How To Improve Fast Twitch Reactions
Are you looking for a way to make each and every workout count? Perhaps it’s time to work on the muscle fibers and find those elusive exercises that really focus on giving them the workout they need to build strength, speed and power. If you want to know your slow twitch from your fast twitch and your plyometrics and isometrics from your elbow, and know what works and what doesn’t, read on.
Your muscles are made up of connective tissue we refer to as muscle fibers and they are of three main types. There are slow twitch fibers, which are mainly linked with muscle strength. Then, you have intermediate twitch fibers that work as an intermediate agent between slow twitch fibers and fast twitch fibers. Finally, there are fast twitch fiber, mainly related to the speed of muscular contractions and are 10 times faster than the slow twitch fibers. These fibers give athletic speed, agility and power to the muscles.
Your muscles contain a combination of these fibers but in some muscles one or the other type of fibers are dominant. For instance, slow twitch fibers are dominant in postural muscles of the spine as these muscles have to undergo repetitive contractions and only slow twitch muscles can carry out these movements without fatigue. On the other hand, fast twitch muscles are dominant in arm and leg muscles since quick and powerful movements have to be carried out.
Improve Your Fast Twitch Reaction
Isolating a single fiber type during muscle contraction is not possible as both slow twitch and fast twitch fibers co-exist and contract at the same but you can still improve your fast twitch reactions.
Increase Your Fast-Twitch Potential with Isometrics
Fast twitch muscles are not only the fastest to fire but they exhaust quickly. So if you want to train your fast twitch muscles moving them faster is not beneficial at all. Instead, it increases the risk of injury. You have to build the strength of these fibers by increasing the momentum and intensity of work performed by these muscles.
An isometric exercise is performed by holding a cup half filled with water. If you hold this cup at arm’s length for four hours a day your targeted muscles are slow twitch muscles but if you hold the same cup and raise your shoulders all muscle fibers, including slow twitch and fast twitch muscles, will become exhausted in just a few seconds. So the key is to increase the intensity to train your fast twitch muscles.
Increasing Your Movement Speed
For increasing the speed of the movements, plyometric and isometric exercises are used but the latter is preferred over the former.
Pushing against a brick wall is an example of isometric exercise, whereas jumping and explosive pushups are plyometric exercises. Both maximal isometric exercises, as well as plyometric exercises, exhaust your energy in the beginning but the difference between the two is that the former explodes you with intensity while the other exhausts you with movement.
Here are some exercises to get good results:
The Wall Punch Drill
The wall punch drill is an exercise that works on scapular strength. It targets all seventeen muscles attached to the scapula to increase endurance. This pushing exercise also improves the overall tendon strength in your body.
For performing the wall punch drill:
- First, keep your elbows perpendicular to your torso, make a punch and direct it towards the wall.
- Apply force on the wall with your fist just as in punching and continue forcing for 7 to 12 seconds
- Then move back a little for a few seconds and as you do, prepare for the next punch.
- Repeat the punching position with extended arm again.
- Next, follow the same steps but this time instead of keeping your elbows perpendicular to your torso keep them close to your body while squeezing your arm.
- Again apply a force on the wall with your fist just as you do in punching and continue forcing for next 7 to 12 seconds
- Now repeat the exercise with your other arm with both elbow positions.
Isometric Sled Drill
For performing the isometric sled drill you will need a sled, weights and a partner.
Follow these steps for performing this exercise:
- First, load the maximum weights onto the sled
- Next, hold one end of the sled and ask your partner to hold the other end firmly.
- Your partner should hold the sled so that it does not move even if pressure is applied.
- Your task is to apply the force on your end to push the sled down and to continue applying the force for 7 to 12 seconds.
- Repeat the 7 to 12 seconds drill for 8 times with short intervals.
The whole drill should not exceed a maximum of 3 minutes. The shorter the duration the more beneficial it is.
Plyometric VS Isometric Exercises – Effects On Force Development
Isometric exercises and plyometric exercises work on force development but plyometric exercises only yield short term benefits whereas isometric exercises yield long term benefits. There are pros and cons to consider before making the move. For instance:
Plyometric exercises involve all the muscles of the body and exert a lot of stress whereas isometric exercises do not exert the same level of stress yet yield similar benefits in force and movement training
Plyometric exercises increase the risk of injury and are not good for joints in the long run. On the other hand, isometric exercises do not harm joints and involve no health risks in the long run.
Plyometric exercises are just momentary and use a lot of energy whereas isometric exercises involve little work and a more efficient use of energy. For instance, if you are pushing a strong surface like the brick wall a powerful force is needed but you are doing little work.
No one has time to work on exercises that yield minimal benefits or to exhaust themselves early on in their workout that whatever they do next is ineffective. However, a few minutes spent on The Wall Punch or the Isometric Sled Drill in your schedule will target those muscles that are the source of your strength, speed and stamina. And, if you can stand punching the wall a few times, your endurance will benefit too.