Training the appropriate Muscle Fibers for optimum results
Human muscle tissue consists of both Fast-Twitch and Slow-Twitch muscle fibers. Slow Twitch muscle fibers are called Type 1 and are capable of producing sub maximal force over an extended period. They are best described as “endurance” fibers. It is these muscle fibers that athletes involved in aerobic activities (such as marathon and distance running) want to develop.
Fast Twitch fibers are classified as Type 2a or Type 2b. They are best described as “strength & power house” fibers. They are capable of producing maximal force for brief periods. These are the type of fibers that strength and power athletes must develop. The difference between 2a and 2b fibers is that 2a has more “endurance” characteristics whereas 2b has more “explosive speed and power” characteristics.
In many sports, both fibers are used, with Type 2b contracting first.
For example, a speed skater or cyclist at the beginning of a race would recruit the Type 2b fibers first in order for them to explode out of the blocks, and as these become fatigued, Type 2a fibers would take over.
What about 2C?
Type 2c is another type of fiber that can develop the characteristics of either Fast Twitch or Slow Twitch fibers with the correct training.
Fast Twitch fibers give the athlete the ability to move quickly and explosively. Slow Twitch fibers are responsible for both the stabilization and posture the athlete’s body needs while performing a particular movement or movements. They provide the stability to make the action possible.
The primary goal for a strength and power athlete is to first emphasize the Type 2b fibers and to get the Type 2c fibers to behave like 2b fibers.
The human muscular system, when challenged, has the capacity and ability to make tremendous changes, one of which is the ability to bring about change in how muscle fibers function. When it comes to training, whatever effort the athlete puts into it, the athlete will get out of it.
Muscles want to complete the tasks you set them in the most efficient way that they know. If an athlete only teaches the muscles to complete the task slowly, then that is exactly what they will get back. They cannot expect the muscles to behave in any other way.
An athlete who needs to compete at maximal efforts and at higher speeds needs to train the muscles to function optimally at these higher speeds.
Training at lower speeds and sub maximal efforts will not be effective for developing explosive power.
The Failure Set
By bringing the main working resistance training set to failure, where you can no longer perform a repetition with good strict form, your 2b fibers are brought into play.
For maximum power and strength, you should be looking to achieve failure between the 1-5 repetition range. For muscle size and development potential, the repetitions should be between the 6-10 range. This ‘failure’ set or main working set is absolute gold.
For example, for your first exercise of the training session, you should look to do around 4 or 5 sets in total to work up to your main working set or sets. Do not mix up warm up sets with working sets. They must be treated differently.
Use the first four or five sets to adequately warm up and prepare the Muscle and CNS (Central Nervous System). This rep scheme should only apply to your first exercise of the particular muscle group that you are training.
You need only incorporate one to two warm up sets for your remaining exercises. Keep in mind that the reason for the warm up sets is to get you ready to handle the maximum weight that you will be using on your last set.
Now that we have that explained, next up will be PAP or Post Activation Potentiation and that is when shit really gets interesting.