Anyone who would like to develop their muscles and become better athletes should try to know all that they can about this part of their body. Muscle is considered as a soft tissue that can contract and extend to produce motion. Different muscle groups are in-charge of our posture, our gait, our digestive process, and so on. Some of them move voluntarily such as those on our hands and feet. Others move involuntarily such as those in our internal organs. They work even if we don’t think about them. Muscles should be given enough fuel to function and enough stimulus to grow.
Kinds of Muscle Tissue
- Skeletal Muscle
These voluntary muscles are attached to the bones via tendons. We can contract or extend them to trigger skeletal movement. For example, contracting the muscles in our hands will allow us to make a ball with our fist. Contracting our biceps will allow us to pick up objects. According to studies, an average adult woman’s body is made up of 36% skeletal muscle while for men it will be 42%.
- Smooth Muscle
These are the involuntary muscles located within organs such as the stomach, the bladder, the uterus, the esophagus, the intestines, the bronchi, and the blood vessels. They do not require our conscious control in order to move which is a good thing as we can still digest food as we sleep, breathe air 24/7, and ensuring proper blood circulation without the stress of micro-managing all of these.
- Cardiac Muscle
The muscles of the heart may also be considered as involuntary since we do not have to will them to beat, though they share similarities with skeletal muscles in structure. They will simply do their job like clockwork, with the pace going up or down depending on our activity level, aerobic fitness, and underlying conditions.
Muscle Fiber Types
For this article, we concentrate on the skeletal muscles and look into various different types. These should be especially interesting to performance-oriented athletes.
- Slow Twitch or Type I
These muscle fibers are red in color because of the large quantities of myoglobin, oxygen, an iron-binding protein, and mitochondria, considered as the powerhouse of the cells. This composition means that the slow twitch muscles are rich in the fuel it needs to perform its functions. The body depends on them when it comes to sustained aerobic activities such as long-distance running. The fibers can produce contractions with minimal effort over a long time. Much of our back muscles are slow twitch, allowing us to maintain a straight posture for extended periods.
- Fast Twitch or Type II
Fast twitch muscles can be subdivided into 3 subtypes: IIa, IIb, and IIx. Type IIb fibers are also known as fast twitch glycolytic and are characterized by their high speed and low endurance rating. Type IIa is not as fast as IIb but it is better than slow twitch muscles. These tend to be whiter than Type I and are suited for quick movements such as snaps, sprints, throws, jumps, and the like. They are also useful in lifting heavyweights such as in back squats and power cleans.
Developing Fast Twitch Fibers
Individuals who would want to improve their power, speed, and explosiveness should try to train these Type II muscle fibers. This can be accomplished through sprints and short repeat intervals. All-out efforts on a running track or a hill can work wonders. These can increase efficiency and economy. However, the intensity can be too much for some people to handle. Injuries are common with this kind of training so be sure to do them only once in a while. The body should be strengthened in the gym for months beforehand. Intensity and duration should be increased gradually. Warm-ups and cooldowns are essential.
As for strength training, the recommended exercises include box jumps, kettlebell swings, and jump squats for faster movements. Jumpers should make sure that they develop a soft landing to protect their joints. The quads and hamstrings should be strengthened so that they can absorb the impact with ease. Power cleans and back squats are also good options for gym work. Be sure to lift heavy and reduce the reps.