The Functions of Muscles

A muscle is an organ specialized to produce movement of a body part. Its cells convert the chemical energy of ATP into the mechanical energy of motion and exert a useful pull on another tissue. More specifically, muscle contraction serves the following overlapping functions:

  • Movement. Most obviously, the muscles enable us to move from place to place and to move individual body parts. Muscular contractions also move body contents in the course of respiration, circulation, digestion, defecation, urination, and childbirth.
  • Stability. Muscles maintain posture by resisting the pull of gravity and preventing unwanted movements. They hold some articulating bones in place by maintaining tension on the tendons.
  • Communication. Muscles are used for facial expression, other body language, writing, and speech.
  • Control of body openings and passages. Ringlike sphincter muscles around the eyelids, pupils, and mouth control the admission of light, food, and drink into the body; others that encircle the urethral and anal orifices control elimination of waste; and other sphincters control the movement of food, bile, and other materials through the body.
  • Heat production. The skeletal muscles produce as much as 85% of our body heat, which is vital to the functioning of enzymes and therefore to all of our metabolism.

Some of these functions are shared by skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle. The remainder of this chapter, however, is concerned only with skeletal muscles.

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Essentials of Human Physiology

Essentials of Human Physiology

This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.

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