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Building Strength by Build Muscle Fiber


Submitted by admin on 2002-04-13

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When building strength, everybody seems to have an all-sure solution or the perfect workout. Before I tell you what I suggest, lets' look at the basics of muscle structure and work our way up.

There are three types of muscle fibers in our bodies, slow twitch (red), medium twitch (pink), and fast twitch (white). Everybody has all three muscle fibers covering their entire body. Some people have more of one type muscle fiber that matches their physical activity.

The slow twitch muscle fibers are the thinnest fibers and the weakest. They will also continue to contract the longest. As long as you have adrenaline or glucose to stimulate the muscle fibers they will contract. This is why marathon runners are very thin. They have an abundance of slow twitch muscle fibers and lesser of the medium and fast twitch muscles.

Medium twitch muscle fibers are not the weakest nor are they the strongest. They will contract faster and stronger than slow twitch but not as fast or as strong as fast twitch fibers. These muscle fibers will last for around twenty minutes of contraction before they exhaust themselves. Look at the body size of middle distance (mile) runners. They are not thin like marathon runners but not bulky like sprinters. Compare them to fit rock climbers and boulderers. Their body shapes are similar. This is due to the abundance of medium twitch muscle fibers.

Fast twitch muscle fibers are the fastest and strongest. Look at sprinters and football players. This is the muscle fiber they build to give them that quick and powerful burst of strength. Since fast twitch is the strongest muscle fiber, it has the shortest endurance. A fast twitch muscle fiber will exhaust itself after thirty seconds of continuous contraction. To drive this point home do one pull up. Hold yourself at the top of the pull up for one minute. Watch the clock as you do this. After close to thirty seconds, you will notice a sudden decrease in strength. This will be your fast twitch muscle fibers giving out and your medium twitch fibers taking over.

Your muscles, along with most of your body, are made of protein. Each muscle type is made of a different protein strand. Protein strands are made of different strings of amino acids. As you ingest protein, your body will break it down into the different amino acids contained in that protein. It will then string the amino acids back together to form the protein you currently need. If you have broken down your muscle fibers, your body will take its supply of protein to build to those muscles. If your body does not have an adequate supply of protein, it can't build your weak muscles.

It takes a long time for your body to digest protein. Therefore, most protein passes through your system undigested. Think of it as paying high taxes. Of all the protein you ingest you only get to keep part of it. So the more protein you add to your diet, the more protein passes through undigested. But, more protein will also be absorbed and broken down by your body. [page]

If you want to build strength, your workout should be based around a process of breaking down your muscles and building them back up. A body builder will lift heavy weights and push their fast twitch muscles to the point of total exhaustion and do this for several weeks. They call this their tear down period. Next, they lift with lighter weights for several weeks and allow their muscles to repair themselves. They call this their build up period. During this period, they add as much protein to their diet as they can.

As a rock climber, you're saying that you don't want to bulk up like a body builder. You're right. You want to concentrate more on your medium twitch muscles. These are the muscle fibers that will give you strength and endurance without the bulk. The tear down and build up process is the same.

You can design a climbing or weightlifting workout on the same principles. Do ten to fifteen minute climbs that do not require all of your strength but you feel it when you're done. Rest your muscles and do the climb again and again. In the weight room, you should lift with medium weights. You have to be the judge of what is heavy and what is light for your own conditioning. The weight should be easy to lift at first and hard to lift at the end of the set. Do high repetitions (20-30) and several sets (4-6). This will concentrate your workout on your medium twitch fibers and break them down. If you work out everyday your muscles will continue to break down and no benefit will be gained. I recommend two or three days of heavy workouts per week. This is your tear down period. Follow this with one or two days of light workouts followed by two or three days of rest. This is your build up period. If you have the available protein in your system, your body will build up the muscle fibers you tore down.

You're probably asking, "What about carbs?" Well, carbohydrates have nothing to do with the building of muscle fiber. Protein builds muscle fiber but does not give you the energy to use those muscles. Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules. Besides raising your blood sugar, these sugar molecules are used by your endocrine system to produce glucose. Your pancreas then produces insulin to burn the glucose. Glucose is what your body uses for energy when you have exhausted your immediate reserve of adrenaline. Your immediate reserve of adrenaline will last from ten to twenty minutes. If you are not using this reserve of glucose, your body will store it in the form of fat. This is why long distance runners will overload on carbohydrates the night before a big race. They don't continuously take in carbohydrates all the time.

So your body will burn energy in the following order. First it uses adrenaline. When your adrenaline is depleted it will burn glucose. When your glucose is depleted, it will make more glucose or glycogen. Where does it get the molecules to make this extra glucose? It comes from that place where your body stored all the carbs you weren't using, in your fat cells. This is how the body burns fat. As a general rule, after twenty minutes of continuous exercise (running, swimming, climbing, etc), your body will deplete its available reserve of adrenaline and glucose. After that, you are burning your stored energy (fat).

Recap: Take in large amounts of proteins. Tear down your muscles then rest them so they will build back up. Overload on carbs the night before a big climb.

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