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Fast twitch / slow twitch

Old 12-18-18, 04:30 PM
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FinkFloyd
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Fast twitch / slow twitch

I have read many times that the following matters relevant to track cycling are essentially fact:

1. Athletes in general, and track sprinters in particular, are born and not made; you need to have picked your fast-twitch parents well.
2. A preponderance of fast-twitch muscle fibres are needed to make someone a good sprinter.
3. Anyone can improve through training and practice, but having the wrong genes will essentially be a hard ceiling on things like this.

My question, therefore, is this: is there any way of finding out? I'm assuming that there is a method of analysing an athlete's body (besides anecdotally in terms of how they respond to training) to work out whether they are ectomorph/endomorph/mesomorph, and what sort of fast/slow twitch ratio they have. Obviously, in some ways, it doesn't matter; you play the hand you're dealt and you go as fast as you can, and if you aren't genetically blessed, that's no reason to give up on a sport that you enjoy. On the other hand, it is something I find interesting from an analytical point of view - does anyone have any ideas?

Thanks in advance.
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Old 12-18-18, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by FinkFloyd View Post
I have read many times that the following matters relevant to track cycling are essentially fact:

1. Athletes in general, and track sprinters in particular, are born and not made; you need to have picked your fast-twitch parents well.
This is actually not true. There is a significant and measurable amount of fiber type switching due to training. Dr. Andy Galpin is a field-leading researcher in this very phenomenon.
Originally Posted by FinkFloyd View Post
2. A preponderance of fast-twitch muscle fibres are needed to make someone a good sprinter.
This is true
Originally Posted by FinkFloyd View Post
3. Anyone can improve through training and practice, but having the wrong genes will essentially be a hard ceiling on things like this.
Again, if you can convert fiber types, there's probably some genetic ceiling we all have, but it's not a given from just looking at your untrained fiber makeup. Some one who is born on a farm and grew up moving hay all day gains a very large advantage because of something call "epigenetics". Your training history, your lifestyle, etc. all help determine your epigenetics and thus help determine your future potential.

Originally Posted by FinkFloyd View Post
My question, therefore, is this: is there any way of finding out? I'm assuming that there is a method of analysing an athlete's body (besides anecdotally in terms of how they respond to training) to work out whether they are ectomorph/endomorph/mesomorph, and what sort of fast/slow twitch ratio they have. Obviously, in some ways, it doesn't matter; you play the hand you're dealt and you go as fast as you can, and if you aren't genetically blessed, that's no reason to give up on a sport that you enjoy. On the other hand, it is something I find interesting from an analytical point of view - does anyone have any ideas?

Thanks in advance.
You can get a muscle biopsy and have your fiber type and percentage make up calculated/measured/analyzed.
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Old 12-18-18, 05:56 PM
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Muscle biopsies. But this is also somewhat invasive, as you basically take a "core sample" of the desired muscle. Key words there are desired muscle. This will only tell you the make-up of the muscle that is sampled, so it's not a super complete picture of what's going on with an athlete, unless one decides to sample all of their muscles! I had this done on my quads when I was racing as I had an opport***ty to be a guinea pig in a ***versity study. It hurts, A LOT! I recommend the standing long jump test instead.

The thing you need to remember is that all of the bodies skeletal muscles are comprised of a mix of 3 different kinds of fibers (there is some literature that divides them even further, into 5 types, adding switchable 2a and 2b fibers). These are Type 1 (red slow/slow oxidative), Type 2a (red fast/fast oxidative), and Type 2b (white fast/glycolytic). Postural muscles trend to being highly red slow for just about everyone (with little variance as to the fiber proportions throughout the population at large) , and prime movers is where you see wide variations in fiber type proportions, not just from person to person, but also within a single body. Upper extremities tend more towards 2b (white), and lower extremities tend to be more varied (even within sprinters).

Type 2a fibers, in some instances are adaptable (this is where "other literature" comes in, as well as Type 2b reverting to 2a) , unlike Type 1 and Type 2b. With the right loads, Type 2a can become 2b, but this isn't always the case.

Soooooooo... there is a "hard ceiling" to everyone's genetics, but unless you are decidedly slow twitch, there is a "soft ceiling" that one runs into as a sprinter before muscle fiber types will start adapting.

Last edited by taras0000; 12-18-18 at 05:59 PM.
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Old 12-18-18, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by FinkFloyd View Post
My question, therefore, is this: is there any way of finding out?
Yes.

You can do it via boipsy as mentioned above. But, I'm fairly certain that you already have the info you need to determine with relative accuracy to which bucket you belong:

- Sprinter
- All-Arounder or
- Enduro

I assume that you are past high school age. Mandatory physical education classes, youth sports, and large populations of other kids to which you compare yourself are a great way to see if you are in one of the 3 buckets above.

How did you do in physical education classes? Were you the fastest in the short races?
Could you run the 1-mile run with ease?
Did you join the track & field (aka: Athletics) team? What were your events (100m, 400m, 800m, 1 mile, cross country)?
Football, baseball, swimming, tennis?
How does the idea of running a 10K for charity 1 month from now strike you? "Easy-peasy!" or "Uhh...no. It's not happening."

Most importantly, how did you compare to your peers?

Answers to a few of those might save you from enduring a biopsy and get you some insight tonight.

Also, if you race all you can at your local velodrome, every race type, your strengths and weaknesses will be laid bare for all to see No biopsy needed.
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Old 12-18-18, 11:02 PM
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FinkFloyd, I firmly believe that playing to one's strengths is definitely the way to go in a competitive sport like ours (at the national and international levels).

If a rider correctly identifies their strengths and weaknesses that information can be used skillfully in programming and choosing the right events on which to focus.

I do not believe in identifying weaknesses and spending an inappropriate amount of time improving them for small gains while doing minor worth with the stronger talent. I do believe in identifying strengths and spending most of one's training improving them and a minority of time "shoring up" one's weaknesses. The net-gain from the latter will be much bigger than the former.

Our sport has enough events for dedicated sprint, all-around, and endurance specialists to race a lot and have fun.
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Old 12-20-18, 10:43 AM
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Jumping and short sprints are an excellent test of fast twitch potential.

I've never been good at either, even with training. Most people take me for a "sprinter" when they see me at the track cause I'm a big guy (6'3, 200lbs) with big thighs but you can't judge a book by it's cover.
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Old 12-20-18, 04:41 PM
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Originally Posted by rustymongrel View Post
Jumping and short sprints are an excellent test of fast twitch potential.

I've never been good at either, even with training. Most people take me for a "sprinter" when they see me at the track cause I'm a big guy (6'3, 200lbs) with big thighs but you can't judge a book by it's cover.
There are many "turbo-diesels" like you racing track. People who tend to have an even mix of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, just many more, or larger fibers compared to everyone else.

Many people tend to get caught up in the ratio of muscle fibers, but there is also the need to account for ones amount of muscle as well. Just cuz someone may look like a sprinter doesn't mean they are. Slow twitch muscles don't like to grow, but they will if stressed properly.

I used to have a teammate that came from competitive slalom skiing. Those guys tend to be big, and he was as well (6'4" and 275#). They need to be able to resist and generate huge loads as well as supporting their position under those loads as well. Something like that would definitely place a growth stimulus on your slow twitch muscles.

He was good for keirins and Madisons (always rolling and up at speed with rests), but his make-up put him in a sort of no-man's land for everything else. He could get to and hold a high speed for a short period of time, but had a crappy start and jump, as well as not enough aerobic capacity to hang during endurance events. That turbo lag killed him in sprint events. Great guy to draft in a Madison.
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Old 12-21-18, 10:35 AM
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Originally Posted by taras0000 View Post
There are many "turbo-diesels" like you racing track. People who tend to have an even mix of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, just many more, or larger fibers compared to everyone else.

Many people tend to get caught up in the ratio of muscle fibers, but there is also the need to account for ones amount of muscle as well. Just cuz someone may look like a sprinter doesn't mean they are. Slow twitch muscles don't like to grow, but they will if stressed properly.

I used to have a teammate that came from competitive slalom skiing. Those guys tend to be big, and he was as well (6'4" and 275#). They need to be able to resist and generate huge loads as well as supporting their position under those loads as well. Something like that would definitely place a growth stimulus on your slow twitch muscles.

He was good for keirins and Madisons (always rolling and up at speed with rests), but his make-up put him in a sort of no-man's land for everything else. He could get to and hold a high speed for a short period of time, but had a crappy start and jump, as well as not enough aerobic capacity to hang during endurance events. That turbo lag killed him in sprint events. Great guy to draft in a Madison.
Makes sense, I grew up doing swimming and continued at that through ***versity. During ***versity we did testing twice a year as part of our gym training: body composition, vertical jump, 60m running sprint and max pull ups. I was consistently in the bottom 10% of the men's team for vertical jump and sprint in testing but top 10% for actual results in the pool. My best events were in the 2-4min range.

I tend to do well in points races, elimination and madison because of the repeated efforts. I'm also usually not racing long since they're track nights or provincial events with shorter distances (Often 10km points race and 20km madison). I think I could be good at keirin, particularly with the new format if I can nail down a good race strategy, but I rarely have the opport***ty to race keirin.
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Old 12-21-18, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by rustymongrel View Post
Makes sense, I grew up doing swimming and continued at that through ***versity. During ***versity we did testing twice a year as part of our gym training: body composition, vertical jump, 60m running sprint and max pull ups. I was consistently in the bottom 10% of the men's team for vertical jump and sprint in testing but top 10% for actual results in the pool. My best events were in the 2-4min range.

I tend to do well in points races, elimination and madison because of the repeated efforts. I'm also usually not racing long since they're track nights or provincial events with shorter distances (Often 10km points race and 20km madison). I think I could be good at keirin, particularly with the new format if I can nail down a good race strategy, but I rarely have the opport***ty to race keirin.
Big FRC is what it sounds like
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Old 12-21-18, 04:42 PM
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You test them. That's the only true way to determine anyone athletic prowess. Physical capability is one thing, but the mental fortitude (provided you meet at least the minimum level of fitness) can donald trump that anytime.

Also, athletes can also be made. As long as you're genetics support the right body, you still have to learn the sport, and the competitive nature to win, which can and is also learned.
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Old 12-21-18, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by KraneXL View Post
Physical capability is one thing, but the mental fortitude (provided you meet at least the minimum level of fitness) can donald trump that anytime.
Iím not sure this means what you think it means
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Old 12-21-18, 10:11 PM
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Originally Posted by carleton View Post


I’m not sure this means what you think it means
Well I think it means to win (a contest or competition) through mental skill. What do you think it means? The "Donald" was thrown in for comic relief, since his success is true to his name.
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Old 12-22-18, 12:38 AM
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d.t. is not known for his mental fortitude. Heís actually quite well known for the polar opposite.

Also, I donít see it as comical being that lives have been greatly affected for the worse not to mention the state of our nation internally and with regards to our standing amongst other nations.
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Old 12-22-18, 05:16 PM
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I'd say it depends on your goals, do you want to be fast at a club level, national level, international level?

For the higher levels of competition I am convinced sprinters are born, not made. Of course any successful sprinter needs to be willing to do the work and give every effort 100% but without the right genetics you will only get so far through training.

I think from the endurance side things are far more trainable although still to reach the top levels of the sport, genetics factor in.
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Old 12-23-18, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by chriskmurray View Post
I'd say it depends on your goals, do you want to be fast at a club level, national level, international level?

For the higher levels of competition I am convinced sprinters are born, not made. Of course any successful sprinter needs to be willing to do the work and give every effort 100% but without the right genetics you will only get so far through training.

I think from the endurance side things are far more trainable although still to reach the top levels of the sport, genetics factor in.
I agree with this. If we look at the empirical data, we donít really see many match sprinters become world team level roadies or the opposite; many world team roadies become match sprinters.
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Old 01-02-19, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post


I agree with this. If we look at the empirical data, we donít really see many match sprinters become world team level roadies or the opposite; many world team roadies become match sprinters.
Not unheard of though... Theo Bos... Scott Sunderland swapped to road. And some people can go either way depending on training, like the above post on fibre-type switching. Kilo riders, and some TP types, basically. A few of the omnium folks. Dylan Kennett's time in the flying lap at Rio would have actually qualified him for the Sprint as well, when just converted to F200m (approx. 10.0-something IIRC). And that's assuming he couldn't go faster over the shorter distance. And when he was training to do a 4:20 pursuit, etc. Viviani and even Gaviria aren't far off this level with their sprinting either when on form...

Also, unlike track running, we have gears and varying crank lengths in our sport to modulate the requisite pedal speed so track sprinters don't actually need to be pure Usain Bolt fast-twitch to win, and they need a fair dose of strength as well; track cycling sprinters can be more a touch more like fast powerlifters than running track athletes are... and enduros are still competing on strength-endurance, not exactly marathon build, most of them.

I'm not going to argue with the basic premise though... I guess exceptions prove the rule. [although some of this is also self-selecting - what are you good at naturally => what do you enjoy => what do you train and get selected/support to do more of... which doesn't mean one couldn't necessarily do other things in some cases.]
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