At first glance, sprinting and running don’t seem like the most complicated forms of exercise. However, the mechanics behind effective technique and form, as well as the best training drills, strength-building exercises, and proper approaches to recovery can make all the difference to your success.
ForeverFitScience is here to help you learn how to treat common running injuries, train to become a master sprinter, develop correct sprinting and running form, improve hip mobility, strengthen your core effectively, and more. To learn more, explore our Sprinting articles below.
Sprint Training Workouts & Exercise: The Secret To Younger Muscles
It has long been accepted that as we age we will all face an inevitable loss in muscle function and size. But it may be possible to slow down this process through an exercise that targets specific muscle fibers – fast twitch fibers.
Our muscles are composed of both “fast twitch” and “slow twitch” muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers tend to be bigger, produce more force, contract more rapidly and fatigue much more quickly. Slow twitch muscles, on the other hand, are smaller, but they can work at a lower force for a much longer amount of time without fatigue. Everyone has a combination of both slow and fast twitch muscles and as we age the ratio of the space they occupy in our muscles changes. This process begins as early as age 30 in some people (Lexell et al., 1988 ;Ortel, 1986).
Fast Twitch Muscle Training
In 2006, Korhonen and colleagues, in their study entitled “Aging, muscle fiber type, and contractile function in sprint-trained athletes”, examined the muscles of highly trained male sprinters between the ages of 18 and 84 to determine the influence of age and long-term sprint training on their musculature. Their findings may change the way you choose to exercise!
The aging process in humans is characterized by a loss of muscle mass, loss of force generating capabilities and decreased speed of muscle contractions. There also appears to be a decrease in the ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch fibers as a person ages. Could consistent sprint training delay these age-associated declines in our muscles? What this study found may surprise you. Korhonen and colleagues found that as a sprinter ages, the size of their fast twitch fibers appears to decrease but the area of slow twitch fibers stays very much the same.
Younger sprinters have fast twitch fibers that are bigger than their slow ones, but as a person ages, their individual fast twitch fibers become smaller than their slow twitch. This creates a decrease in the overall ratio of an area occupied by fast twitch to slow twitch muscle. Interestingly, in sprint-trained people across all ages, the authors found that 53-60% of their individual muscle fibers were fast twitch fibers, meaning there was no difference in the number of fast twitch fibers! So although the fast twitch fibers get smaller, the actual number of fast twitch fibers seemed to be maintained.