Muscles are one of the most important parts of the body as these are responsible for creating movement and force. As the result of muscles being hidden beneath the skin most people have a limited knowledge of how muscles work, let alone what they look like. This article will present some interesting facts while concurrently delivering some basic information about the human muscles.
The word muscle comes from the Latin word musculus meaning “little mouse”. While there are several theories to why the name was chosen, it is unknown why exactly early anatomists found it a good fit. One explanation is that a contracting muscle under the skin resembles a mouse’s movement under a rug. Another explanation has it that some muscles looks like mice (the bigger part of the muscle merging with a long thin tendon (the tail)). A third explanation is that mice were simply some of the first animals to be dissected with the purpose to study their muscles.
If you are to break down a muscle to its smallest components it cant be don’t without some knowledge of biology and anatomy so this article will only give a very rough explanation. Muscle fibers are the core of the muscle and these are the ones that contract and relax to create motion. Muscle fibers are bundled together in fascicles with a type of connective tissue. The fascicles are then again bundled together by the epimysium which ensheathes the entire muscle and protects it from friction created between muscle and bone. The human body is estimated to have a total of 639 skeletal muscles (muscles that we can control) and to have something to hold that number up against, the adult human body “only” has 206 bones.
One of the very interesting things about muscles is that there are different types of muscle fibers with distinct properties and the ratio at which the types of muscle fibers are present in the human body is genetically decided. The most significant difference is between the two groups of muscles fibers called fast twitch and slow twitch and as the names might suggest the difference between the two is how fast they are able to twitch (contract) and how much force they can create. Slow twitch muscle fibers are able to endure a larger number of contractions while fast twitch muscle fibers (in particular type IIx) can only sustain short bursts of activity before contraction becomes painful. So if you have ever wondered how some people are able to run a 100-meter in under 10 seconds the answer is that they were born to do it. While it is possible to use certain exercises to target the different types of muscle fibers respectively and increase the volume of either type, it is not possible to increase the number of either type of muscle fiber.
When it comes to the question of the strongest muscle in the human body there seems to be a lot of different answers depending on whom you ask and the reason for this confusion is simply that a different set of criteria have been used. A muscle that is often described as the strongest, possibly because it creates the bigger shock effect, is the masseter muscle (jaw muscle) as it is the muscle that is able to exert the most force on an external object. Another definition that is used to determine which muscle is the strongest is how much force the muscle itself can exert. In this category the quadriceps femoris (front of the thigh) and the gluteus maximus (buttocks muscle) are the clear winners. One of the muscles often mention in this context is the tongue though it doesn’t really belong in this category. While the tongue is actually rather strong it consists of sixteen muscles and for that reason cannot be regarded as a single muscle.