Not only are muscles essential for movement, but work to facilitate digestion, blood flow, and much more. Some of them work on our command, and many of them operate without our awareness. Here are some basics about the tissues we couldn’t live without.
Types of Muscle
When we think of muscles, our minds are often drawn to biceps and quads. However, there are actually three types of muscle in our bodies.
This type of muscle is found in places such as the digestive tract and arteries. Layered in sheets and contracting in waves along the length of the structure, smooth muscle helps with fundamental processes within our bodies.
Cardiac muscle is the muscle specific to the heart and is one of considerable importance, relaxing and contracting involuntarily.
Skeletal muscles are specialized tissues that attach to our bones and allow us to move. Generally speaking, these muscles come in opposing pairs that allow us a full range of motion.
Flexion, Extension, Repeat
As humans, we often take our motion for granted. Being creatures with muscles layered on top of our bones, we are afforded both flexion and extension. In our hands, for example, certain muscles pull on the undersides of our bones forcing our fingers towards the palm, while others contract on the dorsal side of the hand, drawing them back into place.
This isn’t the case, however, with the legs of a tarantula. As arthropods with exoskeletons, tarantula muscles cannot manipulate their body components in the same way. Flexor muscles allow a tarantula to pull their legs inward but the leverage is not had for the muscles to push against the bone and return the leg to its outward position.
Because of this, these creatures achieve extension by forcing blood into their limbs in much the same way hydraulic fluid is pumped into a backhoe to extend the claw. As a consequence of this, one may notice that a tarantula’s motion is quite rigid, almost robotic. We don't encounter these problems and can move with great fluidity.
A fundamental characteristic of our muscles is their ability to increase in size. When muscles are challenged with higher levels of resistance, they essentially break down and grow back stronger. This is known as hypertrophy. Several hormones such as testosterone and insulin growth factor aid in this process of growth and repair.
Not just skeletal muscles undergo hypertrophy. Cardiac and smooth muscle tissue can increase in size as well. The heart, for example, can be strengthened with use, becoming stronger and more efficient. The stronger and more primed the heart, the less time it will take the body to recover after exertion.
Now, not all people build muscle the same. There are a variety of factors such as genetics, hormone levels, body type, and biological sex that influence how quickly muscle is gained. But regardless of the individual, muscle will be gained through proper diet and exercise. Aside from those suffering from rare degenerative disorders, it’s a guarantee for everyone.
Our muscles do a lot for us, and we need to take care of them in return. Several hours to a couple of days following a workout, most people will experience some degree of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is a sign that the muscles are in their beginning stages of rebuilding. During this time, it’s always a good idea to make sure the body stays hydrated and is receiving an adequate amount of protein.
In addition, it’s important to make sure stretching is integrated into your daily routine. Without consistent stretching, muscles can become stiff and more susceptible to injury. This is especially true after a heavy workout. Stretching increases blood flow and improves range of motion which helps to uphold a healthy body overall.
Lastly, it’s important to rest muscles adequately. There is a time to push through muscle soreness and there is a time to let the body do its job without further breakdown. However, as more consistent exercise habits are established, the body will be accustomed to the load and will recover faster.
Pack on the Good Pounds at Performance One
When it comes to skeletal muscle growth, turn to Performance One. Our team of personal trainers and fitness experts is uniquely qualified to work with athletes seeking to take their performance to the next level. Working with a knowledgeable strength and conditioning coach can help you strengthen your heart, body, and mind, providing a complete personal training experience. We know muscles and we know how to build them up properly.