What's Your Twitch Type?

Strength coaches and exercise physiologists don't agree on much, but one strength-training idea that probably wouldn't draw too much controversy is the notion that there are people who are predominantly fast-twitch in muscle fiber composition and there are people who are more of a blend between slow and fast twitch muscle fibers.

As such, it's pretty clear that people who are predominantly fast twitch generally respond to lower, heavier reps while people who have a more equitable distribution of fiber types generally do better with higher reps.

Another notion that probably wouldn't cause anyone's lats to flare is that you have to exhaust as many muscle fibers and types of muscle fibers as possible in order to stimulate growth.

The Poliquin Approach

One coach who appears to think about muscle fibers and muscle fiber recruitment a lot is Charles Poliquin. He doesn't even recommend a seafood restaurant without taking the person's muscle-fiber ratio into consideration.

Consider his recommendations on drop sets, which are well known for recruiting high numbers of muscle fibers and consequently eliciting a lot of muscle growth.

Poliquin has devised fiber-specific formulas for doing drop sets. Call them "designer" drop sets. If you're mostly fast-twitch – are thick muscled, respond better to lower reps and put on muscle easily – you need to do drop sets differently than people with a more normal fiber distribution.

Similarly, "normal" types, i.e., those that have more trouble putting on muscle but respond in general to higher reps, also have to do drop sets differently than their horizontally unchallenged brethren.

Biceps

Drop Sets for Fast Twitch People

  1. Do a set using the most weight you can for 4 reps (4 RM). The exercise can be a bench press, bent-over row, curl, triceps extension, or pretty much any exercise that involves a major muscle group or a semi-major muscle group.
  2. Now, without rest, reduce the weight 10-15% and do as many reps as possible. If you're a true fast-twitch person, it'll be 1-2 reps.
  3. Again reduce the weight another 10-15% and do as many reps as possible (again, probably 1 or 2).
  4. Rest for a couple of minutes and repeat steps 1 through 3.

Drop Sets for "Normal" Fiber Type Distribution People

  1. Do a set using the most weight you can for 8 reps (8 RM).
  2. Then, without rest, reduce the weight 5-10% and do as many reps as possible. If you're truly a person of normal fiber type distribution, it will be about 3-4 reps.
  3. Reduce the weight again 5-10% and do as many reps as possible (probably 3-4 reps).
  4. Rest for a couple of minutes and repeat steps 1 through 3.

If you're not adverse to pain and like drop sets, experiment with doing ones that are targeted towards your specific muscle-fiber type.

Related:  Extended Sets for Size and Strength

Related:  Intensity Techniques to Make You Hurt