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Muscle Fiber Anatomy

Muscle Fiber Anatomy 101

If you want to get bigger muscles, you just have to go to the gym and progressively lift heavier and heavier things, right? For some lucky and genetically gifted individuals, it is that easy. For the rest of us, however, it can get a little more complicated than that.

Two average guys can follow the exact same weight lifting regimen and have vastly different results. The only way to figure out why this is happening - and to improve your muscle gains if you happen to be the average Joe that isn't getting results of that pair - is to dive into the science of human physiology. Today, we at MuscleHelp are going to help you out with this by taking a deep dive on muscle fibers. What are they? What role do they play in helping you build more muscle? And how can you use your knowledge of muscle fiber anatomy to maximize your own personal gains? Keep reading to find out!

Different Types of Muscle Fibers

You can think of muscle fibers like Legos. You need different types of muscle fibers assembled together in a certain way in order to build one whole, strong, effective muscle. But different types of muscle fibers do different things. So in order to stimulate their growth, you have to do different things in order to stimulate the right ones.

Type I Muscle Fibers

Once upon a time, the designation between type I and type II muscle fibers labeled them as "white" and "red" muscle fibers. The color distinction came from the fact that type I muscle fibers have fewer blood vessels running through them, so they appeared pale in comparison to type II muscle fibers under a microscope. This unique glimpse into the anatomy of a type I muscle fiber helps explain their unique function.

Type I muscle fibers tend to be used more frequently but also tire more quickly than any other type of muscle fiber in your body. The lack of blood supply helps explain part of this. It's because they just simply weren't built for strenuous activity. Type I muscle fibers are more suited for average, low-intensity, mundane tasks like walking or standing up are carrying light objects around. But if you have to do anything more intense than that, that's when your body starts engaging its type II muscle fibers.

Type II Muscle Fibers

We've already use a Legos analogy to compare the differences between muscle fibers. But another handy analogy is to think of them like the gears on a bicycle. The more intense your physical activity, the less likely your lower muscle fibers will be able to handle it. When you have to exert a certain amount of force that your lower fibers cannot handle, your body will progressively engage higher and higher muscle fibers. Eventually, if you keep going, you will experience muscle failure. As some of you may already know, training to failure is a very popular bodybuilding technique which helps engage all of your muscle fibers so that you can grow larger, stronger muscles faster. And that's what we're all about at GetMuscleHelp!

You can think of type I muscle fibers as first gear that your body is constantly cruising in. If you have to do some lifting that requires a deep breath or a grunt, you might start shifting into your type II fibers. Your own personal limits, strength, and genetics will determine How far into your type II muscle fibers you have to tap in order to get a specific physical task done. Type II muscle fibers are divided into type II a, type III ab, and type II b muscle fibers.

Your body will transition - in that order - from one level of type II muscle fibers to the next. Type II muscle fibers are sometimes referred to as fast-twitch muscle fibers because it doesn't take long before the energy stores in these muscle fibers burn out. You're most likely to dip into your type II muscle fibers while doing sprints, performing HIIT cardio, or lifting more than 75% of your ORM ("one rep max").

Why Is This Important?

Because if you want to build muscle, you have to do everything in your power to engage all of your muscle fibers - even the type II b fibers. The more successful you are at stimulating the broad spectrum of all your muscle fibers, the larger and more powerful your muscles will become. Stimulating all of your muscle fibers will also trigger hormone responses that help you burn more fat. So not only will you have larger, more powerful muscles, but you'll be lean and shredded so that everyone can see them.

So how do you engage all of your muscle fibers? The answer to that question can get a little complex. The first thing you need to start with is making sure you consume enough protein to provide your body with building blocks to synthesize new muscle fiber tissue. Your diet and lifestyle choices will largely determine which types of protein are best for you.

Another popular strategy - especially among busy people who don't have all the time in the world to workout - is to perform short, high-intensity exercise twice per week. It's a fairly simple process:

  • Pick somewhere between 5 and 8 compound exercises
  • Choose an appropriate weight per exercise that is approximately 75% to 80% of your ORM
  • Set a timer and try to perform the exercise for a minimum of 30 but a maximum of 90 seconds

If you can't make it at least 30 seconds, then your weight is too heavy and you need to readjust. If you can go longer than 90 seconds without hitting muscle failure, then the wait is too light and you need to lift heavier. You should perform this work out no more frequently than twice per week, and you should engage in light physical activity on a daily basis between workouts for optimal health and wellness.

If you're pressed for time and want stronger, bigger, leaner muscles more quickly, this workout program is one of the most effective we've seen. But if you have a little extra time to spend in the gym, if you want to incorporate more supplements into your fitness routine, or if you simply want to change up your routine every once in awhile, we strongly suggest you keep surfing MuscleHelp for more information on the best muscle-building and manliness techniques.