LeBron James has started this season looking like the explosive, physically dominant player that we’ve come to expect him to be; a stark contrast to the player who last season struggled to regain his normal form after a groin tear cost him six weeks of the 2018-19 Lakers campaign.
When asked about the difference between last season’s #WashedKing and this season’s #RevengeSznKing, LeBron has commented — on multiple occasions — that he worked extremely hard to get his “quick twitch” back.
“Quick twitch” sounds like a sweet Call of Duty gamertag, but it’s also a real physiological thing. Muscle fibers are separated into quick or “fast-twitch” fibers that are involved in explosive, high-power movements and “slow-twitch” fibers that are involved in endurance activities. These fiber types exist on a spectrum and tend to respond to certain types of training.
In the following video for Laker Film Room, I go into more detail on these fiber types, the series of events that may have led to LeBron losing his “quick twitch” in the first place, and the types of training he may have done to regain the physical explosiveness that we’re witnessing this season:
To sum it up: Most individuals have a 50/50 split of fast to slow twitch muscle fiber types, but the research shows that highly trained, explosive athletes tend to have a higher proportion of fast twitch.
It’s possible that when LeBron got injured and was unable to continue with his typical strength training, and was instead relegated to lower level endurance training, his fast-twitch fiber ratio shifted towards slower twitch, more towards that “50/50”.
However, as the 2018-19 season ended and he began to ramp up his summer training to higher-intensity, higher-weight strength training and high-intensity cardio, he began to regain the fast twitch ratio and explosiveness that he’s become accustomed to.
In other words, LeBron got his fast twitch back and he’s back to catching bodies on the court.
Dr. Rajpal Brar has a doctorate in physical therapy from Northern Arizona University, and runs his own sports medicine and performance business, 3CB Performance, in West LA and Valencia, CA. He also works at a hospital — giving him experience with patients in the immediate healthcare setting and neurological patients (post stroke, post brain injury) — and has been practicing for 1.5 years. Brar is additionally training at UCLA’s mindful awareness research center (MARC), and analyzes the Lakers from a medical perspective for Silver Screen and Roll and Laker Film Room.