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Long-distance running engages slow-twitch muscle fibers.
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Your body is made up of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers that affect your athletic performance. The long, lean bodies of marathoners compared to the powerful, muscular bodies of sprinters can be attributed to the amount of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, the latter indicating more fast-twitch fibers and the former indicating more slow-twitch fibers. When it comes to slow-twitch exercises, slow and steady wins the race.
Understand the Difference
Muscles are made up of three types of fibers: slow twitch (type I), fast twitch A (type IIa) and fast twitch B (type IIb). During exercise, your muscles are stimulated, and these tiny fibers contract. Slow-twitch muscle fibers contract at a rate of 10 to 30 twitches per second, while fast-twitch muscle fibers contract at a rate of 30 to 70 twitches per second, notes Peak Performance. Your slow-twitch muscle fibers are designed for endurance and are activated during aerobic activity to resist fatigue and provide long-lasting energy. Marathoners, for example, have a higher percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Genetics play a factor in the ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch muscle fibers. However, the ratio may be altered using specific training techniques, notes IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
Train for Endurance
Your slow-twitch muscle fibers use oxygen to generate energy, notes IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Long, low-intensity activities like running, swimming, power walking and cycling engage your slow-twitch muscle fibers, according to ExRx.net. If you stick to an exercise regimen that includes these endurance activities, you will improve your aerobic capacity and increase capillary density, according to Peak Performance. Capillaries carry oxygen, and the more capillaries there are in a muscle, the more aerobic energy you will have to sustain exercise for a longer period of time.
Lift Lighter, with More Reps
Your muscle fibers determine how much weight you can lift and how many repetitions you can complete. Completing more reps of a lighter weight activates your slow-twitch fibers. If you are able to comfortably complete more than 12 reps, more than 50 percent of the activity is engaging your slow-twitch fibers, notes IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Even if your goal is to complete an endurance event, it is important to include strength training into your fitness routine to improve endurance. If you abandon strength training altogether, you may lose muscle mass, which can affect your endurance. ExRx.net says that incorporating specific, slow-twitch strength training into your routine will improve your endurance.
Consider Your Genes
You can pinpoint whether you have more fast-twitch or slow-twitch muscle fibers by listening to your body during exercise. You look forward to the activities you excel at, so mentally check in before your next workout. If long, aerobic workouts feel more natural, you have more slow-twitch fibers, but if short sprints feel more comfortable, you have more fast-twitch fibers, according to IDEA Health and Fitness Association. Pay attention to your muscle's capabilities. If you fatigue easily, you may have more fast-twitch fibers, but if you can handle more repetitions, you may have more slow-twitch fibers. By understanding your body, you can create a fitness routine that caters to your specific needs and goals.