Fast-twitch muscle fibers have the most potential for growth, lift the heaviest weights, aid in explosive movements on the playing field, and deliver the knockout blow in the self-preservation scenario at the gas station at 3 am.
With all of the benefits—let’s take a look at how to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers.
• Lift Heavy: Maximal weights move slowly BUT recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers to get the job done. A good rule of thumb is the more weight on the bar the more fast-twitch fibers come into play. Train with >80% of your 1RM. Even though the weight is heavy, still have the intention to move the weight as fast as possible.
• Train in a Compensatory Acceleration Style: The more force produced, the greater the contribution of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Think back to high school physics class, Force = Mass x Acceleration. Because of the greater bar speed that can be produced in a submaximal intensity range, more force can be produced. Train with 55-82.5% of your one-rep maximum in a core barbell movement; perform each rep as explosively as possible through the full range of motion.
• Train Eccentrically: Long before weight lifting became popular in athletics, the Soviet Sports Machine reaped the benefits of eccentric training via depth jumps and extreme plyometrics. For the lifting enthusiast, you must remember an eccentrics emphasis produces greater gains in hypertrophy than concentric or isometric (an added bonus). Furthermore, many lifters can handle 160% more eccentrically. Train movements that emphasize the eccentric!
• Plyometrics: If your joints are healthy and you possess a good level of base strength, give plyometrics a shot. Plyometrics involve the stretch-shortening cycle to create more powerful contractions. Power is Force x Distance / Time. It is impossible to jump high slowly! Plyometrics performed prior to a heavy lift can help “awaken” the Central Nervous System (CNS), allowing you to lift more.
• Psyching up: We have all heard stories about grandmothers lifting cars off of trapped grandchildren. Everyone possesses this power; it is activated through the psyche. Any big time weight lifter psyches up before playing with large weights that would destroy most mortals. These lifters are getting into the mindset that recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers for the ensuing war with the barbell. Psyching up relays the message to the fast-twitch muscle, it’s go time.
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