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Muscular System: Facts, Functions

by Kim Ann Zimmermann, Live Science Contributor November 25, 2014 05:05pm ET
While most people associate muscles with strength, they do more than assist in lifting heavy
objects. The 650 muscles in the body not only support movement controlling walking,
talking, sitting, standing, eating and other daily functions that people consciously perform but
also help to maintain posture and circulate blood and other substances throughout the body,
among other functions.
Muscles are often associated with activities of the legs, arms and other appendages, but muscles
also produce more subtle movements, such as facial expressions, eye movements and respiration,
according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Three types of muscles
The muscular system can be broken down into three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and
cardiac, according to the NIH.
1. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscle tissue in the human body and control
every action that a person consciously performs. Every physical action that a person
consciously performs (e.g. speaking, walking, or writing) requires skeletal muscle. Most
skeletal muscles are attached to two bones across a joint, so the muscle serves to move
parts of those bones closer to each other, according to The Merck Manual.
Skeletal muscle cells form when many smaller progenitor cells lump themselves together
to form long, straight, multinucleated fibers. Striated just like cardiac muscle, these
skeletal muscle fibers are very strong. Skeletal muscle derives its name from the fact that
these muscles always connect to the skeleton in at least one place.
2. Visceral, or smooth, muscle is found inside organs such as the stomach and intestines, as
well as in blood vessels. It is called a smooth muscle because, unlike skeletal muscle, it
does not have the banded appearance of skeletal or cardiac muscle. The weakest of all
muscle tissues, visceral muscles contract to move substances through the organ,
according to The Merck Manual. Because visceral muscle is controlled by the
unconscious part of the brain, it is known as involuntary muscle, as it cannot be
controlled by the conscious mind.
3. Found only in the heart, cardiac muscle is an involuntary muscle responsible for pumping
blood throughout the body, according to The Merck Manual. The heart's natural
pacemaker is made of cardiac muscle that signals other cardiac muscles to contract. Like
visceral muscles, cardiac muscle tissue is controlled involuntarily. While hormones and
signals from the brain adjust the rate of contraction, cardiac muscle stimulates itself to
contract. Because of its self-stimulation, cardiac muscle is considered to be autorhythmic
or intrinsically controlled.
1. Read the text and answer the following questions.
a. Apart from strength what else a muscle is associated with?
b. Have muscles to do only with legs, arms and other appendages? If not, what else has
to do?
c. What are the different types of muscles?
d. What are each ones functions?

2. Match the words with their meaning

1. appendage
2. subtle
3. progenitor
4. lump
5. multinucleated
6. striated
7. visceral
8. intestine
9. banded
10. pacemaker

1. many nuclei
2. ancestor
3. limb, organ
4. having long, thin lines, marks, or strips
5. not obvious
6. it regulates heartbeat
7. group together, join
8. with strips
9. part of the gut
10. of the internal organs

3. Fill in the blanks with the words above.

1. Our
of people are the apes.
2. All the children are
together in one class, regardless of their ability.
3. An
is an external body part, or natural prolongation, that protrudes
from an organism's body.
4. Wendy started making
signs that they should leave.
5. The canyon walls were
with colour.
6. Exercise is a good way to reduce
cells vary among organisms and tissues.
8. A tumor was removed from the wall of the
9. My grandmother needed a
because she suffered from
10. Myofabril has found within muscle cells that has a banded appearance.
4. Do the matching the words with their definition
1.Smooth muscle, 2.cardiac muscle, 3.skeletal muscle, 4.tissue
A) a muscle in the internal organs that can stretch and maintain tension
B) a muscle that is connected to the skeleton
C) the muscle tissue of the heart
D) a group of similar connected cells in an animal or human
5. Read the sentence pairs. Choose which word best fits in the blanks.
Walking and lifting are examples of
In the cardiovascular system,
transmit blood.
, muscles can lengthen, shorten, or stay as they were.
To lift something or talk or eat, a
occurs due to mental effort.
6. Write the derivatives




7. Read the phrasal verb break and then fill in the blanks with the appropriate one.
break down

stop functioning
(vehicle, machine)

Our car broke down at the side of the

highway in the snowstorm.

break down

get upset

The woman broke down when the police told

her that her son had died.

break sthg down

divide into smaller


Our teacher broke the final project down into

three separate parts.

break in

force entry to a

Somebody broke in last night and stole our


break into sthg

enter forcibly

The firemen had to break into the room to

rescue the children.

break sthg in

wear sthg a few

times so that it
doesn't look/feel

I need to break these shoes in before we run

next week.

break in


The TV station broke in to report the news of

the president's death.

break up

end a relationship

My boyfriend and I broke up before I moved

to America.

break up

start laughing

The kids just broke up as soon as the clown

started talking.

break out


The prisoners broke out of jail when the

guards weren't looking.

break out in sthg

develop a skin

I broke out in a rash after our camping trip.

break through

to pass through a

The crowd break through barrier that was in

front of the band.

1. "Why did the negotiations break ____ again? Don't they want to have peace?."
2. John broke ____ with Jill again. I doubt they'll get married now.
3. He broke _____ from the group and won by more than 10 meters..
4. Jill broke ____ the glass ceiling. She is the first woman president of her company.
5. Don't let him break ____ us. We've got a lot to talk about.
6. Our house was broken ____ last week but nothing was taken.
7. Like the song says, breaking ____ is hard to do.
8. He broke ____ jail and now he's on the run.
9. Professor Jona is known for breaking ____ in mid-sentence. He's losing it.
10. Our truck broke ___ on the way home from school and we had to walk home.
8. Listen to a conversation between a student and a professor. Mark the following
statements as true (T) or F).
Skeletal muscles produce involuntary movements.
Breathing produces involuntary contractions in the lungs.
Cardiac muscles produce involuntary movements.
9. Listen again and fill in the blanks
Student: What are the differences between 1
Professor: First, how many different types of muscles are there?
Student: Three. Skeletal muscles, smooth muscles, and cardiac muscles.
Professor: Good. 2___
differ from the others because they produce voluntary
Student: And the others produce 3___
Professor: Right.
Student: Aren't 4____
in vital organs?
Professor: Yes.
Student: So, when we breathe, isn't that 5.
understand how we distinguish
between them.
Professor: The contraction of muscles in respiratory 6
is involuntary. Clearly, we
need to breathe. We have little control over that.