We’re not in the 1950s anymore, science is more advanced, training strategies are more purposeful, and most of all, research shows that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. For years, coaches thought you are either born to be fast or born to be slow, there is no way around it, play your role and accept it. But what if I told you that saying was completely false? What if I told you there is a faster athlete inside of you, you just need to learn how to unleash it?
Most young athletes are physically weak, inflexible and mechanically out of tune that significant improvements can be made by working on technique and form alone. When an athlete understands the fundamentals of running (thigh block, shin angle, force production, body lean, arm action, core stability, etc.) they will be light-years ahead of their competition because they are more efficient in running and understand how their body works. Now, while improving an athlete’s running mechanics will increase their speed, in order to take their performance to the next level, they need to become stronger. The stronger an athlete is, the more force they can produce into the ground, the more force they produce, the quicker they will be. But before you take your athlete to the weight room and haphazardly throw weight around, let’s take a look at the different muscle fibers in the body and how they related to the athlete’s goal.
Types of Muscle Fibers in the Body
There are 3 types of muscle fibers in the body: Type I, Type IIa, and Type IIx. Each fiber plays a different role, but all contribute to an athlete’s ability to produce power and speed.
Type I – Slow Twitch
- slow contracting
- slow fatiguing
- good for low intensity, prolonged activities such as maintaining posture and running long distances
- Strength training protocol - 3 sets of 12 - 15 reps
Type IIa- Fast Twitch
- Resistant to fatigue, recover quickly
- Good for fast, repetitive, low-intensity activity. Contribute to muscle size and bodybuilding
- Strength training protocol - 3 sets of 8 - 10 reps
Type IIx – Fast Twitch
- Fast fatiguing
- Good for high-intensity, large power output such as field events and powerlifting
- Strength training protocol - 3 sets of 3 - 5 reps
The Type II muscle fibers are involved during quick, explosive movements such as jumping, sprinting, hitting, throwing, etc. The quicker an athlete can recruit Type II fibers; the more power they can produce.
Can You Be Born with More Type II Fibers?
Every athlete is built differently. Some athletes are better suited for running marathons or cross country (Type I), some are better suited for quick explosive bursts (Type IIx), and some are in the middle (Type IIa). Through structured strength training, athletes can change their ratio of slow-twitch to fast-twitch muscle fibers, giving them the ability to get faster. If you train the Type II muscle fibers correctly, your body can shift the composition of your musculature to recruit more fast-twitch fibers as opposed to slow-twitch ones.
Best Methods to Get FASTER
- Proper speed training
Increasing the efficiency of an athlete’s sprint mechanics
Progressive program to improve all phases of running
- Plyometric training
Developing more power
Understanding how to apply force into the ground
Refer to an earlier post for the 3 best explosive exercises
- Olympic weightlifting
Develop power through triple extension
Understand how to move the weight quickly and efficiently
- Heavy strength training
Recruit more muscle fibers
Develops the posterior chain
Improve absolute strength in the athlete
The GET FAST Workout Routine:
Speed Training –
- Arm action
- Wall drills
- Partner races
Explosive Training –
- Medball broad jumps
- Medball toss + sprints
Strength Training -
A. Back Squat
A. Box Jumps
B. Glute Bridge
B. Banded VMOs
C. Dead bugs
So, if you are a serious athlete and want to take your training to the next level, find yourself a sports performance coach that understands all facets of competition. Speed is one part of the equation, strength is one part of the equation, but if you can pair them together properly, there is nobody on the field that can stop you.