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Slow Twitch or Fast Twitch muscles = climbing better?
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Partner xcel360


Nov 1, 2002, 12:38 PM
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Slow Twitch or Fast Twitch muscles = climbing better?
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Ok, I started lifting about two years ago because I was tired of being overweight and unhealthy. My lifting partner at the time was practically a body builder and a vast source of information. He informed me that when lifting there are two different ways to develop your muscles. If you do say about 3 sets of 10-12 reps with a weight that you can handle doing this with but is difficult, you will develop slow twitch muscles. This is great for people who run, do aerobics and lots of cardiovascular. If you wanted to get bigger and stronger however, you would do 3 sets, lifting a heavier weight each time until burnout. The last set you should only be getting about 3-6 reps. This supposedly gets you bigger and stronger. My question relating to climbing is this: Do you think developing a slow twitch type muscle could benefit your climbing? If you only lifted say about 2-3 days a week, working a different set of muscle groups each time using lower weights and doing more reps, developing these so called slow twitch muscles, would this be better for your climbing? With that type of muscle you should be able to excercise more control and endurance on dificult climbs. Wouldn't this type of lifting actually benefit your climbing since you technically shouldn't be adding too much muscle mass? Well I hope I didn't confuse too many people



katydid


Nov 1, 2002, 12:49 PM
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Fast-twitch gives you power. Slow-twitch gives you endurance. So really, both would be ideal.

Kate


data118


Nov 1, 2002, 12:57 PM
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IMHO, besides climbing more, any type of excerise will benefit your body and that translates into improve performance (results will vary). Just don't over due it to the point that your climbing starts to suffer because your muscles are always sore, or you don't have enough energy because of too much excercise.


Partner xcel360


Nov 1, 2002, 1:16 PM
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katy:
but the problem is your muscles will develop either one way or the other. wish i could have both. i'd think fast twitch would be better for bouldering and dynos - if thats what you do a lot. but all in all i'd think slow twitch would be better in the end


chuckd278


Nov 1, 2002, 1:19 PM
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Both are very hard to develop. While at a camp at the OTC in Colorado Springs, Co for cycling this was discussed and the report may be avaliable if you contact them. I think the guy who did it was named Mark. At the current time he was the junior national team coach. It was in the 1996 to 1997 time frame.

Chuck


vicum


Nov 1, 2002, 1:34 PM
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I don't really see how this translates into real world experience. The worlds hardest boulders(sharma, grahm etc) and also some of the hardest sport climbers. Somehow then, they seem to have both. How does this work? ~Arnold


Partner xcel360


Nov 1, 2002, 1:50 PM
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See, that's the thing, they can't have both. You can have slow twitch muscles and still be really strong. I was just saying to katy that both would be ideal. The problem is this probably doesnt even matter to those guys. Between work and school right now I can only get to the indoor gym about twice a week. They get to climb just about every day. I have weights and benches in my apt so I have to use those to help supplement my workouts and to stay in shape. I guess my question really is how much does either one, slow or fast, affect your climbing? I guess you would have to be a specialist, or really informed, to know this. Thats why I'm asking in the forums


rockprodigy


Nov 1, 2002, 2:00 PM
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Without thinking about it too much, I would think fast twitch muscles would be better for climbing because you get more power which 9 times out of 10 is what you need in a climbing situation. Read Performance Rockclimbing by Dale Goddard for an explanation of how more power = more endurance but vice versa is not true.


moeman


Nov 1, 2002, 2:03 PM
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It really depends on what type of climbing your doing. If your bouldering or want to lauch some big dynos I'd say fast twitch. But for most climbs your going to have to hang on to the rock for at least half an hour, so you really need endurance.

Longer the climb=Stamina more important


monkeyarm


Nov 1, 2002, 2:35 PM
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definitly fast twitch, everyone has the endurance to make a climb if they clib every so often, but fast twitch give an advatage in certain situations like dynoing.

Think about it, everyone can run 100 meters but it is fast twitch muscles that set apart olimpic sprinters, but even without fast twitch muscles most people can't run a marathon.


kriso9tails


Nov 1, 2002, 2:47 PM
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I'm going with slow. All of the best climbers that I've seen move with grace, technique, and deliberation, not power and force. It's not a sprint (unless you're a speed climber), not even in bouldering. It's a continuous effort from beginning to end of sustained movements.


airscape


Nov 1, 2002, 3:09 PM
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When you are a climbing, weight lifting is not nearly as good as climbing itself, Lifting builds muscle you don't use, which is just more weight, It also bunches up your muscles where climbing lengtens muscle, that is why climbers always have these bruce lee muscle structures rather than arnold swarzenegger muscle structure.

The only benefit weights have to climbing is that it helps to strengthen certain tendons.

I once saw this body builder come into our gym, he looked around and had this smirk on his face asif this was gonna be easy... hehe.. he couldn't do the easiest route there, He was FAAAARR to inflexible, and too bulky to climb... he has not been seen since...


vegastradguy


Nov 1, 2002, 4:06 PM
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Actually, Sharma and Graham, et al, will probably have fast-twitch (power) and not slow (endurance), because most sport climbs are not really endurance climbs, they are power.

Trad multi-pitch (endurance)
Sport/Boulderin (power)

of course theres going to be a certain crossover, such that you have X amount of power that you can hold for Y amount of time. Sharma has a ton of X, but probably cant hold it for longer than a few pitches. Where as Caldwell may not have the kind of power Sharma does, but the power he does have (still considerable) will last him for 28-30 pitches in a day.

that being said, i'd rather have endurance than power.


katydid


Nov 2, 2002, 4:57 AM
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Actually, your muscles are made of both fast- and slow-twitch fibres; it's the balance of them that determines what your dominant "muscle skill" is. It also depends on what sport you do. Sprinters = fast twitch, marathon runners = slow twitch, "ball sport" players = pretty much an equal balance of both.

When you go jogging or swim laps, you're not only working on cardio; you're working on your slow-twitch muscle fibres. So if you do that AND lift for fast-twitch, you've got your balance of both. As far as lifting, go light weights, high reps. Heavy weights, low reps will bulk you up, and that bulk will be awkward when you're trying to move. Don't worry about how big your muscles are getting; worry about how strong they are getting. Being wiry will get you further in climbing than being big.

Kate



biff


Nov 2, 2002, 5:41 AM
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my personal theory is this:

Build stong muscles fast (fast twitch)

then start training endurance near your max to develop really strong slow twitch muscles.

the way I do this is boulder short routes with my rope on my back in a pack / lift weights at low reps.

Then I start bouldering longer routes (after a month of "Power Training") and develop travereses where I stay on for 15-30 minutes , still with a back pack on most of the time.

This works for me .. it gets me back in peak climbing shape really quick.


euphoricclimbing


Nov 2, 2002, 5:41 AM
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Hey, this topic is about dead. There isn't even a debate. Of course you want both, but the trick is to make both fast and slow twitch muscles strong at the same time. Really it is not brain surgery, just be able to read and follow directions. Climbing magazine printed in there Nov 1 climbing issue an article about training. It clearly emphasizes building a foundation of built-up slow twitch fibers and then transitioning focus on fast twitch. The goal is to time when both muscle types will have equal intensity and creat some bad ass climbing ability. No one is going to have balanced strong fast and slow twitch fovever. Sharma and Dave even have to train, but they have good genetics and I think and way too much time on there hands.


quietseas


Nov 2, 2002, 8:13 AM
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Maby a little bit MORE info on this subject would help. the "Slow twitch" fibers are referred to as Oxidative fibers, because they actually use oxygen during their contraction. They are Aerobic in nature, in other words. The "Fast twitch" fibers are Glycolytic fibers (they burn glucose in our bodies while producing lactic acid in as a byproduct) and are commonly called anaerobic.

The mistake many people make is to think that an effort like sprinting depends solely on fast-twitch fibers. anything done for more than a second or so will be using slow twitch fibers again, the best example of a fast-twitch only event is swinging a baseball bat. Slow-twitch (Oxidative) fibers have a second breakdown, however. Slow Oxidative and Fast Oxidative. Slow oxidative are the true endurance muscles, these are useful for marathon runs and maintaining posture (which is all day, we hope!). Fast Oxidative are used for things like sprinting and walking.

Our body has adapted to overcome a huge array of obstacles, and although the number of cells in a muscle doesn't often increase, we can increase/decrease the proportions of the cell types, and we can increase their effectiveness by increasing the number of capillaries delivering blood and oxygen.

It is important to work opposing muscle groups because it prevents injuries, you don't want to tear a tricep because your bicep was so disproportionally strong! In my opinion it is the Oxidative fibers that are most useful in climbing, since they can produce both power and maintain power. I believe these muscles function off the creatine-phosphate pathway (could be wrong, kinda fuzzy on that). Hope I helped provide some info! Hey, pre-med biology courses really can be useful for climbers! woo-hoo!


Partner xcel360


Nov 2, 2002, 9:29 AM
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And that was pretty much the scientific explanation I was looking for. Thanks quietseas!!



overlord


Nov 5, 2002, 1:46 AM
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well, idealy youll need both. you need mostly fasttwich for bouldering, some slow twich for sport and slow twich for trad.

CLIMB ON


ajkclay


Nov 5, 2002, 2:34 AM
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The number and type of muscle cells, and therefore fibres are fixed. You will not ever grow or develop more, it's impossible, end of story.
You cannot convert muscle fibre to one type from another, it's either Fast (two types there) or Slow.
Fast twitch fibres(FTF), are not as vascular as slow twitch fibres (STF), therefore lower oxygen supply, therefore less endurance.
FTF are bigger, therefore you will bulk up more if you have a higher proportion of fast twitch fibres. They also will give you more explosive strength than slow twitch.
The disadvantage with FTF is that weight is not helpful to climbing, so too many will add weight you don't want. If you have too many, you can't do anything about it, so don't worry too much. (Think about 100m sprinters and how "muscley" they look)
IMO a balance of the two is a good thing. You want and need FTF for those explosive movements, and STF for endurance on those longer routes as they will last longer, and clear lactic acid better.
If you want to find out what you have a greater concentration of, the most accurate way is to have a muscle biopsy, where they stick a needle into your bum or leg, and take a sample of tissue. It's expensive and HURTS A LOT so be really sure that it's important if you do. Realistically, you can do a standing jump test, and see how high you can jump. The higher you get, the more FTF you are likely to have. It's not a precise test, as muscle fibre proportions vary throughout the body, but it will give you an idea. (Look at a chicken next time you are eating one, and you will notice brown meat-STF, and white meat-FTF concentrated in different areas of the chicken)
After all that info, the best thing you can really do is to train for your climbing in a balanced manner. There are many good programs out there, check out
www.trainingforclimbing.com
it's got lots of info, but make sure you train all body parts to maintain balance and prevent injury, and train all energy systems too, endurance, strength, power etc.
Don't worry about your muscle fibres, there's nothing you can do about them anyway.


wildingb


Nov 5, 2002, 4:12 AM
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I think alot of it is genetic. paula radcliffe could do as much weights as she wants but aint going to develop as a sprinter. Size of muscle does not equal great climbing, all the best climbers at my gym look like anorexics...


crux_clipper


Nov 5, 2002, 9:23 PM
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Lets look at it like this.......

My climbing partner is huge, very bulked up, VERY strong. He has this annoying little habit of being able to do every boulder problem i do, with half as much effort.

I am not huge. I am tall, thin and can barely get 10 chinups in a row.

What does this equal? He has the explosive power and strength to do boulder problems i couldn't even imagine doing. But get him on a long, sustained route, or do laps on a route, he'll burn out long before i will.

He has fast twitch muscle fibres, i have slow twitch. He is strong, though needs more endurance. I have a lot of endurance, but need more strength.

I saw, work on endurance for now, strength is easy to build up, and will come over time whilst traing endurance, which is a longer process.


jt512


Nov 7, 2002, 11:26 AM
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Ideally you need both. Oh, sorry that's already been said 42 times. What I meant to post was...
Quote:
As far as lifting, go light weights, high reps. Heavy weights, low reps will bulk you up, and that bulk will be awkward when you're trying to move. Don't worry about how big your muscles are getting; worry about how strong they are getting.


Lift like a chick? No way, Dude. I'm not recommending lifting per se, but if you're going to do it, lift to increase your maximum strength, not your endurance.

High-rep, low-weight lifting builds endurance, but does little for increasing your maximum strength. I could be wrong, but I doubt that the endurance you build from this type of training would cross-over well to climbing; there's a big difference between being able to 25 lat pull-downs and climbing a 100-ft endurance route.

On the other hand, doing few reps with high weights will increase your maximum strength directly, making more powerful moves available to you, and increase your endurance indirectly (I think!) by making moves that used to feel moderately difficult, easy.

As far as building muscle mass goes, it has its place in climbing. See Performance Rock Climbing. Accretion of muscle mass is greatest in the range of 6 - 12 reps (someone correct me if I'm wrong). However, pure gains in maximum strength are acquired most quickly by doing fewer reps, 1 - 3, or so.

-Jay


[ This Message was edited by: jt512 on 2002-11-07 11:27 ]


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