You may have heard a number of folks online and in the sports and fitness press talk about fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibres…and wondered the heck the difference was – after all a muscle is a muscle, right?
Understanding the difference between the fast twitch and slow twitch muscles is essential if you’re intent of focusing your efforts on the right muscle groups and type of training that is beneficial to you – especially if you’re looking to jump higher, run faster and improve your reflexes and first step, on the basketball court or on the track.
Differences Between Fast and Slow Twitch Fibers
The essential difference between these two types of muscle fibers is in the way they are utilized by the body in various situations.
The fast twitch muscle fibers are, as the name suggests, quick to respond to electrical impulses from the brain and are therefore extremely important to anyone who plays basketball, volleyball, or track and field athletes like sprinters who need to generate massive force (to jump high or sprint fast) in as short a time as possible.
Slow twitch muscle fibers are typically utilized in situations that require less immediate force but over a longer twitch donation period of time.
Ability to Use Oxygen
Fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers use oxygen in different ways. The fast fibers contract and perform almost without the presence of oxygen, and do so for short intense bouts of anaerobic exercise. Anything less than 30 seconds in duration is ideal for the fast twitch fibers.
Slow twitch fibers on the other require oxygen to perform properly and thus are better suited to longer forms of exercise of less intensity over 30 seconds in duration.
Amount Of Force Produced
Fast twitch fibers produce significantly more force in a fraction of the time than slow twitch muscles. This makes them the ideal muscle type to focus on developing if you’re looking to increase your vertical or first step quickness.
Speed At Which They Fatigue
Fast twitch fibers fatigue much much quicker than slow twitch fibers, which is why they are really only suited to exercise that lasts 30-45 seconds or less. Since they are not utilizing oxygen to perform their contractions they cannot last very long and will quickly be depleted of their high energy fuel source (ATP), after which they will need to be rested.
Slow twitch fibers on the other hand can last much longer since they are more efficient at utilizing oxygen for performance, and are ideal for endurance activities like long distance running or any prolonged aerobic activity.
Why Your Current Training May Not Be Working
So, do you see the importance of focusing on the right kind of muscle fibers if you want to see success in your game?