If you thought muscle is muscle, think again. Essentially, muscle breaks down into two kinds: slow-twitch (type I) and fast-twitch (type II).
Slow-twitch muscles work well if you run marathons, but if you want to achieve fast, explosive movement you need bigger, high-velocity, fast-twitch muscle fibers.
Most of us have about half slow-twitch and half fast-twitch muscle fibers. In contrast, Olympic sprinters boast about 80 percent fast-twitch muscle. How fast-twitch are you?
We’ve shown you methods to build stamina and increase endurance, now here’s 10 tips that will take you toward becoming a fast-twitch muscle machine.
HIT HEAVY WEIGHTS
Research shows that sustained, intense resistance training can build core fast-twitch muscles. So get heavy – stack up the weights and do bicep curls, leg presses, squats, chest presses: gym drills that pit you against the power of gravity and hefty slabs of metal.
How hefty? Go for 60 percent of your one-rep maximum (1RM) – the total amount of weight you can lift in one push. Sustaining that kind of percentage is tough, so be ready to work when you hit the weight room.
KEEP THE REPS LOW
Keep your routine short and intense. Go for a range of 4-10 reps max, focusing on fatiguing your muscles. You’re dealing with some serious weight, so maintain form and pump out your reps with force.
SNAP IT OUT
Aim for top speed in all your fast-twitch exercises: pump weights quickly and run like lightning. When pumping iron, try restricting your sets to 10 seconds, encouraging your fibers to work best in spurts.
If you want to up the ante further, try testing exercises like clap-hand push-ups – or even double-clap-hand push-ups, which demand immense power and speed.
KEEP BREAKS SHORT
Make breaks between exercises brief – aim at under a minute. The brevity makes it easier to focus on your fast-twitch development friends: speed and intensity. Better yet, the lack of recovery time means your heart keeps pounding and your muscles stay primed for the workout’s duration.
DO INTERVAL TRAINING
One way to tie together the fast-twitch muscle training techniques cited so far is to engage in the borderline mania of interval training in whatever form you like.
For instance, you could hop on an exercise bike and do 10 1-minute sprints with a minute of gentle pedaling between.
Or you could hammer the treadmill – push your speed to the fastest rate you can handle for 30 seconds then return to a more doable pace for four and a half minutes, repeating the routine 10 times.
Or you could mount the elliptical trainer and do 20-second sprints followed by 40-second jogs 10 times. Ready for a challenge? Try wind sprints.
Alternatively, you could rack out a high-intensity weight lifting routine. Once again, alternating between fierce, explosive reps and working pace sets.
Such high-intensity bursts are a lot more fun than doing 45 minutes on a bike.
MIX IT UP
An underlying principle of fast-twitch muscle training is to workout eccentrically. That means surprising your body with new exercises and workouts so it has to perform to its max and adapt to your new training.
Try plyometric exercises. Hops, skips, bounds, and jumps oblige your fast-twitch fibers to deliver terrific levels of force.
PILE ON THE PROTEIN
Your muscle cells must continually generate new protein to sustain themselves. So eat foods rich in protein, which will boost your intake of amino acids – the basic building blocks of protein.
Fast-twitch muscle fibers, in particular, rely on the amino acid beta-alanine. Increase your intake of it through consuming protein-rich foods like lean meat, eggs, dairy, soy and quinoa: a grain-like crop that offers edible seeds.
GET SOME VITAMIN D
Another key ingredient in the magic fast-twitch muscle formula is vitamin D. Moderate sun exposure usually gives your body the vitamin D it needs. So get outside and catch some rays.
Vitamins literally give you vitality. Two more key vitamins in the magic fast-twitch muscle mix are the antioxidants C and E, which curb stress sparked by exposure to toxic compounds and reduce the human equivalent of rusting.
Don’t forget about B vitamins, which help your body get the amino acids your fast-twitch muscles need and break down carbohydrates that act as a source of energy for fast-twitch muscles.
Rather than obsessing on particular foods, boost your vitamin intake by eating a well-rounded diet packed with fruit and vegetables, and supplement your food choices with a solid multivitamin.
PSYCHE YOURSELF UP TO DO MORE
If you want to build fast-twitch muscle fibers, you have to be ready to work. Psyche yourself up. Force a mindset that awakens the power of their fast-twitch fibers.
It may sound corny or simplistic, but believing and envisioning you can pull off a lift is what you need to get it done. Think about this on your last rep, and think about it when you’re sprinting hard and aren’t sure if you can push yourself any further.