All Muscles Great And Small

The human body contains about 650 muscles, each of which are needed to perform the normal functions of everyday life such as moving, eating and breathing.

In all likelihood, the average gym goer is probably only interested in five or six of these – at a guess, biceps, triceps, pectorals, traps and abdominals. Does that sound familiar?

The good news then, is that you do not need to spend too much timing thinking about the majority of your muscles. Providing you are relatively healthy, the ones involved in everyday functions will get to work whether you monitor them or not.

There are about 43 muscles in the human face. Regardless of how hard you try, it is extremely unlikely you will be successful in your attempts to ‘bulk up’ these muscles.


Muscle Trivia

  • Largest muscle – the human body’s largest muscle is the Gluteus Maximus, which is located at the back of the hips. Use squats, deadlifts and lunges are amongst the best exercises to workout this muscle.

  • Smallest muscle – the award for the smallest muscle in the human body goes to the Stapedius, which is a tiny muscle less than 2mm long and located in the middle ear.

  • Longest muscle – the longest muscle in the human body is the Sartorius, which are the long thin muscles that run from from the outside of the upper thigh, down the leg to the inside of the knee.

  • Strongest muscle – If we are talking purely in terms of generating maximum force, the winner has to be the Masseter, which is located in the jaw as is responsible for chewing.

Generally speaking, your muscle mass makes up about 45% of a man’s body weight. By comparison, your bones account for about 12%. Also, about 80% of your muscle is water, most of the remaining 20% being muscle tissue which is made primarily of protein.


3 types of muscle tissue

Skeletal – these are the muscles you see when you’re posing in the mirror. They are also referred to as voluntary muscles as you’re able to consciously control their movement. As the name of this group of muscle tissue implies, they are attached to your skeleton, their main function being to contract and facilitate skeletal movement.

Smooth – also known as involuntary muscle, is found in the walls of hollow organs such as the Stomach, Oesophagus, Bronchi and in the walls of blood vessels. Smooth muscle contractions are involuntary movements triggered by impulses that travel through the autonomic nervous system.

Cardiac – the heart wall is composed of three layers. The middle layer, the myocardium, is responsible for the heart’s pumping action. Cardiac muscle, found only in the myocardium, contracts in response to signals from the cardiac conduction system to make the heart beat. In contrast to skeletal muscle fibers, which work side by side, but aren’t attached to each other, cardiac muscle fibers are attached to each other. This allows them to send information from cell to cell in the form of electrical signals.


Muscle fibers

The human body has approximately a quarter-billion skeletal muscle fibers, all of which can be categorised as one of two main types:

  • Type 1 fibers, also called slow-twitch fibers, are used for endurance activities, or taks that do not require the use of maximum strength.

  • Type 2 fibers, also called fast-twitch fibers, come into play when a task utlises more than 25% of your maximum strength.

Type 2 muscle fibers can be subcategorised into two seperate groups, type 2A and type 2B. Type 1 fibers are characterised by low force/power/speed production and high endurance whereas type 2B are “fast-twitch glycolytic” and are characterised by high force/power/speed production and low endurance. Type 2A are “fast-twitch oxidative” and fall somewhere between type 1 and type 2B.

It’s easier to remember the types of muscle fibers and the differences between them if you consider it like this; type 1 are the smallest and most endurance orientated. Type 2A are bigger and have limited endurance, whereas type 2B are the biggest, with almost no endurance beyond what it takes to perform a single maximal effort. Of course, this is an oversimplification, however if your goal is gain better understanding of the basics then this explanation is more than sufficient.

Skeletal muscles have a mix of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers, the volume of each can vary depending on the individual. Some people are genetically better suited to endurance sports as they have a greater amount of slow-twitch fibers. Those with a higher volume of fast-twitch fibers will be better suited to sports involving quick bursts of speed and power. Consider a marathon runner in comparison to an Olympic sprinter,

It is worth noting that type 2B fibers have been observed turning into type 2A when you exercise, allowing the muscle to perform more work. There is no evidence however that type 1 will turn into type 2 or vice versa.

*The views and/or opinions expressed in the blogs are not necessarily those of Training Nation, but of the author

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