6 Ways to Recruit More Fast-Twitch Muscle

By: Josh Bryant

See Josh put these principles in action with sand sprinting and strength movements.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers have the most potential for growth, lift the heaviest weights, lead to Tinder right swipes, aid in explosive movements on the field of play, and deliver the knockout blow in the self-preservation scenario at the gas station at 3 am. 

With all of the benefits—let’s take a look at how to recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibers.

  • Lift Heavy: Maximal weights move slowly BUT recruit fast-twitch muscle fibers to get the job done.  A good rule of thumb is the more weight on the bar, the more fast-twitch fibers come into play.  Train with >80% of your one-rep maximum.  Even though the weight is heavy, have the intention to move the weight as fast as possible.
  • Train in a Compensatory Acceleration Style: The more force produced, the greater the contribution of fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Think back to high school physics class, Force = Mass x Acceleration.  Because of the greater bar speed, that can be produced in a submaximal intensity range, more force can be produced. Train with 55-82.5% of your one-rep maximum in a core barbell movement; perform each rep as explosively as possible through the full range of motion.  
  • Train Eccentrically: Long before weight lifting became popular in athletics, the Soviet Sports Machine reaped the benefits of eccentric training via depth jumps and extreme plyometrics.  For the lifting enthusiast, you must remember an eccentric emphasis produces greater gains in hypertrophy than concentric or isometric (an added bonus). Furthermore, many lifters can handle 160% more eccentrically.  Train movements that emphasize eccentric overload! Think weight releasers with supramaximal loads, not tempo exercises with pygmy weights

Plyometrics: If your joints are healthy and you possess a good level of base strength, give plyometrics a shot.  Plyometrics involve the stretch-shortening cycle to create more powerful contractions.  Power is Force x Distance / Time.  It is impossible to jump high slowly!  Plyometrics performed prior to a heavy lift can help “awaken” the Central Nervous System (CNS), allowing you to lift more.

Sprinting: Shorts sprints, in the duration of 10 seconds or less, are the mecca of fast-twitch muscle  fiber recruitment.  Studies show that sprinting enhances protein synthesis pathways by as much as 230%! Furthermore, sprinting improves energy utilization, insulin sensitivity, heart health, circulation, lung function, cognition, is time efficient and a host of other benefits.

Psyching up: We have all heard stories about grandmothers lifting cars off of trapped grandchildren.   Everyone possesses this power; it is activated through the psyche.  Any big-time powerlifter psyches up before playing with large weights that would destroy most mortals.  These lifters are getting into the mindset that recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers for the ensuing war with the barbell.  Psyching up relays the message to the fast-twitch muscle, it’s go time.

To fully get the benefits of sprinting, you need a sound nutritional plan, which starts HERE.