Exercises for Fast Twitch Muscle
Having fast twitch muscles will make you a better athlete! If you want to be a freak athlete, there are a number of qualities you need to have. Elasticity is one of those qualities that separate great athletes from the average.
Of course, not all athletes need to worry solely on maximizing their fast twitch potential. There are some sports that might require more endurance or strength, but many sports require athletes to be fast and explosive. Plenty of sports like track, football, olympic weightlifting, and anything that involves impulse need development through fast twitch muscle exercises.
Being able to explode off a line, jump high, and produce a lot of force in a short time use fast twitch muscle fibers. Training and developing these types of muscle fibers can be difficult by consistently training in a controlled manner like a bodybuilder or endurance runner might do. That’s why in this article, we will take a look at why you need fast twitch muscles and the exercises that you can do to improve them.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What are Fast Twitch Muscles?
There are a number of classifications for fast twitch muscles, but we will keep the definition pretty basic for this guide. Fast twitch muscle fibers are going to be the parts of your muscles that are responsible for producing power and force very quickly. Although, these parts of the muscle are anaerobic with less blood supply so they fatigue quickly compared to slow twitch muscles.
Your muscles are composed of a few different types of fast and slow muscle fibers. The composition and distribution of the two vary from person to person. Although, there are ways that you can test if you are more fast twitch or slow twitch dominant. A good way to test is by going for a 1 rep max on an elastic lift like squat or bench press. Once you establish a 1RM, go for a 5 rep max in 2-3 days for the same lift. The 5RM is going to give you a good indicator of a few things.
If you are only able to get up to 80% of the 1RM for the 5 reps, this means you are pretty elastic but are pretty balanced in terms of muscle fiber composition. Getting to 85% of your 1RM means that you are on the higher side of elasticity and may be more fast twitch dominant. Then if you are getting close to 90% or above, you are undershooting your 1RM or you are crazy elastic like Gumby. That isn’t the only test you can do, but it is one of the better tests that helps gauge your overall power production.
Why Athletes Need Fast Twitch Muscles
As an athlete, fast twitch muscles are going to improve your explosive power and overall impulse. The performance of any speed or immediate movement is going to require the recruitment of those fast twitch muscles. For example, a football player needs well developed muscles in order to blast off the line, break through a defender, or sprint down the field to make a play. Even a sprint runner or swimmer needs fast twitch muscles to explode off the blocks and compete as fast as they can.
Since these muscles are responsible for power output and generating force, it also affects the way you absorb force. By developing your fast twitch muscles, it can be a preventative measure against injury so that your body can react faster while handling a more aggressive load. If you are playing a dynamic sport, you might also need some technical coordination. Fast twitch muscles are going to improve your speed so coordination and the ability to get into positions quickly will come along as your body adapts.
Best Fast Twitch Muscle Exercises
Now that we understand why having fast twitch fibers is important, we should take a look at what you can do to develop your muscles to their full potential. Below are some of the best fast twitch muscle exercises for athletes.
Squatting is one of the best exercises to develop elasticity and overall muscle in the body. It is compound movement that is able to be loaded very heavy and requires a ton of neural drive. Coming back to the test we talked about earlier in the article, it is also a great way to test how you are developing as an athlete.
Every program that involves resistance training is going to have some form of squat. Whether it is a loaded back squat that is going to develop strength or another variation like a jump squat which is going to focus more on the functional aspects for a sport. Regardless of what your goals are, squats are going to improve full body strength, increase your range of mobility, and give you plenty of options to develop the fast twitch muscle groups in the lower body.
Dumbbell Bench Press
In contrast to squats, you can use the dumbbell bench press as an upper body exercise to improve your fast twitch development and get you swole. Dumbbell bench press is also another way to test how elastic an athlete is in their upper body and arms. One of the things you want to look for is how an athlete can handle pussing out of the bottom position. This is identifying whether they know how to use a stretch shortening cycle or not. If they are not that elastic, they might not have that bounce or power to push out of the bottom position.
This is something that you can cue an athlete to do in order to develop fast twitch muscle fibers. If you’re not sure what a stretch shortening cycle is, it is just the bounce back at the bottom of the movement. It’s the same concept as bench pressing with a barbell. Usually with a barbell, you would be able to hit your chest to bounce back up. Except with dumbbells, you need to rely on the elasticity in the shoulders, biceps, and chest to immediately push back up. As they work on that stretch shortening cycle, it triggers the brain to recruit more high threshold motor units in the prime movers which then enables them to push up more explosively.
Moving on to another exercise that isn’t used as commonly in general fitness. The snatch is a great tool that coaches and athletes can use to develop fast twitch abilities for performance. Olympic lifts like the snatch can be used by a lot of power athletes like football players, throwers, and any athlete that needs to focus on blast impulse.
Snatches require a lot of control and coordination while still moving fast to complete the lift. The full snatch may be too technical or difficult for beginners to try, so try some power snatches first. A power snatch will engage the whole entire body to move a load from the ground to above head. It’s a great tool in developing the hamstrings and upper body for producing power quickly. As you become more competent in the movement, you can work on doing full snatches to develop elasticity and range of motion in the glutes and quads.
Depth Drop to Bound
How could we make a list of fast twitch exercises without including something for a plyometric workout? Plyometrics are a great way to develop functionality for sports regarding impulse. One of our favorite plyometric exercises is the depth drop to bound. This is where you will start standing on a box that is 6-9 inches high. You will hop off the box and then as soon as your feet touch the ground, explode into a broad jump forward.
The depth drop into a jump is a great test for identifying fast twitch potential because you can see how the athlete reacts when they hit the ground. If an athlete is able to broad jump without having to go into a deep squat, it means that they are reactive with their fast twitch fibers. To continue to develop the snappy adaptation, really work on jumping forward as fast as you can without spending too much time connected to the ground or going into a deep squat before the jump.
The last exercise on this list is going to be a better alternative to box jumps. Our second favorite jumping exercise is going to be stair jumps. Stair jumps are a phenomenal way to develop fast twitch abilities because of similar principles to depth drops. The goal of stair jumps is to be light on your feet while still being able to explode up and forward. If an athlete is needing to squat all the way down or into a deep hole just to jump up 3 or 4 stairs, they are lacking in impulse ability.
Instead of focusing on jumping higher or farther at the start, begin by establishing an efficient hop of 2-3 steps. Build up the length and height of jumps over time, but maintain the quick jumps and explosive power in the quads.
Developing speed and power takes TIME. Fast twitch muscle fibers are not going to immediately start snapping overnight. It is going to take a combination of resistance training along with plyometrics to get the adaptations you are looking for. You may have to use lighter weights for a while, but by sticking to a solid program and training like an athlete will help you meet your athletic goals.
Continue to test yourself and stay consistent with these movements and you will see results in speed, power, and explosiveness by the next season. If you need help putting together a program or establishing a training regiment to meet your goals, sign up for Peak Strength. It is an app that we created here at Garage Strength that puts our elite programming right in your pocket so you can train anywhere and become a FREAK!
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