Fast And Slow Twitch Muscle Fibres To Build Endurance And Speed!

Posted on May 22nd, 2013 at 10:04 pm by


The most effective forms of intensive training can push your body beyond it’s comfort zone and develop endurance.  Many people agree that whatever training is performed, there is no way to improve on speed.  Fast and slow twitch muscle fibres are important when the focus is on the body and mind to improve on endurance.  Persons with a higher proportion of fast twitch fibres can manipulate their training to match their sport such as sprinters.

Many people are born with a balanced number of fast and slow twitch fibres, and how they choose to train those muscles is their choice.  There are over 250 million muscle fibres in the human body, and of that number, over 430 muscles can be controlled voluntarily.  Connective tissues or collagen holds the muscle fibre cells together, and each fibre contains a membrane, abundant nuclei, and thousands of myofibrils or inner strands that run along the entire length of each fibre.

The Science of Muscle Fibres

When a sport is undertaken, the muscle and muscle fibres cooperate.  These movements are controlled via a message from the brain, which moves through the spinal cord into the muscles.  These electrical signals reach each muscle through the motor unit situated in the muscle.  This is when the electrical charge occurs in the muscle and it contracts.  The trick to manipulate endurance is to know which muscle fibres contract, and how often they fire.

Fast twitch fibres contract three times faster than slow twitch fibres.  Fast twitch fibres contract 30 to 70 times per second and contain a limited supply of oxygen.  Speed training of any type focuses on building type 2 fibres, the turbo chargers in the muscle engines.  The best sports to engage fast twitch muscle fibres are sprinting and weight training with long rest periods and the use of low repetitions for medium and heavy weight training.

100 m final Berlin 2009

Sprinting engages fast twitch muscle fibres

Focus is necessary to engage these muscle fibres, as fast twitch fibres are lazier than slow twitch fibres.  Affirmations or mantras can greatly help to push past the pain barriers that occur with any endurance building exercise.

Slow twitch fibres convulse approximately 10 to 30 times per second and contain a rich supply of blood.  Athletes with a high level of slow twitch muscle fibres participate in triathlons, swimming, and canoeing.  An increase in muscle tissue will not occur by training slow twitch muscle fibres.  High repetitions of lightweight weight training, steadily paced endurance work, and high repetition circuit training with short recovery periods work the slow twitch fibres.

It is Easier to Transfer Fast Twitch Fibres into Slow Twitch Fibres

It is easier for fast twitch fibres to transfer into slow twitch fibres, rather than achieve the opposite.  However, the use of training can achieve permanent results dependent on the training stimulus.  This can be a reason why a long distance runner does not gain in speed after running a high mileage over many years.  Repetitive endurance training does improve the overall aerobic energy metabolism ability of the muscles through an increase of capabilities in the body’s cells.  This is why boxers, footballers, martial artists, racquet sports players, and rugby players do not benefit from steady runs, as it can slow them down over time.

The Cheetah at Work

Think of the body as a fast cheetah.  The cheetah works it’s fast twitch fibres in the same way.  It waits all day to seek it’s prey and it’s lazy fast twitch muscles suddenly engage as soon as the prey becomes visible.  Forcing the speed in the body is the key to building long term endurance.

Image courtesy of Erik van Leeuwen [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author

Emily Starr is a writer who recommends that it is important with any type of endurance training to fuel the body, and there are affordable and cheap whey protein supplements that can support any training programme.

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