Category Archives: Lower body exercises

3 Fast Twitch Muscle Exercises to Improve Running Performance

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

Improving running performance is multi-faceted; the aim of this article is to focus on exercises related to fast twitch muscle fibers and explains a general overview of their function.

Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

Type II fibers are involved in any activity that includes a quick explosive movement or the rapid development of power. Most common applicable example would be football players and track and field athletes.   Type II fibers develop more power then Type I or slow twitch muscle fibers because the Type IIx fiber can contract 10 times faster than the Type I fiber. The more adept you become at recruiting your Type II fibers; the more power you can develop. This leads to faster sprint times and decreased mile times for more focused short distance runs.

Two Types of Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

1) Type IIa (Fast Twitch, Oxidative-Glycolytic)

  • High number of mitochondria
  • Can use both fat stores and glycogen stores for energy
  • Resistant to fatigue and recover quickly
  • Good for fast, repetitive, low-intensity activity. Bodybuilders possess high numbers of Type IIa muscle fibers, and research suggests they play a big role in muscle size.

2) Type IIx (Fast Twitch, Non-Oxidative)

  • Low number of mitochondria
  • Large in diameter
  • Fast fatiguing
  • Good for high-intensity, large-power output, such as track/field events and power lifting.

Training for Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers:

There are a number of ways to increase your ratio of Type II fibers—heavy strength training, speed training, plyometric training and Olympic lift training. Training does a few things:

  1. Hypertrophy or growth of the Type II fibers, increasing their power output.
  2. Help recruit, put them into applicable use of Type II fibers faster.
  3. Change Type I fibers to Type II fibers.

Fast-Twitch Muscle Workouts:

1) Dumbbell reverse lunges with quick switches utilizing jumps:

Preparation:

  • Stand holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Ensure you have at least a few feet of clearance behind you.
  • Start with your chest out, head up, and a slight bend in your knees.

Exercise:

Step backward with your right leg, landing on the ball of the foot, then bend both knees to lower yourself to the floor. (Make sure to step back far enough so your front knee is behind the toes at the bottom of the movement.) When your front thigh is parallel with the floor, extend your knees and hips to stand back up to the start position. Alternate legs with jumps or quick transitions every rep.

2) Box jumps w/ kettlebell:

Preparation:

  • Obtain a plyometric box between 12-36 inches, depending on your abilities.
  • Grab a kettlebell where you can do 8-12 repetitions rather quickly.
  • Ensure you have enough room to safely land and clear jumps. Preferably 5ft by 5ft.

Exercise:

Assume an athletic position, with your feet about shoulder-width apart, at a comfortable distance from the box. Start the box jump by quickly getting into a quarter squat while hinging at the hips to engage the hamstrings and gluteus. Place and keep your hands at the crest of the kettlebell, so both hands are holding the bell. Hold the kettlebell close to your chest, just below chin level. Then, forcefully extend your hips, swing your arms and push your feet though the floor to propel yourself onto the box. Focus on landing lightly on top of the box with your knees slightly above 90 degrees with your chest up. Hold for two to three seconds, stand tall, and step back down. Repeat.

3) Deadlift followed by a squat jumps

Preparation:

  • Set an Olympic straight bar on the ground and load it with appropriate weight.
  • Ensure your space is clear and that you have enough room to work.

Exercise

Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight ahead or slightly outward (no wider than 11 and 1 o’clock). The balls of the feet should line up under the bar. With knees slightly bent and hands gripping the bar slightly outside of legs, hinge forward from hips. With the bar close to shins, keep head up, eyes looking forward, chest out, and back flat. Inhale. Keeping the bar close to the body, exhale as you work to straighten the legs — drive through the heels, not the toes — and bring the weight up past knees. Keep core engaged throughout the entire movement (this helps protect the spine) and finish by thrusting the hips into alignment with the feet and squeezing your glutes. Maintaining a straight back, slowly hinge forward at the hips (allow knees to bend a little at the same time) and lower the bar back to the ground. That is one rep.

For the squat jumps, step back from your deadlifting bar, set your feet shoulder width apart. Lower yourself down to where hips / gluteus is loaded towards your rear. Bring your bottom to knee level and thrust straight up landing tall onto the toes then reset. Repeat.  

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Sources:

Josh Williams – 3 ways to develop fast-twitch muscle

Bill Rom – Workouts That Increase Speed & Train Fast Twitch Muscles

Anton Reid, Demand Media- How to Develop Fast-Twitch Leg Muscles

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3 Lower-Body Exercises to Improve Running Efficiency

By: Geoff Rubin, Fitness Propelled, CPT/CIFT/TRX II

Running is a total body kinetic chain exercise; however, we know that sustaining and enduring through a run, holds a primary focus on the core and lower body. Greater strength does equal greater endurance.  In order to build what is now commonly referred to as functional strength as applied to running technique we need to emphasize low body conditioning with a focus on lower back strength, core strength, and the gluteus.

Below are three exercises to add to your overall lower body strength training routine.

 Exercises:

  • Supine Core Ball Leg Lifts:

Why do it: Builds lower back strength; towards preventing back injury. Boosts core strength and efficacy.

How to: Start by lying in the supine position (on your back) on a workout mat. The legs should be straight and the palms should be face down under the buttocks. This will assist the pelvis with leverage as you initiate the leg raise. Next, with the feet together squeeze the core ball w/ your heels and inner thighs lifting the legs approximately 15 to 20 inches off the ground. Slowly lower the legs to the starting position and repeat the exercise. Emphasize breathing out as the legs go up.

 

  • Supine Core ball Figure-4 Glute Bridge:

Why do it: Your glutes help stabilize your hips while running. This exercise is designed to wake up your gluteus and create a backside that is both strong and supportive of the upper bodies load.

How to: Lie face up with your arms pressed into the floor by your sides, knees bent, heels on top of the ball. Cross your right ankle on top of your left thigh, turning your right knee out to the side. Press your left heel down into the ball and raise your hips up as high as you can (focus on using your glutes to lift your body, not your hamstrings). Hold for 1 count and then slowly lower. Integrate this exercise into your total rep/set progressions and repeat with the right leg.

 

  • Internal Rotation Leg Press:

Why do it: This move works your abs, hip flexors, gluteus, quadriceps, and inner thighs to help you develop strength that will support your strides.

How to:  Lie faceup with your hands behind head. Bend your knees 90 degrees and flex your feet. Internally rotate your legs, pressing your knees together and turning your heels out to the sides as far as you can. Brace your abs in tight and lift your upper back off the floor. Extend your legs out into a wide ‘V’ position at about 45 degrees, pressing out through your heels. Bend your legs and squeeze your knees back together, keeping your upper back lifted, to return to the starting position.

 

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Sources:

– Brendan Brazier – Endurance Training and Nutrition

– Jessica Smith – The Ultimate Strength Workout for Runners