Muscle fiber typology substantially influences time to recover from high-intensity exercise

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2020 Mar 1;128(3):648-659. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00636.2019. Epub 2020 Jan 30.


Human fast-twitch muscle fibers generate high power in a short amount of time but are easily fatigued, whereas slow-twitch fibers are more fatigue resistant. The transfer of this knowledge to coaching is hampered by the invasive nature of the current evaluation of muscle typology by biopsies. Therefore, a noninvasive method was developed to estimate muscle typology through proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the gastrocnemius. The aim of this study was to investigate whether male subjects with an a priori-determined fast typology (FT) are characterized by a more pronounced Wingate exercise-induced fatigue and delayed recovery compared with subjects with a slow typology (ST). Ten subjects with an estimated higher percentage of fast-twitch fibers and 10 subjects with an estimated higher percentage of slow-twitch fibers underwent the test protocol, consisting of three 30-s all-out Wingate tests. Recovery of knee extension torque was evaluated by maximal voluntary contraction combined with electrical stimulation up to 5 h after the Wingate tests. Although both groups delivered the same mean power across all Wingates, the power drop was higher in the FT group (-61%) compared with the ST group (-41%). The torque at maximal voluntary contraction had fully recovered in the ST group after 20 min, whereas the FT group had not yet recovered 5 h into recovery. This noninvasive estimation of muscle typology can predict the extent of fatigue and time to recover following repeated all-out exercise and may have applications as a tool to individualize training and recovery cycles.NEW & NOTEWORTHY A one-fits-all training regime is present in most sports, though the same training implies different stimuli in athletes with a distinct muscle typology. Individualization of training based on this muscle typology might be important to optimize performance and to lower the risk for accumulated fatigue and potentially injury. When conducting research, one should keep in mind that the muscle typology of participants influences the severity of fatigue and might therefore impact the results.

Keywords: Wingate testing; fatigue; muscle fiber type composition; training-recovery cycles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Exercise*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Muscle Fibers, Fast-Twitch
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal*
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Torque