Welcome back, or welcome to the page.
Today I would like to talk about muscles. I have posted a few articles on how to build certain muscles, but what about muscles in general? What is a muscle? Why do we have them? Do bigger muscles actually help us? If so, how can we make them bigger?
Just a few questions we will explore today.
Let’s get started!
Muscles: A Defining Moment
As you can see in the picture, we have a lot of muscles! If we had to work out each one individually, that would take forever!
But before we go there, lets talk about muscles.
Muscles make up about 40% of our body weight. There are over 600 muscles in our body.
There are three types of muscles: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal.
The cardiac muscles are found in the walls of the heart, appear to be striated, and are involuntary in their movements. That is, they contract without our conscious thought telling them to do so. That is a good thing, since we are busy enough that we don’t need to remind our heart to beat every second of the day!
The smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow, visceral organs (except the heart) and appear to be spindle-shaped. They are also involuntary muscles, working on their own to keep the body running smoothly. Again, it is good that these are involuntary muscles. We have enough to do!
The third type of muscle is the skeletal muscle. These muscles are attached to our skeletons and appear to be striated.
Muscle is a soft tissue that every person has. A muscle cell contains protein filaments comprised of actin and myosin that slide past one another. This produces a contraction that changes both the length and the shape of the cell. These are the cells that make up the muscles that control voluntary movement.
These are the muscles that are under our voluntary control. We instruct our nervous system to move them, and they move. These muscles are completely under our control. They do not move without our conscious input.
These are the muscles we will talk about today. Please understand that it is equally important to exercise cardiac and smooth muscles. That type of exercise is accomplished through aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise is anything that increases your heart rate and air intake. Activities like walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, or jumping rope, to name a few, will increase your heart rate, blood flow, and air intake, and help strengthen these muscles.
Also note, that an exercise like weight lifting, which will increase the size and strength of your skeletal muscles, is also aerobic in nature. You can train all three muscle groups at once! What a time saver!
Muscles: Why Do We Need Muscles?
It is obvious from the above information that muscles are vital to our life. Without cardiac and smooth muscles, our organs would not function. Circulation, respiration, digestion, urination, vision, temperature regulation, and organ protection are all functions of these muscles. We need to look after those muscles and ensure that we are keeping them in good shape. Regular aerobic exercise is important.
Our skeletal muscles produce force and motion. They are responsible for mobility and stability of the body. They also control our posture. Without them, we could not move at all. If we did not have skeletal muscles, or if by some accident we lose control of our skeletal muscles due to a nervous system injury, we become sedentary, unable to move.
It is important that we look after our skeletal muscles to ensure a long and mobile life. The stronger our muscles, the better we can move.
But how do muscles help us move?
Well, muscles are attached to our bones by tendons. When a muscle contract, it gets shorter and it pulls on the bone it is attached to, causing motion. When the muscle relaxes, it returns to its normal size (length) and the bone moves back to its original position.
Also, muscles can only pull. They cannot push. They just relax and allow a different muscle to pull the bone back to its starting position.
Let’s take the arm as an example. If your arm is at your side, you need to contract your bicep to pull your arm up. When you contract your bicep, your tricep relaxes and stretches out. To get your arm back to the lowered position, your tricep contracts and your bicep stretches back out. Working together, the bicep and the tricep control your arm movement.
That is a simplified example, since there are many more muscles involved, but that is how, in a simple two-muscle explanation, your arm raises and lowers.
Other parts of your body are similarly controlled by pairs of muscles that contract and relax to allow us to move.
Each muscle group controls a different function of movement, stability or posture.
There are thirteen major muscles groups in our bodies.
In the upper body there are:
- abdominal muscles
- pectoral muscles
- deltoid muscles
- trapezius muscles
- latissimus dorsi muscles
- erector spinae muscles
- bicep muscles
- tricep muscles
In the lower body there are:
- quadricep muscles
- hamstring muscles
- gastrocnemius muscles
- soleus muscles
- gluteus muscles
I will address each of these muscle groups in upcoming posts. Stay tuned.
Muscles: Is Bigger Necessarily Better?
Generally speaking, a larger muscle can produce more force. This is a good thing, if it is more force that you need to produce. Keep in mind, that the function of muscles is to produce motion and force. If we can do both of these with greater ease, then we can conserve energy. If we train our muscle to do their jobs more efficiently, we can function in our daily lives more easily, without feeling as tired.
That being said, there is a scale of diminishing returns. There is a point that larger muscles do not improve force in equal amounts. This means that as a muscle gets larger, there is not an equal increase in the quality of the muscle. There will come a point when your muscles are producing about as much force as they can.
Also, keep in mind that muscle is more dense than fat, so if you are losing fat and gaining muscle, you may not see much difference on the scale. But we need to keep the larger picture in mind.
It is better to have more muscle and less fat. The lower the percentage of body fat, the healthier we will be (to a point).
Again, more on this in another post.
To conclude this section, the answer to the question is Yes; bigger muscles are generally better. Keeping our muscles fit and strong will allow for a better overall function of the body and a better overall lifestyle.
Muscles: How Do Muscles Grow?
The short answer here is that muscle grow when they repair themselves from the trauma (muscle injury) that occurs when we exercise, especially extreme exercise like weightlifting.
The growth of muscles is quite an involved process, one to complicated for a paragraph in this article. Don’t panic!
I will address muscle growth in depth in another article.
For now, suffice it to say that muscle growth is important, we need to break down our muscles in order to make them grow, we need to be involved in extreme exercise for this to happen, and the results are worth it!
So there you have it.
As you already knew, muscles are a vital part of your body. You need to take care of your muscles so your muscles can take care of you!
I will remind you again, that I am not a doctor. I just have a passion for fitness, especially weight lifting and eating properly, and I am sharing my humble opinions with you.
Please check with your doctor if you have any medical question. That being said, if you have any questions or comments for me, please leave them below.
Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.
Thanks for listening.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!