There are three distinct types of muscles:
cardiac or heart muscles, and
smooth (non-striated) muscles. Muscles provide strength, balance, posture, movement and heat for the body to keep warm.
Skeletal muscles, like other
striated muscles, are composed of
myocytes, or muscle fibers, which are in turn composed of
myofibrils, which are composed of
sarcomeres, the basic building block of striated muscle tissue. Upon stimulation by an
action potential, skeletal muscles perform a coordinated contraction by shortening each sarcomere. The best proposed model for understanding contraction is the
sliding filament model of muscle contraction. Within the sarcomere,
myosin fibers overlap in a contractile motion towards each other. Myosin filaments have club-shaped heads that project toward the actin filaments.
Larger structures along the myosin filament called myosin heads are used to provide attachment points on binding sites for the actin filaments. The myosin heads move in a coordinated style; they swivel toward the center of the sarcomere, detach and then reattach to the nearest active site of the actin filament. This is called a ratchet type drive system.
This process consumes large amounts of
adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source of the cell. ATP binds to the cross bridges between myosin heads and actin filaments. The release of energy powers the swiveling of the myosin head. When ATP is used, it becomes
adenosine diphosphate (ADP), and since muscles store little ATP, they must continuously replace the discharged ADP with ATP. Muscle tissue also contains a stored supply of a fast acting recharge chemical,
creatine phosphate, which when necessary can assist with the rapid regeneration of ADP into ATP.
Calcium ions are required for each cycle of the sarcomere. Calcium is released from the
sarcoplasmic reticulum into the
sarcomere when a muscle is stimulated to contract. This calcium uncovers the actin binding sites. When the muscle no longer needs to contract, the calcium ions are pumped from the sarcomere and back into storage in the
There are approximately 639 skeletal muscles in the human body.
Skeletal muscles, viewed from the front
Skeletal muscles, viewed from the back
Heart muscles are distinct from skeletal muscles because the
muscle fibers are laterally connected to each other. Furthermore, just as with smooth muscles, their movement is involuntary. Heart muscles are controlled by the
sinus node influenced by the
autonomic nervous system.
Smooth muscles are controlled directly by the
autonomic nervous system and are involuntary, meaning that they are incapable of being moved by conscious thought. Functions such as heart beat and lungs (which are capable of being willingly controlled, be it to a limited extent) are involuntary muscles but are not smooth muscles.