Interesting Fact: What do Jamaicans, Europeans, Kenyans, well… just about everyone, have in common?
The ACTN3 Gene, you guessed it!
Whether fast twitch muscles are genetic in origin is a prominent debate, and the focus of much racial discrimination in strength and speed based competitions. However, in 2003 genetic research blasted that “stereotype threat” out the water! According to Matthew Syed (Author of Bounce), interestingly 82% of Europeans have the relevant gene ACTN3 responsible for fast twitch muscle fibres, so too do 98% of Jamaicans and 98.5% of Kenyans (Renown for ENDURANCE, not sprinting). So why are there many black sprinters? Well not to go off at a tangent, but it’s now believed to be due to the environment where the athlete was raised!
This may come as a shock to you (or if not, try to act surprised), but you’ve already been incorporating explosive proclivities in your workout! In your basics and pair techniques you’ve already made sure to increase hand speed at the right interval of training. When practicing pair techniques you’ll find your understanding of when to accelerate to control distance between you and your opponent. When increasing fitness you’ll occasionally push yourself instantaneously.
Explosive energy is a big part of martial arts and prominently makes the difference in sparring! So here’s what every modern martial artist should know about sparking explosive energy!
Slow and Fast Twitch Muscles
Muscles are actually broken down into two classes which induce power: Smooth and Striated. Where as smooth muscles are responsible for digestion or circulation, striated muscles are voluntarily contracted with the legs, arms and so on…
There are three types of power, explosive, static and dynamic; dynamic and explosive being the main focus in regard to martial arts.
The basic breakdown: your muscles are made up of two basic fibres, slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch are associated with mitigated lactic acid build up, and therefore endurance based sports. Fast twitch, are associated with explosive exercise and anaerobic energy production, in turn producing power and speed of contraction.
The way of the Isotonic Warrior!
The two creations of stress you should be aware off are: isotonic and isometric exercise. Getting to the point: isotonic muscles show when one muscle contracts the complimentary muscle lengthens (normal exercise, e.g. push ups, weight lifting, etc), isometric exercise is all about exerting your muscles against an immoveable object.
Increasing strength and the Correct Way to Exercise
So what’s the point of all this information? By now you should noticed that the physical or explosive nature in martial arts is highly dependent on “positioning”. Applying yourself in the wrong manner will infringe your form, stability and becomes a completely different exercise. A slight deviation in form will make it harder to accelerate and develop those fast twitch fibres to catch your opponent off guard!
In other words, don’t cut corners and cheat when exercising, it’ll do more harm than good. When you train make sure you complete all repetitions properly. Not completely flexing your arms on a push-up may lead to an extra ten reps but will stop you from gaining more strength and power in the long run. Stick to the correct form, even if you can only do five push-ups! 5 will lead to 10, 10 to 20… and so on until eventually you’ll be doing reps in the 100s!
For the best results try to make it to the Dojo and train three times a week! However just remember, after every explosive training session minor tears in the muscles need at least forty eight hours to recover, allowing muscles to grow and build strength. It’s important not to interrupt the recovery period!