Sep 30, 2003

Dear StrongerAthlete: Quick Lifts & Muscle-Fiber Recruitment

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, "Don't quit. Suffer now and life the rest of your life as a champion." -Muhammad Ali

What follows is what we consider mature dialog on the controversial topic of the use of quick lifts and athletic training. While we at maintain that the use of these lifts are unnecessary for the training of traditional sport athletes one could generate some uses for them if they are willing to accept the risk associated with them. We will use safety as our guiding light and acknowledge that there are safer, more efficient ways to train the fast-twitch fibers.

Dear StrongerAthlete: Quick Lifts & Muscle-Fiber Recruitment

Coach Rody,

I recently came across your site while reading Mel Siff's SUPERTRAINING list. I agree with much of your philosophy about olympic lifting and athletic c onditioning in general; that is, I agree that olympic lifting is not necessary for athletic development, I agree that there are safer/more efficient ways to develop power (especially for young athletes and novice athletes), and I agree certain sport-specific abilities are best developed by the practice of the sport itself (i.e. sprinting to develop sprinting speed). In my own training as a sprinter, I choose not to employ such methods as ballistic lifting and plyometrics, because I believe that the sprinting itself is enough explosive work. Any more would be overkill.

With that said, although I agree with your general philosophy about strength training, I do not think you have a very good understanding of the olympic lifts. This statement in particular is very much incorrect:

"Momentum generated by these lifts takes tension off the muscle which in turn makes recruiting type IIb, (or "fast twitch"), muscle fibers inefficient."

You are referring to what happens AFTER the muscle contraction has already taken place. By the time momentum takes tension off the muscles, the IIb fibers have already been recruited! Although momentum may unload the muscles, the lifter has to use his muscles to create the momentum in the first place. This requires extremely intense muscular contraction, even if it only takes for a very short period of time.

If you think about it, heavy loading of the muscles is not a prerequisite for the recruitment of fast-twitch fibers anyway. There is no more loading of the muscles during sprinting or jumping than there is during an olympic lift, yet these activities recruit more high-threshold fibers than ANY type of lifting you can do. The only prerequisite for maximum fiber recruitment is that the athlete attempts to move as fast as possible. This could occur with heavy loading for a few reps (such as during an O-lift), with moderate loading for many reps (like you said, the athlete will have to attempt to move faster as fatigue sets in), or with NO loading whatsoever.

Olympic lifting may be relatively dangerous, it may be unnecessary, and it may even be inappropriate for many athletes. However, with all due respect, the notion that olympic lifting does not recruit the fast-twitch muscle fibers is... kind of silly. I hope that you will consider withdrawing this point from your argument, because the presence of such misinformation distracts people from the other GOOD points that you make.

Brian Gates

Mr. Gates,

Towards the end of your comments you indicated that we believe that performing the Olympic lifts cannot recruit fast twitch muscle fibers.

We wrote: "Momentum generated by these lifts takes tension off the muscle which in turn makes recruiting type IIb, (or "fast twitch"), muscle fibers inefficient."

Inefficiency is not saying that it is impossible to recruit these fibers.

Next, you cannot compare activities such as sprinting and weight lifting. These are entirely separate entities. Yes, there is a contraction during the initial part of an Olympic lift. But it certainly is not a full contraction because of the partial range of motion used which makes it less efficient. We feel that full range of motion is necessary in weight training.

Furthermore, lifting fast recruits Type II fibers in the initial stage, but high-momentum lessens muscle tension, thus diminishes the recruitment. Through the same range of motion, fiber recruitment CAN vary....and by slowing it down with either 1) heavier weights or 2) controlling the movement will BETTER recruit type II fibers through a greater range of motion. Type II fibers are recruited at the start of a power clean but the momentum increase lessens tension and fewer fibers are overloaded under tension.

Lastly, your comment indicating that we do not understand Olympic lifting is an insult to our intelligence and incorrect. We have an individual on our staff that had an extensive background in coaching the Olympic lifts. The fact that we agree to disagree on the impact of those lifts is evident but even all those Ph.D's out there disagree on the same points we discuss here.

We do appreciate your comments,
Coach Rody

Sep 8, 2003

SWAT Fitness: Book Review/Dear StrongerAthlete: Muscle-Fiber Recuitment/New Team: Mississippi State

"None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm." -Thoreau

Please forgive the delay since the last post. Football season has started and we are quite busy. Thanks for coming back and hope your new semester is going well!

SWAT Fitness: Book Review

SWAT Fitness
By, Matt Brzycki and Stuart A. Meyers
© 2003 Operational Tactics

In twenty chapters and 320 pages Matt Brzycki and Stuart Meyers deliver a jackpot of fitness information. It should be noted that while the book is aimed at law enforcement personnel the fitness, nutrition, strength training, weight management and training resources provided are useful to anyone.

Meyers and Brzycki complement each other well in this work. Meyers brings his expertise in law enforcement, which includes training SWAT teams internationally, U.S. Navy Seals, and U.S. Army Special Forces while Brzycki is recognized as a leader in the field of practical strength training and the author of several books on the topic.

The authors begin the book by pointing out the valuable benefits to physical fitness, many of which apply to all people not just those in law enforcement, such as quality of life, improved work performance, and injury prevention. Common training terminology is discussed and a brief overview of human anatomy follows. The chapter on flexibility includes an overview of safe stretching procedures as well as large photos of proper stretching form for each movement.

Chapters include an overview of exercise physiology, aerobic and anaerobic training and strength training. Safe training instruction, applications of various training principles, and charts that can be used to measure and track one’s fitness are included. Like the flexibility chapter, each strength training movement discussed is illustrated in clear, large photographs. Free-weight, machine, and manual resistance exercises are all explained in detail.

Further information is given on designing training programs that fit each individual and emphasize the importance of varying the workouts. Metabolic, power, rehabilitative, skill and nutritional training are each given detailed chapters and like the early portions of the book are excellent resources for anyone seeking sound training information.

The chapter on weight management explains in easy-to-understand concepts the path to gaining or losing weight safely. In this era of “super-diet” scams where entire departments of bookstores are devoted to the subject, Brzycki and Meyers do justice to body weight management in only seven pages.

The book concludes with a chapter devoted to common training questions along with answers based on sound research and science as well as an appendix section, which includes reproducible forms and charts. These forms include training logs and exercise lists.

While this book is aimed at law enforcement personnel and what practical training can do for them personally and their careers, it is important to note that all readers can use this book. The wide world of fitness is one full of misinformation and hype. SWAT Fitness helps to bring some reliable, practical and safe information to those who seek it.

Samuel Knopik
Head Football Coach
Pembroke Hill School
Kansas City, Missouri

Dear StrongerAthlete: Muscle-Fiber Recruitment

Dear StrongerAthlete,

I just read your website about muscle fiber recruitment and found it pretty interesting. I am not a coach; just a person who trains with weights regularly. I'm rather ecto-morphic and I train for both strength and size with low volume and low rep principles. My question is regarding muscle hypertrophy and atrophy.

1.) Does sticking exclusively to a low rep range, such as a 4-6 RM, hypertrophy or atrophy the Type-I fibers?

I have been told that since the slow-twitch fibers are not mainly relied upon in such heavy lifts, they will atrophy while the fast-twitch hypertrophy.

I have also been told that since the slow-twitch fibers are indeed recruited with such heavy lifts (low-threshold fibers before high-threshold), as you progressively get stronger, the type-1s will progressively get bigger along with the fast-twitch fibers. This source also claims that strength training is a better substitute for endurance training because as you get stronger, your endurance levels naturally increase.

Which one of these is accurate? They both make sense and are both from credible exercise physiologists. I have been sticking with low reps for good while and had decent results; but I sure don't want to atrophy any available fiber as I am interested in size as well.

Any further insight would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks very much!

Brint Hollis

Mr. Hollis,

We are by no means experts on this and like you do a lot of our research by asking questions from people "in-the-know".

To our understanding if you are reaching the point of momentary muscular fatigue, (MMF), at the 4-6 rep range then yes you are using all of your muscle fibers, slow-fast. That being the case all will grow in size. If, however, you are simply using heavy weights and stopping your sets at 4-6 short of momentary muscular fatigue you are probably leaving yourself short in terms of muscle fiber recruitment.

For safety purposes we like to keep our rep ranges somewhat moderate, 8-10. All things being equal if we push it to MMF we can be assured that we are getting the most from each lift.

Hope this helps.

New Team: Mississippi State University

I have been aware of your site for a few years now as the circle of people in the profession I speak with regularly are fans as well. I have served stints at Kentucky, Butler, and Clemson. I have been here at MSU for about a month now and am in charge of the programs for all sports except football and track. All of the teams I train use predominantly high intensity methods, absolutely no cleans of any kind or squats with a barbell on their shoulders. We have had a good first few weeks of training but as you know some teams catch on quicker than others.

Let me know if I can do anything to help. Great job with the site and info!

Shannon Patterson
Strength and Conditioning
Shira Fieldhouse
Mississippi State University


***No Liability is assumed for any information written on the website. No medical advice is given on exercise. This advice should be obtained from a licensed health-care practitioner. Before anyone begins any exercise program, always consult your doctor. The articles are written by coaches that are giving advice on a safe, productive, and efficient method of strength training.***