The Differences Between Skeletal, Smooth & Cardiac Muscles

Updated on December 4, 2015
Descriptions and examples of the three types of muscles in the human body.
Descriptions and examples of the three types of muscles in the human body.

Three Types of Muscles Found in the Human Body

• Skeletal (muscles that move voluntarily)

• Smooth (involuntary muscles in organs)

• Cardiac (only found in the heart)

The Function of Muscles

  • To help us move and maintain posture.
  • Create heat (the calories burned for energy tend to have an output of 75% heat, therefore on a cold day running is an effective way to warm up).
  • Regulate organs.
  • Move substances around the body (blood from the heart and food through the digestive system.

Skeletal muscles, viewed under a microscope, appear striated.
Skeletal muscles, viewed under a microscope, appear striated.
Skeletal Muscles:
• Are directly attached to the skeleton by tendons.
• Aid in movement and locomotion.
• Are voluntarily activated.
• Appear striped under a microscope. Also called "striated" muscle.
• Fatigue more quickly than smooth or cardiac muscles.
• Are able to stretch and resume original shape.
• Striated appearance comes from formation of actin and myosin muscle fibres.
• Are capable of powerful contractions and, just as adequately, small contractions for delicate movement requiring precision.
• Stimulated by the nervous system's motor neurons.
• Well-supplied with nerves and blood vessels.
Smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow structures, including veins and blood vessels.
Smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow structures, including veins and blood vessels.
Smooth Muscles:
• Get their name from their smooth appearance under a microscope.
• Arranged in bundles of muscle fibre sheets.
• Contract involuntarily. Regulated by autonomic part of nervous system.
• Found in walls of hollow structures, including veins, arteries, and intestines.
• Maintain flow of fluid and food along hollow structures.
• Found in hair erectors, pupils, gland ducts, esophagus, bronchi, intestines, stomach, and blood vessels.
• Contract slowly and rhythmically.
• Fatigue slowly.
Cardiac muscles appear striped or striated when viewed under a microscope.
Cardiac muscles appear striped or striated when viewed under a microscope.
Cardiac Muscles:
• Found only in heart and at cardiac ends of main blood vessels.
• Contract involuntarily.
• Striated when viewed under a microscope.
• Do not fatigue.
• Contract rhythmically.
• Controlled by central nervous system, but can contract without signals due to "pacemaker" cells.
• Contain high count of mitochondria and myoglobin.
• Have good blood supply.

Muscle Fatigue

Skeletal muscle tissue fatigues much more quickly than cardiac or smooth muscles, perhaps because skeletal movement is not essential to homeostasis and survival. It is theoretically quite possible to survive without having to use some skeletal muscles at all. At the opposite extreme, cardiac muscle tissue is under permanent tension to lesser or greater extents to deliver blood, other fluids, oxygen, nutrients, and other substances vital to survival.

Cardiac muscles have great blood supply and are designed specifically to avoid becoming fatigued. Since asphyxiation can lead to death within minutes, cardiac muscles must be able to fulfill their duty transporting oxygen in blood hemoglobin. Cardiac muscle mitochondria help with energy production rhythmic capacity, even at high force when needed.

Research has shown that skeletal muscle mass grows in correlation to the force exerted. These muscles are bigger than smooth and cardiac muscles as a result.

Conscious or Subconscious Contraction

(also known as voluntary or involuntary contraction)

Cardiac and smooth muscles operate on a subconscious, or involuntary, basis. Given the frequency of contractions this is just as well. Not only would it be nearly impossible to make a conscious decision to activate our heart and smooth muscles, but the responsibility would be too much. It is important that the heart maintains a rhythm. A heartbeat that is too fast would lead to high blood pressure. Too slow, and low blood pressure would result, resulting in low energy.

Only skeletal muscles require voluntary contraction, although sometimes movement can be a reflex action (i.e. hitting the patella region with a rubber hammer can cause flexion of the knee). Generally it must be a voluntary action, or else we would have no control over the locomotion of our body to do everyday tasks.

Questions & Answers

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        JULIA 

        13 days ago

        very helpful, thanks

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        amorich 

        2 months ago

        its good, more understandable

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        3 months ago

        I have benefited greatly from this report. Thank you for your dedication

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        pal 

        3 months ago

        very good thank you

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        Elibariki 

        3 months ago

        It is good,differ constrast absence,for picture excellence bt need evedence for more help.

      • profile image

        austin 

        4 months ago

        useless

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        lily 

        5 months ago

        not helpful at all

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        5 months ago

        It is very misleading please make a table or a list

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        5 months ago

        It is very misleading. It does not provide the information the title suggests. A table or list of some sort would have been more helpful.

      • profile image

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        5 months ago

        No helpful

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        7 months ago

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        8 months ago

        what is the reference of this material

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        8 months ago

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        Princetongirl248 

        8 months ago

        thanks a lot it is such a informative. .......its good to know what and what comes together and make a science

      • profile image

        person 

        9 months ago

        Add a table

      • profile image

        Aayush 

        9 months ago

        Please insert a table for the differences and similarities

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        10 months ago

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        10 months ago

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        12 months ago

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      • profile image

        Don 

        13 months ago

        Please make a table

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        Sumit 

        13 months ago

        Thnx a lot

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        Student 

        14 months ago

        Thank you so much! this helped a lot!

      • profile image

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        14 months ago

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        Now i have something to say for my presentation

      • profile image

        sejal 

        14 months ago

        thanks a lot it is such a informative

      • profile image

        Lol 

        15 months ago

        Can u also make a table to compare the differences and similarities? That will be extremely helpful thanks:)

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        15 months ago

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        15 months ago

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        17 months ago

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        18 months ago

        what are the similarities of the three major muscles?

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        18 months ago

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        18 months ago

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        19 months ago

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        20 months ago

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        21 months ago

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        2 years ago

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        2 years ago

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