Is The Tongue The Strongest Muscle In The Human Body?
Myth

The tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body.

Is The Tongue The Strongest Muscle?

Some think the tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body, but it’s difficult to find any definition of “strength” that would indicate this. There is no one way to measure strength and the tongue consists of eight muscles, not one.[2]

It is true that the tongue does not get tired and is constantly working. It is essential to mixing food in the mouth. It helps us form letters for verbal language. The tongue contains lingual tonsils that filter germs. Even when a person sleeps, the tongue is constantly pushing saliva down the throat. The tongue is strong and important, but not the strongest muscle.

So if the tongue isn’t the strongest muscle, what is?

What is the Strongest Muscle in the Human Body?

There are many strong muscles and muscle groups in the human body: the tongue, jaw, eye, heart, leg, uterus, etc. There are also many ways to measure strength. You have to choose your definition of strength before you can answer the question.[1][5] Is it the muscle that, exerts the most force, the most active muscle, the largest one, the muscle most able to pull with great force, the strongest by weight, or the muscle with the ability to endure the most fatigue?

Let’s look at the “strongest” muscles and find out which, if any, we could consider “the strongest”.

What is the strongest muscle if it isn’t the tongue? 

The Muscle That Exerts the Most Force

In the sense that muscular “strength” usually refers to the ability to exert a force on an external object. The masseter muscle in the jaw is the strongest muscle in the body. It can exert more pressure for its surface area (force) than any other muscle.[6] If your teeth could take the pressure, the masseter muscle would give you enough power to crack soft rocks or concrete.

This jaw muscle works with others in its group to close the teeth, creating forces of up to 55 pounds on the incisors and 200 pounds on the molars, says the Library of Congress.[5] The 1992 Guinness Book of Records found the strongest bite strength to be 4,337 N, or Newtons, which is the same as 975 lbf (pound-force: another way of measuring units of force), for 2 seconds.

What distinguishes the masseter is not anything special about the muscle itself, but its advantage in working against a much shorter lever arm than other muscles.

The masseter, the strongest muscle relative to its weight and size.

The Most Active Muscles

The external muscles of the eye are the most active muscles. They have the highest number of repeated motions. Eye movements, particularly those used in facial scanning and reading, require high-speed movements, and eye muscles are exercised nightly during rapid eye movement sleep.[4]

The Physically Largest Muscle

The gluteus maximus is physically the largest muscle in the human body, according to the Library of Congress and the Guinness Book of World Records. It has the responsibility of keeping the body erect by working against the forces of gravity and it helps us walk.[3][5]

The Muscle that Can Pull With the Greatest Force

The Soleus, found below the calf muscle, pulls against the force of gravity to keep the body upright. It’s the muscle in the body that can pull with the greatest force.

Pound-for-Pound the Strongest Muscle

A shorter muscle will be stronger “pound for pound” (i.e., by weight) than a longer muscle. The myometrial layer of the uterus may be the strongest muscle by weight in the female human body. At the time when an infant is delivered, the entire human uterus weighs about 1.1 kg (40 oz.). The uterus has the highest ability to exert force quickly.[6]

The “myometrium” is the middle layer of the uterine wall, consisting mainly of “uterine smooth muscle” cells, but also of supporting stromal and vascular tissue.

The Muscle With the Greatest Ability to Endure Fatigue

According to the Library of Congress, the muscle with the greatest ability to endure fatigue is the heart. Each heartbeat pumps 2 ounces (71 grams) of blood. The heart pumps a minimum of 2,500 gallons of blood a day and has the ability to contract over 3 billion times in a person’s life.[6] The heart is also a single muscle, unlike the tongue.



Conclusion

Since there is no one way to measure strength, and since our body has a lot of “strong” muscles, there is no one “strongest”. The tongue and some of the jaw muscles are contenders for the strongest muscle, but it’s inaccurate to call the tongue the strongest.


References

  1. Fact or Fiction?: The Tongue Is the Strongest Muscle in the Body“. Scientificamerican.com. Retrieved Jan 25, 2016.
  2. Muscle“. Wikipedia.org. Retrieved Jan 25, 2016.
  3. Largest Muscle“. Guinnessworldrecords.com. Retrieved Jan 25, 2016.
  4. Most Active Muscle“. Guinnessworldrecords.com. Retrieved Jan 25, 2016.
  5. What is the strongest muscle in the human body?“. Loc.gov. Retrieved Jan 25, 2016.
  6. What’s the Strongest Muscle in the Human Body?“. Livescience.com. Retrieved Jan 25, 2016.


Leave a Reply to Paula Cancel reply

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Paula on

I think myth because many people may have stronger parts than others and everybody is different. People can have stronger parts than others.

ryan on

You may have missed the point of that statement… The tongue is the strongest muscle in the human body when used in conjunction with the brain to create the spoken words, which have been known to change the world metaphorically and literally!

Thomas DeMichele on

Ah, well certainly as a metaphor this takes on a whole new meaning. Thanks for pointing that out.

Still, as far as physiology goes, the article above is accurate. 🙂

Harry s on

This is BS give me one answer

Thomas DeMichele on

The tongue is not the strongest muscle by all measures, no muscle is. Instead there are a few muscles that could all be considered the strongest depending on our definition of strength.

There is no one answer, because there is no one definition of strength. Oddly though, by any definition the tongue really isn’t on the top of the list.

I’d go with the masseter muscle in the jaw and the soleus found below the calf muscle. They are common in all sexes and don’t depend on us saying “strongest for its size” or “the one with the most endurance.”

The eye and tongue muscles are strong, but they are groups of muscles.

There is no good way to give a simple answer when the question asked has no simple answer.

But if I have to, at the expense of accuracy, let’s just say “the masseter muscle in the jaw is the strongest muscle… sort of.”