Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Slow and Fast Twitch Muscles
Name: Ann E.
Status: Other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: December 2002

I am working on a science article for a children's magazine explaining the difference between slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers and how the genetically predetermined ratio of these fibers your muscles contain could play a role in what sort of activities you excel. In physical therapy school, I recall hearing that during the cold war the eastern bloc countries would biopsy the muscle fibers of athletic 5 or 6 year olds to determine which sporting activities these children should be pushed toward.

A fact like this would go great in my article, but I can find no documentation to support it. Do you know if this is true? If it is do you know where I can find documentation? Thank you very much.

I know of no such thing. I am also more than skeptical on the idea of a biopsy predicting athletic ability via muscle type distribution. If I read such a thing in ANY magazine it would not engender a feeling of confidence in the article whatsoever. Furthermore, the idea of genetic determination, in something as complex as athletic ability would certainly be polygenic and genotypically indeterminable with present technology and understanding, while phenotypic determination would be even less certain. The subject of fast and slow twitch is far more informative from the standpoint of training and how different training schedules will favor different types.

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Office of Science
Department of Energy

Click here to return to the Molecular Biology Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory