Confused as to what the difference is? A better understanding of your body's fast and slow twitch muscle fibers can help you maximize your athletic performance.
This in one of my favorite times of the year, March Madness time. There is without fail a basketball game on TV almost all day and they are always great games, even if they are being played by teams that you never heard of or could not find on a map of the United States. This is a great time to be a sports fan in my opinion.
With all these games being played there are a lot of question that are asked about why one player is better than another and why one player can jump higher or run faster. One of my basketball players told me yesterday that what separates him from one of the top players is pure strength. He wanted to know why he cannot be big like the guys from North Carolina or Duke. The answer is simple. Those players were genetically gifted with more fast twitch muscle fibers than anyone else.
For many the concept of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers is a bit of a black hole. It is an accepted fact that your muscles can be broken down into two groups, slow twitch and fast twitch fibers. The difference between the two is what separates people into different athletic classes. In general most people have about a 50/50 break down of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers in those muscles used for movement. Some people are more genetically blessed and are at a higher ratio on one end or the other. Which end the person falls on helps in determining what he or she will be able to do.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are more efficient at burning oxygen and turning that oxygen into fuel for continuous long extended muscle use over long periods of time. They fire at a slower rate than their fast twitch counterparts and can work for longer periods before they fatigue. With this being the case the muscles are great for long distance runners and cyclists.
Fast twitch muscles do not use oxygen to create energy and there for since they do not have to breakdown oxygen for fuel they are better are creating quick burst of energy and explosive movements, however they tire out much quicker than the slow twitch fibers.
Despite the differences in the two muscle groups, generally the muscles have the same force when fired; one just burns out quicker than the other. Muscle build is what allows Olympic athletes to separate themselves from others. Generally sprinters are built of predominately fast twitch muscle fibers while marathon runners are predominantly slow twitch.
While you may never be an Olympian understanding how your muscles work might allow you to revamp your training. If your body build is more fast twitch muscles and you are attempting to run long distance and find that you never succeeded, think about possible transitioning to more of an interval based routine. If you are more of a slow twitch person and you cannot figure out why despite your best effort you are not out dunking a basketball possible change your goals to finishing a half marathon.
Whatever your body type, the more you understand about it the better off you will be at catering your strength training program to your athletic and general fitness goals.