Types of Muscle Tissue

Types of Muscle Tissue

Shiken premium Upgrade Banner


Muscle tissue is essential for the human body to function properly. Different types of muscle can be found throughout the body and each type has specific functions and roles. In this guide, we will discuss the different types of muscle tissue and their clinical relevance.

The different types of muscle tissue found in the human body include skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle. We will discuss the composition and functions of each type of muscle tissue in turn.

Definition of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue is a type of specialized biological tissue that is made up of cells called muscle fibers. These fibers are able to contract and relax to produce movement. Muscle tissue helps to maintain posture, generate heat, and move substances around the body.

Types of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue is a type of specialized tissue found in all animals. It is made up of bundles of long, thin muscle cells that are able to contract and relax, providing movement. There are three types of muscle tissue, each with its own unique properties and functions: skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and smooth muscle.

Skeletal Muscle

Skeletal muscle makes up the majority of the body's muscles. It is composed of bundles of skeletal muscle fibers and is responsible for the voluntary movement of the body. This type of muscle is divided into two types: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Slow-twitch fibers are more resistant to fatigue and contraction at a lower intensity, while fast-twitch fibers can quickly generate large amounts of force for short bursts of energy. Duchenne muscular dystrophy is an inherited disorder that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness, affecting around 1 in 3000-5000 people. This disorder is caused by a mutation in the gene that encodes for dystrophin, a protein important for muscle function.

Cardiac Muscle

Cardiac muscle is the muscle found in the walls of the heart. It is composed of cardiac muscle fibers that are connected to one another by intercalated discs, which allow it to contract as a single unit. This type of muscle is distinguished by its ability to generate electrical signals which control the contraction of the heart. It is constantly active, contracting rhythmically to pump blood throughout the body. Cardiomyopathy is a heart condition caused by the abnormal enlargement of the heart muscle.

Smooth Muscle

Smooth muscle is found throughout the body, in places like the walls of blood vessels, intestines, and the respiratory tract. It is composed of single or multiple layers of long, spindle-shaped cells. Unlike skeletal and cardiac muscle, this type of muscle is not under conscious control and works involuntarily. Smooth muscle contracts slowly and relatively weakly, but can sustain its contraction for a longer period of time. Smooth muscle plays an important role in controlling body processes such as digestion, respiration, and circulation.

Skeletal Muscle

Skeletal muscle is the most abundant type of muscle in the human body, making up about 40% of our body weight. It is composed of fibers made up of myofibrils that are arranged in parallel bundles.

The two main types of skeletal muscle are slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Slow-twitch fibers are fatigue resistant and contract slowly. Fast-twitch fibers are more powerful and produce quick, forceful contractions. Each type of fiber has a different composition and functions differently.

Clinically, the most common disorder associated with skeletal muscles is Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), an inherited muscular disorder that affects boys. DMD is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene which produces the protein dystrophin, which helps to keep muscle fibers intact. Without dystrophin, muscle fibers become fragile and easily damaged.


Muscle tissue is made up of a variety of proteins and fibers that work together to contract and cause movement. Muscles contain contractile proteins, including actin and myosin, as well as other structural proteins and associated molecules. The contractile proteins cause muscle contraction when ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is available.

Type 1: Slow-Twitch

Slow-twitch muscle fibers, sometimes referred to as Type I muscle fibers, respond slowly to stimulation. They are designed for endurance activities such as running and cycling, as they have the capacity to contract over longer periods of time without fatiguing. These muscles tend to be thinner than fast-twitch fibers, and are most efficient at producing lower-intensity movements repetitively.

Slow-twitch fibers also contain more mitochondria and myoglobin than fast-twitch fibers which help to fuel the muscle for increased endurance. The myoglobin helps to store oxygen, which is used during aerobic activity.

Type 2: Fast-Twitch

Fast-twitch muscle fibers are also known as type II. These fibers are thicker than slow-twitch muscle fibers and they contract more quickly, but also fatigue more quickly. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are used for activities that require short bursts of energy, such as sprinting or weight lifting. This type of fiber is able to produce a greater amount of force than slow-twitch muscle fibers.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers come in two varieties  type IIa and type IIb (also called IIx). Type IIa fibers contract faster than type I fibers and fatigue more slowly. Type IIb fibers contract faster than type IIa fibers but fatigue more quickly.

Clinical Relevance: Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a form of muscular dystrophy which affects the skeletal muscles. It is an X-linked recessive disorder caused by a mutation in the gene coding for the protein dystrophin, and results in progressive loss of muscle strength due to muscle fiber breakdown, leading to disability and eventual death.

It is estimated that one out of every 3500 male births are affected with DMD. Symptoms usually start in early childhood with weak leg muscles, resulting in frequent falls and difficulty keeping up with other children. As the condition progresses, the muscles of the trunk, arms and face become weak as well. Individuals with DMD will eventually lose the ability to walk, requiring assistance to move about.

The mainstay of treatment for DMD is physical therapy designed to maintain mobility and reduce pain. Medications such as steroids and immune suppressants can be used to slow the progression of the disease. In some advanced cases, surgery may be required to help maintain mobility.

Cardiac Muscle

Cardiac muscle is one of the three types of muscles found in the body and plays an important role in contracting the heart to pump blood throughout the body. It is a specialised type of muscle tissue found only in the heart, and is made up of branched fibers that interconnect with each other to form a continuous network of muscle tissue.

Cardiac muscle cells contain contractile proteins actin and myosin, which allow these fibers to contract when stimulated. This contraction helps the heart pump, and dissemenate oxygenated blood throughout the body. Cardiac muscle fibers are also able to depolarize and repolarize like nerve cells, allowing the heart to beat rhythmically.

Clinical relevance of cardiac muscle includes disorders such as cardiomyopathy, which is a disease affecting the structure or function of the heart due to abnormal heart muscle. Such diseases can lead to issues like an irregular heartbeat or complete heart failure.

Composition of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue is composed of cells that contain contractile proteins, such as actin and myosin, which allow the muscle to move or contract when stimulated. Each muscle cell also contains mitochondria, which provide energy for muscle contraction, and other cell structures including sarcoplasmic reticulum, which stores and releases calcium ions necessary for muscle contraction.

Contraction of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue has the ability to contract, meaning it can shorten, weaken, and relax. This is an important part of how our body moves and functions. When any type of muscle tissue contracts, it pulls on tendons that are attached to bones which makes those bones move. Different types of muscle tissue contract in different ways and for different purposes.

Skeletal muscle, which we will be discussing a bit more shortly, is under voluntary control. This means that the contraction of skeletal muscle can be initiated by the conscious decisions we make. This type of muscle is used for producing movement, posture, and other hydrostatic functions.

Cardiac muscle is the muscle found in the heart. This is a special type of muscle and it has unique properties that enable it pump blood throughout your entire body. Cardiac muscle is under involuntary control, meaning it can contract even when you are not consciously making it do so.

Smooth muscle is located in organs throughout the body and is also under involuntary control. This type of muscle is used to move substances through vessels, to control the size of blood vessels, and for other movements such as pushing food through your digestive system.

Function of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue is responsible for movement, respiration, and other functions. The different types of muscle tissue each have their own special functions. Skeletal muscle helps us move by contracting and relaxing. Cardiac muscle pumps blood through the heart, providing oxygen to the body. Smooth muscle helps with involuntary processes such as digestion, urination, and circulation.

The function of each type of muscle tissue is essential to our everyday lives and the function of muscles allows us to carry out many of the activities that we need to do to live our lives. Without muscle tissue, our bodies would not be able to do the jobs that they need to do.

Clinical Relevance: Cardiomyopathy

Cardiomyopathy is a general term for a group of disorders that affect the functioning of the heart muscle. In cardiomyopathy, the heart muscle becomes enlarged or rigid, which can lead to an irregular heartbeat, heart failure, and other serious complications. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening. Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition but may include medications, lifestyle changes, or surgery.

The most common type of cardiomyopathy is ischemic cardiomyopathy, which occurs when the heart muscle is damaged due to reduced or blocked blood flow. It is the most common cause of heart failure in adults and the leading cause of death in those with congestive heart failure. Other types of cardiomyopathy include dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive, and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia.

If you are diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, it is important to take steps to manage it, such as following your doctor�s treatment plan and making changes to your lifestyle and diet. It is also essential to be monitored regularly for any changes in your condition.

Smooth Muscle

Smooth muscle is a type of involuntary muscle tissue, meaning it contracts and relaxes without any conscious effort from you. It can also be found in the walls of hollow organs, like the esophagus, blood vessels, stomach and intestines. It is responsible for keeping these organs in their correct shape and facilitating their various contractions that allow them to perform their vital functions.

Composition-wise, smooth muscle is composed of individual cells which are spindle-shaped with one central nucleus. They are typically arranged in bundles within connective tissue, which makes them flexible and easily able to contract and relax.

When it comes to contraction, smooth muscle typically acts slower than other types of muscle, and the length of contraction can vary depending on the organ it belongs to. For example, the smooth muscle in the intestines may contract and relax several times per minute, while the smooth muscle of the uterus may remain contracted for several hours.

Function-wise, smooth muscle plays an important role in digestion, as its contractions move food through the intestines and help the body absorb the nutrients it contains. In addition, smooth muscle relaxations are also responsible for letting blood into and out of the heart, allowing it to keep pumping. As such, it is essential for efficient blood flow.


Muscles are made up of a bundle of fibers, held together by connective tissue called fascia. These fibers are called muscle cells or myocytes, and each contains special proteins that enable them to contract. Muscle cells come in three main types: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle.

Skeletal muscle is composed of long cylindrical muscle fibers, surrounded by an outer layer of connective tissue. Cardiac muscle is composed of short, branched cells with one nucleus each, arranged in a network of clefts and chambers. Smooth muscle has short, spindle-shaped cells that are arranged in layers or bundles.

Contraction of Muscle Tissue

Muscle tissue can contract and relax. When muscle tissue contracts, it creates tension in that area of the body which can cause movement. Contraction in muscle is triggered by the nervous system. Electrical signals are sent from the brain to the muscles, telling them to contract. A chemical messenger called acetylcholine is then released which triggers the muscle fibres to contract. Depending on the type of muscle tissue, this contraction may be sustained or it may be a short and intense burst.

Skeletal muscle contracts when the body needs to move a specific part (like a limb). Cardiac muscle contracts continuously and is responsible for the rhythm of the heart beat. Smooth muscle is found in the walls of our internal organs and it contracts and relaxes to control the flow of blood, bile and urine.

Function of Muscle Tissue

The function of muscle tissue is to provide movement. Skeletal muscle, commonly known as the 'voluntary muscle', is responsible for providing movement within the body that is voluntary, or under conscious control. This means it is the muscle responsible for movements such as walking, running or lifting weights. Cardiac muscle is responsible for the contraction of the heart, while smooth muscle is mostly found in the walls of the digestive track, and is responsible for contracting and relaxing to move food through the body.

Join Shiken For FREE

Gumbo Study Buddy

Try Shiken Premium
for Free

14-day free trial. Cancel anytime.
Get Started
Join 20,000+ learners worldwide.
The first 14 days are on us
96% of learners report x2 faster learning
Free hands-on onboarding & support
Cancel Anytime