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Muscle fibres: Are you a sprinter or a marathoner?

Some people are better at sports where strength and power are required, while others are “marathoners” in their nature. If you want to obtain better sports results comparing to others, it is essential to know your genetic predisposition and your muscles. The remaining part is the effort you make to achieve your sport results.

Origin of word muscle

The term muscle is derived from the Latin musculus meaning "little mouse". Such name was given perhaps because of the shape of certain muscles or because contracting muscles is reminiscent of a mouse moving beneath a rug (for example biceps branchii). There are three types of muscle tissue: skeletal (voluntary) muscle, smooth (involuntary) muscle and cardiac muscle. Skeletal muscle is further divided into two broad types: slow twitch and fast twitch.

Know your muscles

Sprinters tend to have more fast muscle fibres in their bodies. Fast twitch muscle, has three major subtypes (IIa, IIx, and IIb). Fast twitch fibers contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue very rapidly, sustaining only short, anaerobic bursts of activity before muscle contraction becomes painful. They contribute most to muscle strength and have greater potential for increase in mass. Type IIb is anaerobic, "white" muscle that is least dense in mitochondria and myoglobin. In small animals (e.g., rodents) this is the major fast muscle type, explaining the pale color of their flesh.

Long distance runners tend to have more slow muscle fibres. Slow twich or "red" muscle, is dense with capillaries and is rich in mitochondria and myoglobin, giving the muscle tissue its characteristic red color. Slow twitch fibers contract for long periods of time but with little force.


Genetic predisposition

Scientist discovered that an active ACTN3 gene is required for the explosiveness of muscles. Sprinters mostly have two active copies of the ACTN3 gene, while long-distance runners have two inactive variants of the gene. Muscle fibres with an inactive ACTN3 gene are supposedly weaker and smaller, but they also become fatigued much later. At GenePlanet we test ACTN3 (Alpha-actinin-3) gene which influences muscle contraction and the PPARalpha gene, which affects our muscle structure.

Only muscle structure genetic analysis holds answers to your strength and endurance performance potential. We cannot do exercises for you but we can help you become the best version of you with our muscle structure genetic analysis.

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