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Muscle Function Article

Muscle Function: How do they actually work?

To best understand how our muscles work, it’s important to understand how they contract within our bodies. Our muscles have three different forms of contraction; concentric, eccentric and isometric. However, concentric and eccentric contractions can be further categorised as isotonic contractions. Here is our brief overview:

  • Concentric contractions occur when the external force is less than the maximum force of the muscle, and therefore the muscle shortens to generate force.
  • Eccentric contractions occur when the external force is greater than the maximum force the muscle can generate, causing the muscle to elongate.
  • Isometric contractions occur when the length of the muscle does not change, as the force generated by the muscle is equal to the external force.

Our muscle fibres are able to create these contractions through the interaction of our actin and myosin filaments. The myosin binds to the actin filaments and works as a motor, sliding the filaments along and allowing the muscle to contract in different directions.

Muscle Function: How do our muscles repair and grow?

To understand how muscles repair, grow and develop, we need to familiarise ourselves with the term muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy is the increase of muscle size due to an increase in size of the muscles component cells. To put our muscles in a hypertrophic state, muscle fibre and tissue needs to be broken down through exercise. Popular methods of exercise include resistance training, running and cycling. As we break down our muscle fibres, our bodies begin to repair the muscle fibres resulting in an increase in size and strength.

Muscle Function: What nutrients support our muscles?

There are various vitamins, minerals and acids which support the maintenance, development and growth of our muscles. The most commonly associated nutrients with muscles include minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium, vitamins such as vitamin D and B vitamins, and acids such as omega 3 and branched-chain amino acids. Individually they all serve many functions to our bodies, but collectively they are supplementary to healthy muscles. We should aim to be inclusive of our vitamins and minerals within our diets.

Aside from vitamins, minerals and acids, it is always recommended to intake sufficient protein in our diets. Foods that are typically high in protein include meats, eggs, nuts, cheese, oats, milk, broccoli and many more.