Fast twitch muscle exercises incorporate your type II muscle fibers, which are responsible for quick bursts of strength. Powerlifters engage more of these fibers because of the way they lift: extremely heavy with explosive movements.
If you want to improve your PR or sprint faster, fast-twitch muscles (or really fibers) must engage.
So, you can benefit from exercises to build fast twitch muscle fibers for:
- Pure strength and mass
In this guide, we’re going to walk you through a few exercises and routines to add to your training to really focus on the fast-twitch group of fibers.
Wait: We highly recommend reading our guide: Difference Between Fast-twitch and Slow-twitch Muscle Fibers if you don’t know what these muscle fibers are.
Tips Before We Discuss Specific Exercises for Fast Twitch Fibers
If you’re an advanced lifter, you can likely glance over this section, but we find it to be crucial for anyone that is new to focusing on certain muscle fibers. Since you need to lift heavy or very intensely to engage these fibers, please follow these tips:
- Form: Remain cautious of your form and even look at how to perform some of these exercises properly to lower your risk of injury.
- Find Your 1RM: You can find your 1RM (rep max) by finding your new PR. This is the heaviest weight you can push for one repetition. You’ll need to warm up, have someone spot you and try to find your one rep max.
- Rest: When lifting heavy, you’ll deplete your (Adenosine Triphosphate) ATP energy stores quickly. Studies find that most people need 2 – 5 minute rest periods between sets to adequately restore ATP to power through your next set.
- Reps: You’ll want to keep reps between 1 and 6 at the maximum, maybe 5 maximum. Sets should be 4+.
For every exercise that you’ll be performing for fast twitch muscle fiber building, you’ll want to keep your weight between 70% and 82% of your 1RM. Some research does show going as low as 55% of your one rep max, and you can feel free to do this. However, when you go heavier, you’re really engaging these muscle fibers more.
7+ Fast Twitch Muscle Exercises to Improve Your Workout
1. Pull Ups or Chin Ups
Chip ups are intense, but they work a wide range of muscles. You can also perform chin ups with a powerful burst up. You have two options here because a lot of people cannot do chin ups, but you can do:
- Assisted pull ups / chin ups
- Weighted pull ups / chin ups
With the assisted variety, you can use bands or some gyms have a machine, which will help you offset the weight. Let’s assume you weight 180 and can’t perform either variation of this exercise. With an assisted machine, you can add 70 pounds in counterweight to help you build your chin up or pull up properly.
For the beasts that are reading this and can do pull ups / chin ups while talking on the phone or browsing Reddit, you can perform the weighted variation of this exercise.
You can see a good example of how to use bands for assistance below:
And if you plan on doing chin ups or pull ups, please watch the video below. Jeff goes through the right way to perform a chin up and pull up and explains in great detail which muscles are engaging with each.
2. Sprint Training
Sprint training is one of the best fast twitch muscle exercises for athletes because it can be performed with running, skating, biking, swimming – whatever activity you require. However, if you’re in the gym, you can also do sprint training on:
- Stationary bike
The key will be to use resistance when training, or in the case of a treadmill, you can use incline levels for sprint training.
Next, warm up on the machine and then sprint for 30 seconds at the resistance or incline level that’s difficult for you. For me, I often do this on the elliptical and will do something like this:
- Sprint at 3 resistance for 30 seconds
- Lower to no resistance for 3 minutes
- Sprint at 6 resistance for 30 seconds
- Repeat and increase
If you’re just starting out, this slow increase will allow you to judge the resistance that you can do. An alternative option is to sprint at your top resistance for 30 seconds at the start, middle and end of your workout. This is what athletes will want to do because my example above likely tires the muscle somewhat before reaching my peak resistance.
One study found that sprinting 2 – 3 times per week for 4 – 6 weeks with 15 – 20 minute rest periods between sprints increased type IIA muscle fibers by 20%.
3. Squat Training
We wrote about leg workouts for strength and mass previously, and we do provide a lot of great form recommendations that you need to follow. Squats are an exercise that you need to do explosively to engage fast-twitch fibers, but you also want to maintain proper form to avoid hurting you:
Put on your desired weight based on the 1RM recommendation above, and perform explosive squats. You’ll likely only be able to perform a handful at 80% of your 1RM max, but that’s perfectly fine. Anywhere from 1 – 6 reps will be fine here.
Just focus on going up from the squat with explosive speed.
You do want to go down into the squat with control to avoid damaging your knees.
4. Bench Press
If you’re trying to build a bigger chest and gain strength in your bench press, you can also achieve great muscle growth and adapt your muscle fiber composition to fast-twitch with a bench press.
There are a lot of variations that you can follow here, but one that I like is to use a board press.
The video below explains this properly:
You definitely want to be cautious when benching and use a spotter. The last thing you want to do is drop the weight on yourself and have to recuperate from an injury.
5, 6, 7 and Beyond
A few additional exercises that you can try this with are:
- Box jumps
- Hang clean
- Barbell shoulder press
- Barbell row
- Romanian deadlift
You can adjust many of the exercises to incorporate these explosive movements. However, it’s often best to perform them with compound movements for overall strength increase. If you’re someone who is trying to become the strict curl champion or has a specific goal in mind, simply adjust your workout to meet the fast-twitch activation requirements: heavy weight and explosive movements.
Note: Explosive movements and heavy weights take a toll on your muscles. If you want to see results, you must feed your muscles with protein shakes after workouts, especially when focusing on fast twitch muscle exercises. You also want to get to bed on time and allow your muscles time to repair.
Don’t worry. We also wrote a guide on slow twitch muscle exercises that we suggest you read, too.