The direct answer to the question about the strongest muscle in the body is the Masseter, one of the muscles of mastication, or chewing. The masseter is a quadrilateral muscle with both deep and superficial insertions. Quadrate muscles are stabilizing muscles and tend to be very powerful.
But first we need to define what we mean by strongest muscle. Strength in general usually refers to the capacity for either resistance or exertion. In the case of the masseter as the strongest muscle in the body it is because it can generate the largest measurable force of any single muscle.
It is so strong for two main reasons.
- It is made up of densely packed muscle fibers.
- It has a very short-armed lever ( I have been meaning to write about levers within the body for ever)
The masseter is the strongest and most superficial of four muscles of mastication. This powerful muscle elevates the mandible, raising the lower jaw, connecting the upper and lower jaw to facilitate the mashing of food while we eat.
The masseter is one of the muscles of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint) and while it may be the strongest muscles in the body it is often the most stressed out as well. If you are someone who grinds their teeth you are have a very unhappy (as well as tight) masseter muscle.
There is also an emotional aspect to the masseter muscle that will be saved for another post. TMJ dysfunction is highly common and stress is one of the factors that lead to these issues. Emotional stress can cause the masseter muscle to tighten up. As it remains tight, its hyper engagement registers this stressful reaction to the brain and the nervous system which can get caught up in and endless cycle of stress that can be very difficult to break.
Finally, because I always have to mention the pelvis and psoas, the alignment of these two essential body parts can have an large impact on the masseter muscle. So be prepared for a pelvis, psoas and masseter post in the near future.