Muscular Speed Training

To discover the advantages of Speed Training or what is also known as Increased Muscular Contractions, you need to truly understand how to increase your Contraction Speed and firstly it is best to have an understanding of the different Muscle Fibers that exist and contribute to your muscle movements.

You have two types of Muscle Fibers and they are:

  • Slow Twitch Fibers (Type I),
  • These fibers are suited to the performance of endurance or aerobic based activities and are much less powerful than their Fast Twitch counterparts. These fibers give you the ability to run long distances, cycle, swim, etc... They have a much slower contraction speed than Fast Twitch fibers and are not called upon to perform explosive or quick movements.

  • Fast Twitch Fibers (Type II),
  • These fibers react quickly to stimulation and have a high anaerobic capacity. These can be broken down to two types of Fast Twitch Fibers:

    Type IIa, These fibers have the capacity to use energy from both Aerobic and Anaerobic sources. It has an intermediate response compared to Type IIb fibers. These Muscle Fibers are well suited to activities such as Basketball, Hockey, Soccer, etc…where a blend of both Slow and Fast Twitch Fibers are beneficial.

    Type IIb, These fibers enable you to perform explosive and powerful movements and are purely anaerobic, enabling it to contract rapidly, but also fatigue very quickly. These Fibers are responsible for such actions as throwing or hitting a ball, short sprinting (less than 100 yards) and jumping. All of these moves require an immediate fast response from your muscles to be successful and these are the Fibers that you target with your Speed Training.


    Can you change your Muscles to have more Fast Twitch Fibers?


    Studies have shown that with the correct training you can increase your performance, which would lead to the conclusion that you can change a percentage of your Slow Twitch Fibers and Fast Twitch Fibers. It is thought that the Type IIa may take on an increased aerobic capacity through endurance conditioning, for example middle distance and marathon running.

    That being said there is still conflicting evidence and once the training is stopped, your Muscle Fibers will revert back to their predetermined Type. Slow Twitch Fibers cannot be conditioned to react the same as Fast Twitch Fibers.

    Your Muscle Fiber Types are not divided equally either, you will have a different ratio of Fiber Types than the next person. This is why we are not all marathon runners or on the other hand powerful athletes.

    It is also thought that with the correct training method you may be able to recruit an increased amount of motor neural connections (muscular stimulators) and therefore activate a larger percentage of Muscle Fibers to perform a given task. When your training method can specifically target Fast Twitch Fibers, your muscular contraction speed will increase and so will your performance.




    HOW DO YOU SPEED TRAIN YOUR
    FAST TWITCH MUSCLE FIBERS?

    PLYOMETRICSA speed training principle called Plyometrics has been used for many years and is thought to be an effective method to increase muscular contraction and therefore speed. The theory behind Plyometrics is that a muscle is placed under stress by firstly performing an eccentric contraction (muscle lengthens when loaded with a resistance) and then is immediately followed by a concentric contraction (muscle length shortens when loaded with a resistance).

    A classic example of this training theory is to jump from a bench or box and on landing, your leg muscles (quadriceps) act to decelerate your fall by contracting eccentrically. It is then that you call upon the same muscles to contract concentrically (opposite) and perform a powerful jump. It is thought that this will stimulate your Fast Twitch Fibers and in turn train them to have more speed and power.

    This same training theory is used with such exercises as, clapping push-ups, passing medicine balls and performing handstand jumps. Some sprinting athletes may drag a weight behind them as they run and this is to add extra load to their leg muscles and stimulate their Fast Twitch Fibers.

    The practice of Plyometrics has its limitations, it is difficult to target every major muscle group sufficiently with this type of training. It also increases the chance of injury due to the ballistic and explosive movements required. This training places increased forces on your muscles and connecting tissue and is only recommended for the experience athlete and conducted under supervision.




    ISOMETRICSIn recent times another speed training theory of Fast Twitch stimulation has been introduced and it is the opposite of Plyometrics. In this case there is no Muscular or Joint movement associated with the exercise. This theory utilizes Isometric Contractions.

    Isometric Contractions are a type of muscular training principle, where the skeletal joint angle and muscle length do not change when placed under stress (resistance).

    It has been noted that when you hold a muscle in an Isometric contraction for a very short period of time (no greater than 10 seconds) only your Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers are recruited. This action is thought to increase your motor neural response and initiate a much quicker Fast Twitch Fiber reaction within your muscles and as a result intensify your muscular speed.

    The important point to note here is that when you work your muscles through a concentric and eccentric contraction there is continual movement through a full range of motion. But with Isometrics there is no joint or muscular movement at all, so how do you train your entire muscle and not just at one specific joint angle?

    The answer is to fold your muscle in an Isometric Contraction, through different joint angles. For example you could hold your Bicep in an Isometric Contraction at a set Elbow angle for 10 seconds, then shorten the angle slightly and hold another Isometric Contraction for another 10 seconds and so on until you have completed the joints range of motion. In this way you would be stimulating only your Fast Twitch Fibers within your Bicep and producing an increase in muscular speed.

    Please understand that you will only be stimulating the muscle that these specific points and this differs from a Concentric and Eccentric contraction as they stimulate your muscles continually throughout its range of motion. But Concentric and Eccentric contractions are used for Strength and Endurance, not for Speed Training.

    This is why you must use short Isometric Contractions no longer than 10 seconds or you will start training your muscles for Strength. The longer the contraction, the less your Fast Twitch Fibers will come into play and your Type IIa Fibers will assist and to a lesser extent your Type I.

    This speed training technique is exceptional as you can specifically target the desired muscle group that you require to have or would like to have more speed.


    WHY IS ISOMETRICS BETTER THAN PLYOMETRICS FOR SPEED TRAINING?


    Plyometrics is restrictive in the amount of muscle groups that you can successfully isolate and target with its ballistic moves. It also has a greater opportunity for injury if the moves are performed incorrectly.

    Whereas Isometrics can be used to isolate any muscle or muscle group, with the introduction and effective use of Resistance Bands. Resistance Bands allow you the freedom to hold an Isometric Contraction on any muscle at any angle. When used in conjunction with attachments for your ankle you can isolate your legs in all directions and train your leg flexors, extensors, abductors and adductors with ease.

    This will also give you the opportunity to isolate and train particular muscles for sports specific movements, for example a golf swing. You could set up the Resistance Bands to replicate different angles of movement within your golf swing, hold an Isometric Contraction for 10 seconds and alter the angle and hold for another 10 seconds until you have completed your swing. If the theory holds true you should have a more powerful golf swing and smack the ball further.

    Try it with your chosen sport and see the difference for yourself.




    Isometric Training has been around for many years and has proven to increase muscular response at specific joint angles. Athletes from many different sports have increased their performance with its inclusion in their training sessions. Sprinting, Power lifting, etc… any movement that requires an explosive burst of speed will benefit from the inclusion of Isometrics in their speed training. As an example, Gymnasts are very powerful and utilize Isometrics in their training. It assists them to have increased power at certain joint angles and successfully perform their routines.

    And now you to can benefit from this practice of speed training as well, there is less chance of injury and due to the fact that you only hold a contraction for 10 seconds, your training should not take longer than approximately 10 minutes. Any longer a duration would have a tendency to introduce other Muscle Fibers, which would be counter productive.



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