Science Lesson: Why Muscle Activation Matters

Science Lesson: Why Muscle Activation Matters

Here at Beast Gear, we love strength training. 

We also love science. 

Yup, while we’re not PhD level students or anything, we understand that the best training programs are the ones that are backed by scientific research.

Otherwise, they’re just a shot in the dark.

In this article, Beast Gear is going to give you a bit of a science lesson as we take a look at why muscle activation matters. 

** hopefully no science labs will be blown up in the course of writing this article 

Resistance Training and Gravity’s Pull 

If you try to move a relatively heavy resistance fast, you will surely fail. That’s according to the law of gravity.

If a resistance moves fast it needs to be light in relation to your ability.

In the same way, youcan shift a light resistance fast compared to a so-called heavy resistance. 

In other words, the lighter the resistance is, the quicker your speed of movement. 

Olympic lifts increase muscle strength via training protocols, and they use correct techniques to lift heavy resistances.

To move heavy resistances so high and so quickly, they have to hone the ability necessary to move it quickly and secure it.

See, resistance doesn’t move quickly - technique does. 

Slower-moving overhead pressing, back squatting and even front squatting is carried out to get stronger. Quicker-shifting skill practise is executed to get the required body actions perfect. 

Fast vs Slow Muscle Fibre: Hennemen’s Size Principle 

Our muscle fibres are recruited according to need. When the demand is low, less fibres are required. When the demand is higher, more fibres are required. 

When more effort is needed, the higher, bigger threshold motor units spring into action. This makes a lot of sense and indeed explains when we can keep going for longer when jogging compared to if we were sprinting. 

It also explains why lighter resistance can keep going for more repetitions than heavier ones. 

The problem is that fast vs slow muscle fibre classification has caused a lot of confusion over the years. Many people in the gym would probably tell you that slow muscle fibres take longer to contract while quicker and bigger muscle fibres are the only ones used for rapid-fire muscle activity.

Naturally, slow fibres are contracting slower relatively to fast ones. The difference, though, is minimal (we’re talking 90 milliseconds tops). 

See, the slow vs fast fibre classification refers to a fibre’s fatigue capacity as much as it refers to the speed of contraction. The bigger force-producing muscles take longer to fatigue than slower ones.

How Body Type and Genetics Alter The Way You Contract Muscle 

Before we go, all other factors being equal, genetics and your body type can play a huge role in how you contract the muscle and perform. 

Here are some things to bear in mind: 

  • Shorter limbs move faster than longer ones 
  • Smaller muscle mass exerts less force than greater mass
  • If you’re fat or skinny but can still exert force like a beast, you’ve got insane neurological ability. Kudos
  • You can exert more speed and force if you have excellent tendon insertions and origins 

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