contractile soft tissue of animals

Muscle is a tissue in animal bodies. Muscles are basically tissue which may contract (shorten). They usually attach to bones and are the way animals move.

Muscular system
The human muscles, seen from the front, 19th century illustration
Latinsystema musculare
FMA5022 30316, 5022
Anatomical terminology

Their main purpose is to help us to move our body parts. They are one of the major systems of all animal bodies. When a muscle is activated it contracts, making itself shorter and thicker, thereby pulling its ends closer.

Types of muscles


There are three kinds of muscles:

Muscle action can be classified as being either voluntary or involuntary.

The skeletal muscles move the limbs (arms and legs). They move the jaw up and down so that food can be chewed. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscles, the only ones that we can choose to move.

The cardiac muscle is the muscle in the heart. When this muscle contracts it pushes blood through the circulatory system. The cardiac muscle is not voluntary.

The smooth muscles are the other muscles in the body that are involuntary. Smooth muscles are in many places. They are in:

Muscle structure


Muscles are made of many muscle cells. The cells contract together to make the muscle get shorter. The muscle cells know to do this together because many of them get information sent to them by nerves. The cells that get the message from nerves tell other cells that are near them. They tell the other cells by sending an electrical current.

Muscle cells are filled with proteins called actin and myosin. These are the proteins that make the muscle contract (get shorter).

Muscle contraction


When a nerve tells a muscle to contract, the muscle opens holes in its cell membrane. These holes are proteins that are called calcium channels. The calcium ions rush into the cell. Calcium also comes out of a special place in the cell called the sarcoplasmic reticulum. This calcium sticks to the specialized proteins actin and myosin. This triggers these proteins to contract the muscle.

Contraction also needs ATP. This is the energy that your cells use. It is made from using glucose in the cell. It takes a lot of energy to release contracted muscles. They use most of the energy for building muscles.




Exercise makes muscles get bigger (see hypertrophy). Exercise also makes muscles stronger. If a person does not exercise, their muscles become smaller and weaker. This is called muscle atrophy.

Diseases of muscles


There are many different kinds of muscle diseases. There are three big groups of diseases:

  1. Neuromuscular diseases – these are problems with how the nerves tell the muscles to move. Strokes, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson's disease are neuromuscular diseases.
  2. Motor endplate diseases – these are problems with the place where the nerve tells the muscle to move. Tetanus and myasthenia gravis are motor endplate diseases.
  3. Myopathies – these are problems with the structure of the muscle. Muscular dystrophy, cancers like Ewing's sarcoma, and cardiomyopathy are myopathies.



What has muscles? All animals except the very simplest, and no other kind of living thing. Not trees, for instance.