As a guy who spends a reasonable amount of time cycling and even more time thinking about why I can’t ride faster and further than I do, I found, David Shenk’s new post titled, The Nature and Nurture of Muscles enlightening. The post, on his The Genius in All of Us blog, discusses how muscles are built and how they change through exercise.
The author discusses the huge variance in the ratio of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers found in humans. But, more importantly, he states that this variance can’t alone describe the difference in athletic performance between people. This is because, among several other factors, our muscles are inherently adaptable. We can change slow-twitch fibers to fast-twitch fibers and visa-versa, through exercise, for example.
From the post’s summary:
“While evolution has given humans some variability in muscle types, the much more powerful product is its adaptivity. Muscles are designed to be rebuilt.”
“The ability of striated muscle tissue to adapt to changes in activity or in working conditions is extremely high. In some ways it is comparable to the ability of the brain to learn.” (Bottinelli and Reggiani, 2006)
I guess I’m going to have to find other excuses for why I’m always getting dropped on rides.
The post demystifies some of the physiology of musculature and its adaptation through exercise and in a totally readable and understandable way. Yes, even if you’ve never even tried to understand what fills the space inside your skin. Descriptive drawings, too.
Check it out.