The human body is comprised of hundreds of muscles, about 640 in total. There is no exact count of the number of muscles in the body largely because expert opinions are conflicted regarding what constitutes a distinct muscle. Therefore, some experts will suggest 639 total muscles while others may suggest there are more. Muscles are found within the muscular system, which is the body’s own network of tissues and fibers responsible for both outward and inward movements of the body.
While the exact number of muscles in the human body may not be known, what is known is that muscles are categorized as one of three different types – striated, smooth, and cardiac.
Striated muscles, also called voluntary or skeletal muscles, are the muscles the body has conscious control of. These muscles include facial muscles and the muscle fibers that move all the bones of the body. Striated muscles are made of light and dark bands called fibrils. Striated muscles are the muscles typically injured in sports or during physical activity.
Smooth muscles are known as involuntary muscles or visceral muscles. They are the muscles that are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Smooth muscles differ in appearance from striated muscles and lack the bundles of muscle fiber and patterned fibrils found in striated muscles. Smooth muscles move internal organs, including the digestive tract and secretory glands. Smooth muscles cannot be made to work by conscious effort.
Finally, cardiac muscles are the muscles comprising the heart. Though similar to striated muscles in appearance, cardiac muscles are also involuntary. Cardiac muscles work together to pump blood to and from the heart and throughout the body.
Muscles are able to contract, or pull, and are typically paired together in sets that work in conjunction with one another. Muscles come in various sizes and perform many different functions. The busiest muscles are found in the eye and are responsible for blinking, which occurs involuntarily, though can be a voluntary action, approximately 100,000 times each day. The smallest muscle in the human body is located deep inside the ear and called the stapedius. The largest muscle in the human body is, of course, the gluteus maximus, or buttocks.
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