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What's under your hood

and what are you going to do with it?

By Hammer Nutrition

Your owner's manual for your body might look something like this.

1. It should be noted that our fiber types are individually and genetically pre- determined. As a result, most find that they are better suited for activities that play to their fiber type composition. However, this isn't to say that there is no room for improvement in those sports that depend on a fiber type with which an individual is not naturally endowed.
2. Individuals can produce varying amounts of force with every skeletal muscle. The amount of force generated depends upon the number of muscle fibers recruited to perform the task. Increasing nerve stimulation results in the recruitment of more muscle fibers of all types. The more muscle fibers recruited, the greater the force produced.

The tables and information above relate to the voluntary muscle contractions we use all day long. The muscle contraction elicited by a Compex NMES (neuromuscular electrical stimulation) device is involuntary. The recruitment pattern of muscle fibers begins close to the Compex pads that adhere to the skin and appears as a slight twitch. As the stimulus is increased, the electrical stimulation penetrates deeper into the belly of the muscle and the contraction becomes stronger and stronger. That is quite different from a voluntary contraction. Also, the types of muscle fibers recruited are different for an involuntary contraction. Nerve types determine what kinds of muscle fibers are stimulated. For instance, all slow twitch motor neurons stimulate only slow twitch muscle fibers. Compex is programmed to stimulate certain kinds of motor neurons.

To reiterate, all muscle fiber types are recruited during voluntary force production. Only one kind of muscle fiber is recruited during an involuntary Compex-generated contraction. When training with a Compex, the obvious advantage is in working specific targeted muscle fibers.

Practically speaking, what can be done with a Compex to improve performance, and when should it be done? A particular attribute can be trained with a Compex; therefore, an elite distance runner could train for bursts of speed needed as a race strategy to separate from competitors. Perhaps the distance runner can hold a terrific pace on the flats, but gets dropped by competitors on the hills. Even though the elite distance runner has predominantly slow twitch muscle fibers, the fast twitch muscle fibers she has can be selectively trained. Fatigue is minimized because this training does not tax the cardiovascular system; it also trains only one of the three muscle fiber types, and doesn't involve the costly footfalls that limit the amount of running that can be absorbed over time.

While I've never seen it recommended, it seems reasonable to me to assume that more than one muscle fiber type on a muscle group can be trained on the same day with the Compex. This always happens during a conventional workout. Since overall fatigue is minimized, why not train more than one muscle fiber type in back-to-back sessions? With one placement of pads, you can train for more than one specific adaptation. I will give it a try, and I'd love to hear results from any of you who have started this kind of training. Remember, gains from strength training with the Compex are quickly gained and quickly lost. Strength training can and should be maintained all year long. This is particularly important for those 40 years old and older who experience ever-increasing degrees of age-related muscle loss. The best way to counteract this natural occurrence is with strong, regular muscular contractions. Get busy with the Compex, and keep your body well-tuned and running efficiently. HN

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