All About Muscles

Your system of muscles (contractile body tissue) enables you all the movement you enjoy and depend on for survival: from the simplest endeavors such as sitting up straight to actions as complex as running, jumping and playing the violin.

Everyone has 430 voluntary muscles attached to their bone structure by the connective tissues called tendons.

Weightlifters do not have any more muscles than anyone else, they simply have larger muscles.  They have lower body fat ratios which makes their underlying muscles more visible.  In people who are over fat their muscle is covered up over by years of inactivity and slowly replaced by fat.

There are three basic types of muscles in the human body:

Striped (striated or skeletal) voluntary muscle which move the bones.

Smooth involuntary muscles lining blood vessels, the stomach and other internal organs.

Heart or cardiac muscles

The last two types of muscles, the smooth and heart muscle, are involuntary and are controlled by the automatic nervous system.

It is the striped muscles are the muscles which we control with our will and which we depend for our physical movement and strength.

There are two types of striped muscles, fast and slow twitch.  Fast twitch muscles are used for bursts of energy and primarily used in any weight bearing activity such as weightlifting.  Slow twitch muscles are used in the body’s efficient use of oxygen.

When you want to use one of your voluntary muscles your brain sends a message to a nerve impulse through your spinal cord to the appropriate muscle which in turn contracts through the release of muscle fiber chemicals called neurotransmitters.

Weightlifting, Strength and Muscle Growth

The only way to enlarge your muscles and prevent muscle loss over time is to work them against resistance.  When this kind of strength training is done the process known as adaptation takes place.  Better known as weightlifting. This means the muscle adapts to the stresses put on it while remaining healthy.  Microscopic tears occur in the muscle bringing minor soreness.  This is normal in building new muscle and should pass within a 48 hour period.  Additional muscle fibers (myofilaments) are crated in the process adaptation which helps the muscles become stronger (increases their ability to contract).  The individual muscle cells which have undergone hypertrophy are not only stronger, they are also healthier than before.

The process of weightlifting is anaerobic (a short bursting/high intensity activity through which energy is used without the aid of sufficient oxygen in  the muscle).  As a result, high-intensity weightlifting cannot be performed for long periods of time.  However, anaerobic also work the heart and lungs. Weightlifting methods like circuit training can have aerobic benefits too.

Muscles, Aging and Gender

Over time, the thousands of muscle fibers of the striped muscles in inactive people are replaced by connective tissue.   This will make the muscle weaker and less able to contract.  Fat also sets in.

However, it is not true that people are condemned to lose their muscle and strength as they age.  The doctors of Tufts University have twice performed widely publicized studies on people as old as 96 who more than doubled their  strength and greatly improved their lives by doing weight-bearing exercises.  Muscle can be built and maintained at any age.

Men have a far greater capacity for building muscle than women.  There should be no fear in a bulking up for women.  It requires more than the simple act of weightlifting.  Enhancements are also needed such as steroids.  Muscle building and muscle strengthening are the goals for everyone.


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