Dr. Lon Kilgore explains the basic anatomy and physiology of how the body is built to move.
One of the reasons I do what I do is simply because I wanted to know how to make myself a better athlete. From the age of 11, I read anatomy and biology books. I read them not for fun but to improve my competition fitness in wrestling and weightlifting. Even in school I took elective classes I thought would help me figure things out. In high school I took advanced biology, and my senior research project was investigating the effect of different salt solutions and concentrations thereof on force production in isolated frog muscle preps.
From my earliest recollections, I wanted to know how muscle was built and how it worked. I wanted to know how I could make things move.
To understand how things move we first need to take a little look at how muscles are constructed—a little anatomy lesson if you will.
Muscles are composed of thousands and thousands of individual muscle cells. Small, tiny muscles have a few thousand cells that can be less than a centimeter long. Big, massive muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, which covers a huge portion of the back, will have millions of muscle cells that can be up to 30 centimeters (about a foot) in length. All together, muscle accounts for about 40 percent of total body weight in an average human.
Let’s dissect the muscle down to the cellular level, look at how a cell is built, identify its basic components and briefly examine what each part does. A conceptual understanding of the anatomy of muscle contraction makes it obvious that there is much going on within a muscle during contraction. Indeed there is, from individual molecules to the entire muscle.
Muscle anatomy forms the structural basis of contraction. From the proteins that produce the force to the level of whole muscle action, a simple understanding of how things are built forms the core of our knowledge of how to change their structure to improve their function.