Characteristics of Skeletal Muscles – Back to Essentials of Anatomy

We’ll go back to basics today, folks! The fitness industry has become a behemoth of infomercials feeding clients and potential customers wrong information. You now have people who would feed you “scientific” sounding breakthrough and terms that they trust you would not question and take them as a jargon only understood by “experts” which they claim they are. All the while you don’t know that you have been feed fallacies and errors strategically designed to appeal to your human instincts.

Therefore we will go back to the basics and what we call “essentials” of anatomy and physiology regarding the terms “contractility”, “excitability”, “extensibility”, and “elasticity”.

Those terms above are basically the four major functional characteristics of skeletal muscles. Just an FYI there are other types of muscles namely: cardiac muscles of the heart, and smooth muscles most of which surround the blood vessels which cause constriction and dilation to increase or decrease blood flow to certain areas of the body. Skeletal muscles are the ones that attach to the bones and are responsible for body movements – these are the muscles that you target when you weight train and lift.

Now going back I see those terms being bastardized by self proclaimed experts. Thus we will talk about them today one by one:

1) Contractility – the ability of your muscle (skeletal muscles off course) to shorten with force. Your muscles don’t just harden. They act like hydraulic, and when they shorten; they off cause movement to the bones they are attached to. Skeletal muscles shorten forcefully during contraction, but they lengthen passively unless there is tension that it must keep while it lengthens basically of there is still a resistance that needs to be carried as they lengthen. Either gravity or the contraction of an opposing muscle produces a force that pulls on the shortened muscle, causing it to lengthen.

Power Cleans like the one showed below require strong muscular contractility

power cleans lifting for power


Basically if you are training for explosive moves like increasing vertical jump or increasing the force of your punch, throws, Olympic lifts, etc – then you should be training your muscles for maximal contractility and not necessarily hypertrophy.

2) Excitability – the capacity of skeletal muscle to respond to stimulus. Normally your muscles would contract as a result of stimulation of nerves. The brain sends electrical signals that excite your muscles when they need or are willed to move.

3) Extensibility – The property of the muscles to be stretched. After a contraction or after they shorten, they can be stretched to their normal resting length and beyond to a limited degree. A weight trained individual possesses muscles that have healthier extensibility and thus can produce more force as they can contract from a greater length and is off course less prone to injuries and muscle tears.

4) Elasticity – The ability of skeletal muscles to recoil to their ORIGINAL resting length after they have been stretched. Advanced age and sedentary lifestyle would reduce your skeletal muscle’s elasticity.

Basically a healthy weight-trained individual would have muscles that are healthier in those above characteristics. I will share with you more of the anatomical scientifc essentials in the future folks, till then – don’t forget your eggs; yes the food and the GONADS! Lift HARD!

A-Lifter- Don't forget to leave your comment/feedback below.  If this article was helpful, I am sure our book Real Talk Muscle will help you even more in your quest for muscle gain. Check it out you can read the first few chapters as well.
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