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What is Skeletal Muscle?

By L. Hepfer
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Skeletal muscle is striated muscle tissue that is attached to bones. It is composed of fibers that look like a mixture of dark and light bands bundled together that run along the bone. These muscles are responsible for contracting and relaxing when a person moves. Skeletal muscles are the muscles that we can see and feel through our skin.

An individual skeletal muscle is considered an organ within the muscular system of the body. The skeletal muscle works with nerve tissue, connective tissue and vascular or blood tissue. Skeletal muscles vary in different sizes and shapes as well as the arrangement of the muscle fibers. The sizes of different skeletal muscles range from as small as a muscle within the ear to a muscle large enough for the thigh. They may be broad or narrow, but no matter what the size, each skeletal muscle is composed of many muscle fibers that are wrapped and bundled together and covered by connective tissue.

The connective tissue covering is called the epimysium. The epimysium grows inward to divide the muscle into different compartments that contain bundled muscle fibers. Each bundle of muscle, called fasciculus, is surrounded by the perimysium. Each muscle cell within the fasciculus is protected by more connective tissue called endomysium.

Each skeletal muscle is attached to a bone on one end, stretching across a joint and is attached to the end of another bone. They are held onto the bone with tendons that work and move along with the skeletal muscle and bone when we move certain areas of our body. While skeletal muscle fibers are protected heavily within each layer, skeletal muscles are very fragile. These various connective tissues work to protect the skeletal muscle when it is contracting and provide a way for the blood to flow and nerves to work properly. An abundant supply of nerves and blood vessels provided within each skeletal muscle allow for proper movement.

The nervous system stimulates and controls skeletal muscle. A skeletal muscle will not move unless the nervous system tells it to. If nerves are damaged, this can limit movement throughout various parts of our bodies. For instance, if a person's spinal cord is damaged, his legs may be permanently paralyzed.

Lifting weights and working out strengthens the skeletal muscles and makes them stronger. Depending on variations of exercises, a person can make their muscles leaner or larger. Skeletal muscles work together with bones to give us power and strength.

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Discussion Comments

By anon951683 — On May 17, 2014

@anon355338: It provides support for your body since the skeletal muscle works with your bones, it straightens and supports your bones.

@bagley79: We have 650 muscles in total in our body.

By anon355338 — On Nov 15, 2013

How does skeletal tissue provide structural support for the body? I need help ASAP.

By bagley79 — On Nov 07, 2012

When I think of skeletal muscle I think of the large muscles in my legs or the muscles in my arms. I guess I never realized we also have muscles in our ears. I am curious just how many muscles we have in our body?

By John57 — On Nov 07, 2012

I am most aware of the different muscles in my body when I do something I am not used to doing and have sore muscles the next day. Sometimes I hurt in places that I didn't even know I had a muscle.

I am not that consistent at working out, so when I start on a new routine, I know I have to start out slowly. If I work my muscles too hard too fast, I won't be able to do anything for a couple of days and need to let my muscles heal.

I really like the way I feel when my body is toned up and I can feel that my muscles are leaner and stronger. The only problem is this takes discipline and it is easy to get lazy and let my muscles get 'soft' again.

By sunshined — On Nov 06, 2012

I know a guy who was involved in an ATV accident and had a spinal injury. He is now paralyzed from the waist down and has to live the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He was in his early 20's when this happened, so this has been really hard for him and his family. His arm muscles have become really strong from pushing his wheelchair around and they have compensated for not being able to feel anything in his leg muscles.

By honeybees — On Nov 05, 2012

My chiropractor has a skeleton in her office which gives you a good visual picture of where all of our bones are located, and where the muscles are attached to them.

She works mostly on my spinal column, but there are times when I have a really stiff shoulder and neck, and she will treat those areas too. I am always amazed how a good treatment will free up the use of those stiff and sore muscles.

One time I went in because I could barely move my shoulder and it hurt my muscles every time I tried. By the time I left, I was able to have full rotation in my shoulder without any muscle pain.

By SailorJerry — On Jun 06, 2011

@rugbygirl - There are different types. The two main types of Type I and Type II, but there are three different types of Type II (IIa, IIx, IIb). The main difference is the speed of contraction.

Type I is slow, while Type II is fast (how fast depends on what type) and also has larger neurons, among other differences. Basically, you use your Type I muscles for endurance activities like running a long distance, and your Type II muscles for shorter bursts.

What you think of as one muscle will actually include both Type I and Type II fibers.

By rugbygirl — On Jun 05, 2011

Are there different skeletal muscle types, or it all just skeletal muscle?

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