Archive for November 30, 2010

“Your NASA for cryin’ out loud, you put a man on the moon, you’re geniuses! You-you’re the guys that think this shit up!”

Posted in Articles, Athletes, Competition on November 30, 2010 by oldcountrystrong

This is the first of a two part article on the science behind lifting. This article started how most other articles start, curiosity (with a  mix of ADHD). Our friends at Strength Villain posted their second challenge which consisted of a favorite of the Club and those we train with. A 50 rep squat test, (for more details on the Villain challenges check out the site, it is a great read) the sheer mention of such things makes women faint and men soil themselves. Anyways, while discussing the challenge’s parameters they mentioned “Quadzilla” himself , Tom Platz. Who is Tom Platz? Rather than look at you with you scorn I educate you. Tom Platz was a highly successful bodybuilder in the 80’s who possessed maybe the best legs the sport ever saw.

Now that is a quad sweep. Anyways, Tom Platz’s leg workouts were legendary and unorthodox, focusing on high reps and heavy weights. His love of the squat and amazing legs lead to his comparisons with another great of the iron lifting sport, Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield (I could regal you with stories of the Doctor but that is another a story). Their competition came to a head at a “Squat Off”, an event so beautiful that I cannot put it into more words (we really need a poet on call in the Club). Anyway the exhibition was broken into two seperate events, the first being One Rep Max squat. Platz reportedly got 765, Dr. Squat put on 855 and easily won the event. The next event was a herculean challenge, a Max Rep 525 “Squat Off”. Dr. Squat went for 11 reps, and Platz did well watch for yourself.

That was no Bullshit right there (love Kaz in the back stepping up to spot on rep 23). How did Platz get smoked in the one rep and than dominate in the max rep, especially when he and Hatfield were about the same weight? Is there a reason why two people of relatively similar size can be so dramatically stronger in the same lift but at different rep counts?

Lets look at the physiology of muscle fibers. There are two main types of muscle fibers, slow twitch muscle fibers (aka Type I or red muscle fibers) and fast twitch muscle fibers (aka Type II or white msucle fibers) which itself can be broken down further into 3 additional types (IIa,IIb, and IIx). Slow twitch muscle fibers fire more slowly and are more efficient at utilizing oxygen to create ATP. Because of this, slow twitch muscle fibers can go longer before fatiguing and hence are used for endurance events. Fast twitch muscle fibers fire faster (wow big shock) and use anaerobic metabolism to create ATP. Because of this anaerobic nature the muscles fatigue much quicker but create more strength in a shorter amount of time and are primarily used in explosive events. Of the 3 subsections of fast twitch muscles fibers, IIa is a mix of fast and slow fibers and IIb and IIx are the classic explosive muscle fibers.

All that science hurt my head, but lets apply this knowledge to our question. A person predisposed to have more Type II muscle fibers will be more explosive than than person who has more Type I muscle fibers. He/she will have a greater vertical, 40 yard dash, or one rep max but may be lacking in the long run. Let’s break it down further, a person with a greater propensity of IIb and IIx fibers will have an even greater advantage in short explosive endeavors while a person with more IIa fibers will have an advantage in endeavors require intermediate usage of the explosive fibers. Take 100m and a 400m track atheletes for example. The 100m sprinter explodes out of the gate and muscles fatigue quickly at the sheer power they are exerting while the 400m sprinter is still activating his muscles fibers in an anerobic state for the speed required of the event but his/her muscles fatigue less quickly due to different muscle fibers allowing them to keep their pace in the longer event.

Platz and Hatfield both had a great deal of Type II muscle fiber overall as evidenced by their strength output. While training and conditioning of the muscles does play a factor in your results it is pretty safe bet that Platz had more Type IIa muscle fiber as displayed by his legendary high rep squat totals and Dr. Squat a greater deal of  Type IIb  and IIx fibers as evidence by his world record powerlifting squats.

This analysis seems fine and dandy, but can we translate this to the real world and not just  two atheletes at the apex of their sport ? Part two of this series on this will examine an actual examples of different muscle fibers in action with members of Old Country Barbell itself.


Posted by: Nickay