Do slow and controlled movements while lifting weights stimulate more muscle fibers than quick-explosive movements?

Slow and controlled movement is formally known as tempo training. This is the time under tension you enforce your muscles to become subjected to, in order to achieve greater strength, size and athletic performance.

Quick and explosive movements generally work the fast twitch muscle fibres. Our bodies contain both fast and slow twitch fibres, although genetically, we tend to favour either one as a dominant source.

In order to activate the most muscle fibres one must strategically plan to train both kinds of muscle fibres, ensuring that the body becomes structurally balanced. That means, your body will activate both fast and slow twitch muscle fibres in order to create the most beneficial environment in overall performance.

The best way to do this is by training both slow and fast twitch muscle fibres on different occasions, as doing this in the same workout will become counterproductive.

Below are some tips that will ensure you make progress in activating the highest range of muscle fibres, leading to the most beneficial gains in strength, power, size and athletic performance.

3 of the best movements for maximum muscle activation

  1. Leg day should always include full range squats.
    It’s essential that you increase your range of squat to become full range. This creates more deep, muscular activation, rather than the standard quarter squats which is the norm in gyms. Strong glutes and hamstrings ensure superb vertical jump capacity for those seeking power and athletic performance. The only way to activate the glutes and hamstrings to their full potential, is to squat full range.

    As challenging as it is, you will see the best results. Try it and see the difference it makes to your overall strength and muscular gains.

  2. Increase the strength of your glutes and hamstrings – deadlifts and squats are key.
    These muscles need strengthening, as they are our prime movers at the hip. You should train these regularly, whilst performing deadlifts and squats (as mentioned above). Both squats and deadlifts are shown to increase power, strength and size. Don’t forget that deadlifts also work other regional muscles, therefore it becomes an exercise which in fact works the most muscles in the body, within the one movement.
  3. Don’t fall short on training the pulling movements.
    Basic pull movements from deadlifts, rows and chin ups provide rapid power and strength increases. We tend to spend a lot of time on the pushing movements, as they require less gusto. Do not mistake the power of balancing push and pull movements when it comes to muscle activation. This again is needed for structural balance, decreasing the risk of injury.

When formulating a basic program, keep those 3 suggestions in mind, if you want to activate the most muscle fibres per training session. Also note, that you should always transition your programs from fast to slow twitch, as not to cause training adaptations or dominance over one form from the other. It takes a bit of tweaking to get it right, but as my mentor always used to say “The exercise you aren’t doing, is the one you need to do.” Think about that whenever you are training, and make sure variety is your top priority.

P.S. For those who want to argue about deep squats, please refrain from commenting negatively about this. The question was regarding the best tempo to activate the most muscle fibres. Whilst research (and my own findings) have proved that continual shift from fast to slow twitch activation as well as TUT alterations, provides the best activation for muscle fibres. This is why deep squats have been mentioned, as it’s the best range of movement for maximum muscle activation in the glutes and hamstrings.

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