Mention “muscles”, and for most people, images of buffed women and men come to mind. But muscles by definition are small tissues made of fibres and are responsible for essential things like our ability to move.
Despite the general association and to a certain point, misconception of muscles and fit bodies — we all have them.
Muscles at work
So how do muscles work? They work by contracting and relaxing. An example of muscle contraction at work is when you do a dumbbell curl. Do you notice how your biceps seem to stack up and look bigger at the top of the curling action? That’s the muscles fibres sliding together and contracting.
When you’re back at the starting position, that’s the muscles relaxing as the fibres slide apart causing the muscles to stretch out longer and thinner.
Types of muscles
There are three types of muscles:
- Skeletal Muscle – Attached to the bones to facilitate movements of our skeleton. Skeletal muscles are what you work on when you’re in the gym increasing muscle mass. They come in pairs; one moves the bone in one direction and the other move it back. They are also known as “voluntary muscles” as we have control over them.
- Smooth Muscle – Found in the digestive system, bladder, blood vessels and for women, in the uterus. Also known as “involuntary muscles” because we have no control over them as they are controlled by our nervous system.
- Cardiac Muscle – Found solely in the heart, it responsible for endurance and consistency. Cardiac muscle incorporates both skeletal and smooth muscle features. It can stretch in a limited way like the latter and contract with force like the former.
Getting muscles to show
The reasons why for most people their muscles don’t show are because firstly, they are not being worked on or exercised regularly or intense enough. The second which is as common, the muscles are hidden by layers of fat. In fact, do you know that everyone has abdominal muscles, not just body builders or gym goers? What is preventing our abdominal muscles from showing are the layers of subcutaneous and visceral fat. The former is stored under the skin, and you can touch and grab them. The latter is the deep layer of fat surrounding your organs in the abdomen. This type of fat can cause imbalance and disrupt hormones function leading to health issues.
Visceral fat can be addressed with healthy diet and exercise. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats, and whole grain food paired with daily exercise can significantly reduce the amount of visceral fat. Do also remember to eliminate processed foods, especially sugar.
We all want a fit looking body, but it is essential to remember that it is a journey that requires effort and discipline. Always ask for qualified advice and truly understand your body. Muscle up your knowledge and your body will be strengthened.