exact thing from many people.
 
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Jade Tigress

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Hmmm. What about statements like this?

What makes you a sprinter vs. a distance swimmer? Many scientists and coaches say that the primary factor for determining whether a swimmer is a better distance swimmer or a sprinter lies in the muscles of each athlete. To put it simply, people inherently have either more fast twitch or more slow twitch muscles. And, depending on the type of muscle that predominates, a swimmer will either be better at endurance events or quick, speed events.



Full article.

 

bushidomartialarts

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hmmm, reading the article, it seems like they're talking about muscle fibers. so it's not that (frexample) your pecs are slow twitch and your tris are fast twitch. so doing a certain type of exercise will develop one sort of fiber more than another.

so to answer the question: you can train for fast or slow twitch. just choose the right exercise.

again, i could be making this up, but that's what seems likely.
 

Kacey

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I was curious too, so I went looking, and found this (I love google searches... as long as I think of the right key words!)

This was the most useful one I found, I think; I found it here, and there was more on the same page
All skeletal muscle fibres are not alike in structure or function. For example, skeletal muscle fibres vary in colour depending on their content of myoglobin (myoglobin stores oxygen until needed by mitochondria). Skeletal muscle fibres contract with different velocities, depending on their ability to split Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). Faster contracting fibres have greater ability to split ATP. In addition, skeletal muscle fibres vary with respect to the metabolic processes they use to generate ATP. They also differ in terms of the onset of fatigue. On the basis of various structural and functional characteristics, skeletal muscle fibres are classified into three types: Type I fibres, Type II B fibres and type II A fibres.
Type I Fibres

These fibres, also called slow twitch or slow oxidative fibres, contain large amounts of myoglobin, many mitochondria and many blood capillaries. Type I fibres are red, split ATP at a slow rate, have a slow contraction velocity, very resistant to fatigue and have a high capacity to generate ATP by oxidative metabolic processes. Such fibres are found in large numbers in the postural muscles of the neck.
Type II A Fibres

These fibres, also called fast twitch or fast oxidative fibres, contain very large amounts of myoglobin, very many mitochondria and very many blood capillaries. Type II A fibres are red, have a very high capacity for generating ATP by oxidative metabolic processes, split ATP at a very rapid rate, have a fast contraction velocity and are resistant to fatigue. Such fibres are infrequently found in humans.
Type II B Fibres

These fibres, also called fast twitch or fast glycolytic fibres, contain a low content of myoglobin, relatively few mitochondria, relatively few blood capillaries and large amounts glycogen. Type II B fibres are white, geared to generate ATP by anaerobic metabolic processes, not able to supply skeletal muscle fibres continuously with sufficient ATP, fatigue easily, split ATP at a fast rate and have a fast contraction velocity. Such fibres are found in large numbers in the muscles of the arms.

There was a lot more the google search (key words "fast twitch slow twitch muscle") turned up, but I didn't have time to read through it in detail... darned homework...
 

Touch Of Death

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So as not to hijack this thread, I am starting a new one.

I have heard of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers but never really understood the function of each on training. I remember being told that doing push-ups fast will develop the fast twitch muscles as opposed to doing more push-ups slower, and building muscle.

I also understand that the amount of fast vs. slow twitch muscles someone has is genetic.

Is there a way to train slow twitch muscles to become fast? I feel like I have alot of slow twitch muscles. I have endurance and stamina, but not speed. And speed is important to the art I'm training in. For some reason, I just cannot move quickly. I can move slower and more precise but as soon as I try to speed up I lose quality. And also even my fastest attempts seem snail like.
I doubt even fast push-ups will give you the result.
Sean
 

exile

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Is there a way to train slow twitch muscles to become fast? I feel like I have alot of slow twitch muscles. I have endurance and stamina, but not speed. And speed is important to the art I'm training in. For some reason, I just cannot move quickly. I can move slower and more precise but as soon as I try to speed up I lose quality. And also even my fastest attempts seem snail like.

Hi Pam---first of all, no---what makes fast twitch muscles fast and slow twitch slow is the structure of the motor units which activate them respectively. You need both---fast twich muscles are what weight training the right way will develop into bigger muscles, while no amount of weight training will get slow-twich muscles to get bigger; this kind of muscle tissue is for endurance. Think sprinter vs. marathoner and you have the basic idea. There have been a lot of experiments with training regimes that some very clever people have designed to see whether one can force the activation pattern of slow twitch fibres into fast-twitch fibres (funny, no one wants to go in the other direction :wink1:) but the answer seems to be, not a chance.

The problem that women have is that they have, proportionally to body weight, far fewer fast twitch muscles in their upper bodies than men do. So there are certain kinds of activities involving arm or shoulder strength that women have a much rougher time developing the strength for than men have. Below the waist, though, it's a different story---women have the same ratio of fast-twitch muscles to unit of body weight than men do. So with leg strength, it's a level playing field. Women can increase their endurance above the waist with no trouble, because most of their muscles in that part of their skeletal anatomy are slow twitch. But there are going to be certain limits there so far as strength, speed and power go.

But men have similar problems---the proportion of fast/slow twitch muscles you have, and where, is a strictly genetically determined fact about your body, male or female, and you can't change it. You can develop what fast-twitch muscles you have by intense resistance training. But the guys with the enormous pecs and the 20" arms are genetic outliers, with a vastly greater number of fast-twitch muscles than the rest of us.

I do think that reaction training can work, up to a point---most people don't increase their reflex speed to the extent they could. So if you haven't worked hard on that aspect of your physiological performance already, there's usually room for improvement. There are programs for getting that kind of sharpened reaction time, but I don't know much about them...

But the bottom line is, a fast-twitch muscle is so because it's activated by a neurmotor unit with a certain firing pattern that is quite different from the kind of motor unit firing a slow-twitch muscle. And nothing in the world is gonna turn one into the other.... believe me, I wish it were otherwise! :(
 

exile

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Just one more thing I maybe wasn't clear on---the structure of fast and slow twitch muscles seems to be a bit different, but that in a sense is probably a functional by-product of the fact that fast twitch muscles are required, in terms of the work they do, to contract quickly and return to their `initial state' much more rapidly than slow-twitch---hence, the neural bundles that activate them are wired for timing in a way that lets them fire much more frequently than the neural bundles dedicated to slow-twitch fibres. The structure of the two different muscle-cell types is designed to work in tandem with the neurological difference in the activation pattern for the two. That's why I say that the difference is in the structure of the motor units---the muscle tissues and the neural groups that activate them.

There's no way you can change these tissue types and wired-in activation strategies.

I wish it were otherwise---I'm an ectomorph and have had to fight for every ounce of muscle tissue I've been able to gain from weight training. I don't want to be a long distance runner!! That apparently is what ectomorphs have the neuromuscular predisposition for---thanks but no thanks, eh?!!
 

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Fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers are contained in all skeletal muscles with the percentage of each determined by location and genetics. I've seen studies showing that the relative percentage of each can be adjusted by training regimens but reallly don't know the details.

What's more important is that none of this matters much for anyone but the elite athlete. Only when you push the edges of human endeavor does this matter. If you train well you will look faster than the average untrained fighter because you will move more efficiently and because you will be able to read movement and respond early with better timing.

The essence to moving fast is to start training slowly and learn to move efficiently. If I video tape myself I find multiple small adjustments made during every movement. I recently tried an experiment with a form I was learning and did the last third of the form 3 times every day slowly with control. i concentrated on not making unnessesary adjustments with every movement. I can now do that section of the form far more quickly than the first two thirds of the form and yet I don't need to push it or particularly try to go fast. Two weeks ago at a FMA seminar my son and I were fooling around with sticks and Al mcLuckie came over and admonished us, "If you want to go fast, go slow." Al never looks like he is going fast but inevitable is faster than anyone he works with, he just never seems to hurry.

Biology counts but careful efficient training with effective basics will make ordinary people look extraordinary despite unfair genetics.

Respectfully.

Jeff
 

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Fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers are contained in all skeletal muscles with the percentage of each determined by location and genetics. I've seen studies showing that the relative percentage of each can be adjusted by training regimens but reallly don't know the details.

Is this stuff recent? I used to check out Medline abstracts and sports physiology journals whenever it looked like someone was doing something with ft/st muscle fibre proportions, but everything I read was quite unequivocal that training didn't help---though I do remember one study that tentatively concluded there might be certain routines which would `convert' fast to slow twitch, but it was ultra-provisional, preliminary, no firm conclusions could be drawn etc.---and as far as I was concerned, any `firm' conclusions would be going in the wrong direction, of course!


What's more important is that none of this matters much for anyone but the elite athlete. Only when you push the edges of human endeavor does this matter. If you train well you will look faster than the average untrained fighter because you will move more efficiently and because you will be able to read movement and respond early with better timing.

The essence to moving fast is to start training slowly and learn to move efficiently. If I video tape myself I find multiple small adjustments made during every movement. I recently tried an experiment with a form I was learning and did the last third of the form 3 times every day slowly with control. i concentrated on not making unnessesary adjustments with every movement. I can now do that section of the form far more quickly than the first two thirds of the form and yet I don't need to push it or particularly try to go fast. Two weeks ago at a FMA seminar my son and I were fooling around with sticks and Al mcLuckie came over and admonished us, "If you want to go fast, go slow." Al never looks like he is going fast but inevitable is faster than anyone he works with, he just never seems to hurry.

Biology counts but careful efficient training with effective basics will make ordinary people look extraordinary despite unfair genetics.

Respectfully.

Jeff

Well said!
icon14.gif
 

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Hmmm. What about statements like this?
Full article.

That is how I understand things as well. Our genetics sets the ceiling of how well we can do physically. Of course other factors that we can control will either lower that ceiling or let us attain that ceiling. That is why I think the saying our moms have told us is absolutely false "You can be anything you want to be". That is simply not true on many levels. This particular subject is one of them.
 

mrhnau

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That is how I understand things as well. Our genetics sets the ceiling of how well we can do physically. Of course other factors that we can control will either lower that ceiling or let us attain that ceiling. That is why I think the saying our moms have told us is absolutely false "You can be anything you want to be". That is simply not true on many levels. This particular subject is one of them.

Yes, but I'll agree with KempoDoc on this one
What's more important is that none of this matters much for anyone but the elite athlete. Only when you push the edges of human endeavor does this matter. If you train well you will look faster than the average untrained fighter because you will move more efficiently and because you will be able to read movement and respond early with better timing.

I don't think that because we can't all be Bruce Lee or Michael Jordan we should dispair. Most of us have not really reached our potential threshhold.
 

Bigshadow

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What's more important is that none of this matters much for anyone but the elite athlete. Only when you push the edges of human endeavor does this matter. If you train well you will look faster than the average untrained fighter because you will move more efficiently and because you will be able to read movement and respond early with better timing.


Jeff, that is so true! It really doesn't matter all that much. It is more important if someone was trying to become an olympic athlete or something of that magnitude.
 

Bigshadow

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And also even my fastest attempts seem snail like.


One thing you should do is video tape yourself at the fastest you can do and watch it. Does it still seem as slow as when you did it? One of the things that is contributing to your perception is when one is doing the movement, it can often seem slow (especially very familiar movements), even though it appears fast to the bystander. Just something to consider in clearing the perception a little to really see what is going on.
 

exile

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One thing you should do is video tape yourself at the fastest you can do and watch it. Does it still seem as slow as when you did it? One of the things that is contributing to your perception is when one is doing the movement, it can often seem slow (especially very familiar movements), even though it appears fast to the bystander. Just something to consider in clearing the perception a little to really see what is going on.

It's really true---subjective impressions of our own performance can be so distorted by other factors. I can't count the number of interviews I've read with the winners of various World Cup alpine skiing events in which the competitor recalls how surprised they felt at the bottom seeing their time relative to the other competitors, because during the race itself they felt they were going way to slowly, taking the gates way too slow, tail-jamming way too much etc. In some cases, these people were setting event records for the season---but all they were aware of was feeling `slow'.

I've seen the reverse too---it's painful to see some bump skiier whose time for the run puts them five positions behind the leader at best hit the last bump, tear into the finish area radiating that winnner's joy, and then watching their face fall when they see their time on the board, and shake their head uncomprehendingly---That CAN'T be---I was going so FAST!.

Bigshadow's suggestion gives you a good way around the miscues your own body-sense can give you about what you're doing and how fast you really were. Sometimes nothing beats an objective measure (which, re an earlier thread, is the main reason I like board-breaking---it gives you a way to quantify the actual force delivery of your strikes that doesn't require a multi-million dollar sports physiology lab...)
 

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Kacey, good info! That is really the basis of the whole issue. As I understand it, you can&#8217;t really increase the amount of muscle fibers, or seriously change what type of fibers you have, but it is possible to sort of convert some fibers to be used more like another type. Also, you have a set amount of fast glycolytic fibers, but you may not be using them to their highest potential. Training programs can and do increase their ability or functional application. Activities that rely on these types of muscles fibers will increase their effectiveness and help to convert other fibers to sort of pretend to be these types of fibers. Fast oxidative-glycolytic fibers and fast glycolytic fibers are used in things like sprints, fast explosive weight routines (such as the explosive pushups) and for martial artists in extremely fast contact type drills. Set up a drill of one person punching a certain way and work it until you know it. Then increase its speed. Get it as fast as possible, that will help train those types of muscle fibers.

Bottom line, train like you want to fight.

7sm
 

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You brought up an interesting point: muscle fiber recruitment.

As I understand it, lot of performance is based on training your body's nervous system to recruit more muscle fibers.

http://www.naturalstrength.com/research/detail.asp?ArticleID=1155

This also, as I understand it, explains "superhuman" feats of strength in emergencies like, little old ladies lifting automobiles.

Imagine if you had the control-of-self to conciously recruit every muscle fiber possible at will. Could this be a scientific explanation for Chi/Ki?
 

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I think I'll coin a new phrase... "twitching chi/qi"
 
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