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Muscular system facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Muscle big to smaller
Muscles anterior labeled
Muscles anterior labeled
Muscle posterior labeled
Muscle posterior labeled
Bougle whole5
Human muscles seen from the back

The muscular system is one of the major systems in our body. Its main purpose is to produce movement. Muscle is a tissue in animal bodies. Muscles help us to move our body parts.

The skeleton and the muscles which move it are known as the musculoskeletal system.

Types of muscles

There are three kinds of muscles:

  • Skeletal muscle, the muscle attached to bones. They pull on bones to make movements.
  • Smooth muscle, for example, the muscle in blood vessels and the bladder
  • Cardiac muscle, the muscle of the heart

Muscle action can be classified as being either voluntary or involuntary.

The skeletal muscles move the limbs (arms and legs). They move the jaw up and down so that food can be chewed. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscles. This means they are the only muscle that you can choose to move.

The cardiac muscle is the muscle in the heart. When this muscle contracts (makes itself smaller) it pushes blood through the circulatory system. The cardiac muscle is not voluntary. Animals do not choose for their heart to contract.

The smooth muscles are the other muscles in the body that are involuntary. Smooth muscles are in many places. They are in:

  • The gastrointestinal system – this includes the stomach and intestines. This is how food moves through us and we take energy from it.
  • Blood vessels – smooth muscles make blood vessels smaller or bigger. This controls blood pressure.
  • Hairs – smooth muscle in hair follicles makes your hair stand up when you are scared or get cold.

Muscle structure

Muscles are made of many muscle cells. The cells contract together to make the muscle get shorter. The muscle cells know to do this together because many of them get information sent to them by nerves. Then cells that get the message from nerves tell other cells that are near them. They tell the other cells by sending an electrical current.

Muscle cells are filled with proteins called actin and myosin. These are the proteins that make the muscle contract (get shorter.)

Muscle contraction

When a nerve tells a muscle to contract, the muscle opens holes in its cell membrane. These holes are proteins that are called calcium channels. Then calcium ions rush into the cell. Calcium also comes out of a special place in the cell called the sarcoplasmic reticulum. This calcium sticks to the specialized proteins actin and myosin. This triggers these proteins to contract the muscle.

Contraction also needs ATP. This is the energy that your cells use. It is made from using glucose in the cell. It takes a lot of energy to release contracted muscles. They use most of the energy for building muscles.


Exercise makes muscles get bigger (see hypertrophy). Exercise also makes muscles stronger. If a person does not exercise, their muscles atrophy. This means their muscles get smaller and weaker.

Diseases of muscles

There are many different kinds of muscle diseases. There are three big groups of diseases:

  1. Neuromuscular diseases – these are problems with how the nerves tell the muscles to move. Strokes, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson's disease are neuromuscular diseases.
  2. Motor endplate diseases – these are problems with the place where the nerve tells the muscle to move. Tetanus and myasthenia gravis are motor endplate diseases.
  3. Myopathies – these are problems with the structure of the muscle. Muscular dystrophy, cancers like Ewing's sarcoma, and cardiomyopathy are myopathies.

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Muscular system Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.