The question, is the tongue the strongest muscle in the body, is something I remember hearing as far back as I can remember. I especially remember us kids talking about it when I was a young lad in school. But is there any truth to this fascinating subject?
The tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body, relative to size. The average strength of a person’s tongue is about 10 times that of an arm or leg muscle. Tongue muscles are so strong because they have to constantly move and touch objects inside the mouth. But if we bring importance of function and work load into the equation, then this may in fact be a myth.
Where did the “Strong Tongue” theory start?
As stated above, relative to size, the tongue may indeed be the strongest muscle. However we will explore importance of function and stamina later. I don’t believe the theory stating the tongue is the strongest muscle in the body actually has a solid starting point. I do however believe this may have arisen due to the large amounts of work our tongues do on any given day.
The tongue is instinctively at work during eating, speaking and any number of daily tasks we don’t even consider. Just sitting here I am realizing my tongue rarely sits still for any considerable length of time. So makes sense the tongue could be the strongest muscle in the human body, even though you’re not normally working it out at the gym…lol
Even given the constant work the tongue does at a constant rate, it’s still hard to believe this could be our strongest muscle…there are much more important tasks in life to use muscles for besides talking and eating, right?
What is the Strongest Muscle in the Human Body?
So it may be possible that the tongue is not our strongest muscle, so then which one is it?
In order to consider what our “strongest muscle” is, we have to look at leverage. By leverage I’m talking about how muscles work in relation to bone. This would be the amount of measurable force a muscle can place on an external object.
We use tons of force when chewing our food, the human jaw is capable of chewing even things we probably shouldn’t. We talked a little bit about this in my post Did You Know Chewing Ice is Bad for Your Teeth. In the next section we’ll discuss the massive jaw muscles we all possess.
The Strength of the Masseter Muscle
Taking this into consideration, then most would consider the masseter, or jaw muscle, to be the winner. We actually have two masseter muscles, one on each side of our jaw. The masseter muscle has one great advantage over many of our other muscles due to working in sync with our jaw bone.
The masseter muscles use the jaw bone as very powerful levers, allowing it to exert great amounts of force. It has been recorded as delivering a bite force of 975 pounds (442 kg) of force for 2 seconds. This was actually recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Strongest Muscles in the Human Body
If we were to remove the concept of leverage from the equation, then what other muscles are in the human body possessing great strength?
Without the advantage of using bone for leverage, you would have to look at muscle size. So logically our strongest muscles would be our biggest one. Generally speaking, most all of our muscle fibers are of the same general strength. That being said, muscles containing more fibers are naturally the stronger ones.
These larger muscles types for example would be the quadriceps, which are the muscles on the front of your thighs. The gluteus maximus, or buttocks, are generally also very strong muscles.
The Measurement of Muscle Strength
There are many ways that strength may be defined. Pound for pound, the shorter muscles tend to be stronger than longer ones. This may surprise you for all those that believe the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body. But, relative to its weight, the myometrial layer of the uterus is actually the strongest muscle.
The entire uterus only weighs around 2.2 pounds (1 kg), but during childbirth, can exert as much as 100 pounds of force (a tad more than 45 kg).
What About the Heart being Our Strongest Muscle
I have also heard many times that the heart muscle is the strongest muscle in the body. So what gives?
The heart actually does more work over a lifetime than any other muscle in the human body. Most of the muscles in our body will go through workout then rest periods constantly throughout the day. But the heart just keeps on pumping and working hard non-stop our entire lives.
Without the heart, we would cease to exist obviously… So if you want to look at “strongest” in a way of importance, then I would say the heart is definitely the most important muscle by far.
So after much debate and deliberation, is the tongue the strongest muscle in the human body?
There are many factors such as leverage, work load, muscle fiber density etc. that we consider in determining the answer to this age long question. But all things considered, it looks like the good ole tongue is not going to be the winner. But boy I’m sure glad we have it…food would be very boring without it!