Muscles are made up of two kinds of fibres: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch muscle fibres are responsible for explosive movement, while slow-twitch muscles allow for static strength and endurance. Our muscles are usually made up of about 50% fast-twitch and 50% slow-twitch fibres. Athletes who possess a greater proportion of fast-twitch muscles excel in sports such as sprinting, while those with more slow-twitch muscles excel in sports like cross-country running.
How do these different muscle types factor in to gymnastics? Well, vault, for example, requires fast-twitch muscles for the sprinting down the runway and for an explosive block off the table. Still rings, on the other hand, require slow-twitch muscles in order to hold the strength elements for a minimum of two seconds.
Men’s Gymnastics: 7.0 – 7.4 Vaults
Men’s Gymnastics: E and F Elements Rings (2011 Edit)
Have you ever noticed that the gymnasts who win medals in one of these events rarely achieve the same level of success in the other? You’d be hard-pressed to find a gymnast who qualifies to both of these apparatus finals. In fact, the last time this happened in a World Championships or an Olympic Games was in 1995 when Li Xiaoshuang qualified to both.
Can you think of a gymnast whose best two events are rings and vault? Let me know!