190917 Special strength and the athlete
We all know that not everyone is born with the same capabilities to display awesome strength. It’s a fact of life that some of us just don’t have the right combinations of fast twitch to slow twitch fibers. However, each of us can make a difference in our strength levels through proper training schedules. How we go about setting up these training regimens is the topic of this article.
There are minute differences in each muscle fiber type, and these differences make up the ability to run long distances or to lift heavy weights. Some are nearly all fast twitch with nary a hint of a slow twitch characteristic in them. At the other end of the spectrum are the slow twitch fibers with an amazing ability to keep on keeping on. Somewhere in the middle lay the in-between fibers the type two ‘a’ and ‘b’. Not quite all out fast twitch and not fully slow twitch either.
Determining the precise ratio of fast to slow twitch fibers is in the realm of the scientists but a few easy to follow tests may give an astute coach a clue as to the direction the training program would realistically follow. Dr. Fred Hatfield, also known as Dr. Squat, came up with a useful gauge for program planning based on the individuals’ fiber makeup. Here’s the test.
Determine the one repetition maximum, without equipment, in the lifts of your choice. Now take eighty percent of that one rep max. Do as many repetitions as possible with this weight. If you are able to do four to six repetitions, and no more with good form, then you are more than likely genetically gifted with a larger amount of type two fibers-the fibers that produce high force but wear out quickly due to their lack of endurance. These fibers operate within the rapidly consumed ATP/CP energy sphere. They fatigue easily, have fewer mitochondria and few capillaries supplying them with fuel.
If on the other hand you are able to do more than fifteen then you probably, have an abundance of type one fibers. These contain a greater percentage of mitochondria, a higher aerobic enzyme capacity and much more dense capillary concentrations. They allow you to go longer but the force output possibilities are lower.
In the middle of these two extreme rep ranges, we have the seven to fourteen ranges. These individuals will have predominance of in-between fibers. Not that many fast twitch and not that many slow twitch fibers.
So what do you do with this information once you’ve found it out? If you know your trainee is a fast twitch sort of person then design the program around this aspect. Keep the reps low and the sets higher. Two to six reps for ten to four sets respectively. Keep in mind that performing four sets of six reps will be physiologically harder on the system than doing twelve sets of two reps.
If they lean more toward the slow twitch end of the continuum then have them doing higher repetitions and fewer sets.
Now that you have a brief idea of the direction you will be going with your training plans, don’t forget to add in a few higher and intermediate reps and sets schedules for those who have the majority of fast twitch fibers. Take advantage of your trainees’ strong points but don’t overly neglect the rest of the points either.