Training Postural vs Phasic Muscles

Here’s some interesting information that may change your training a little bit. Instead of utilizing the typical scheme of: back & bi’s, chest & tris, shoulders & arms, etc., I believe this information will help alter your thinking when it comes to future programming.

Muscles can be placed in three categories when it comes to roles: Postural, phasic, and a mix of the two.

Postural muscles are slow twitch muscles that do not fatigue easily. They can be trained frequently. Think daily activities that are performed for long periods of time: walking, writing, breathing, resisting the forces of gravity, etc. Postural muscles are responsible for those actions. They’re utilized daily, hourly even, without thinking about it. The gastrocnemius and soleus will carry the weight of your body and carry you all day long. They’re muscles that do not need to be fatigued drastically in order to improve work capacity. In fact, excessively fatiguing these muscles will be detrimental to development of motor patterns.

Therefore, the training of postural muscles should consist of high repetition or high frequency to deliver best results.

Here’s an example of a rehab protocol I have for one of my athletes:

Ex. Serratus Anterior
Phase 1: Planks scaps protracted
Days 1 & 2: 3×10 sec every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 3 & 4: 3×12 sec every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 5 & 6: 3×14 sec every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 7 & 8: 3×16 sec every hour (9am-9pm)
Phase 2: Scap pushups from knees
Days 1 & 2: 3×17 every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 3 & 4: 3×19 every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 5 & 6: 3×21 every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 7 & 8: 3×23 every hour (9am-9pm)
Phase 3: Scap pushups
Days 1 & 2: 3×13 every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 3 & 4: 3×15 every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 5 & 6: 3×17 every hour (9am-9pm)
Days 7 & 8: 3×19 every hour (9am-9pm)

Phasic Muscles tend to be fast twitch. This means they fatigue easier but they will produce more force. Because of their force production capabilities, they will require more rest after training (so they will not be able to be trained as frequently). It is for this reason that you typically do not squat more than two or three times per week.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found a consistent list of postural muscles, so much like everything else; you’re going to have to decide for yourself by definition and response. However, here’s a list of Postural vs. Phasic muscles from Vladimir Janda. I do not completely agree with this list as per my classification of serratus anterior as postural and not phasic; however, it’s better than nothing. It’s obviously an incomplete list, but it will start pointing you in the right direction:

My recommendations are as follows:

Separate your training not by traditional means, but by postural and phasic. Train postural muscles up to 7 times a week and as frequently as once every waking hour. Because of this you will obviously have to train them at a lower intensity, but it will increase the work capacity and function of the muscles. When the work capacity of postural muscles increases, they tend to hypertrophy.

This does not always hold true with phasic muscles. Phasic muscles respond better to traditional strength and power work. Continue to train and rest them as you always have and see what results you come up with!

This entry was posted in Question & Answer by Mike Guadango. Bookmark the permalink.
Mike Guadango

About Mike Guadango

Mike is a currently a Coach, Writer & Owner for Freak Strength. He was a part of DeFranco’s Gym for over 10 years, studied under Buddy Morris and James Smith while at the University of Pittsburgh and has also studied at various physical therapy practices. He has coached levels of athletes from Pro-Bowl, MLB, to pre-pubescent athletes and has also consulted for high caliber athletes worldwide.

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