Difference between Skeletal and Cardiac Muscle

July 11, 2015 by Editorial Team

Our body is composed of three types of muscles: skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscles. Each muscle type has a specific function. This article will focus on the difference between skeletal and cardiac muscles.


Skeletal muscles
Skeletal muscles

Skeletal muscles are voluntary striated muscles attached to bones via tendons or each other via aponeurosis. They provide body movement such as walking, lifting, and more. Among the three muscles, they are the largest type.

Cardiac muscles
Cardiac muscles

Cardiac muscles are involuntary muscles found along the heart wall. They are responsible for pumping blood away from the heart towards the lungs and throughout the body.

Comparison Chart

Skeletal MusclesCardiac Muscles
Nerve supply from central nervous systemNerve supply from brain and autonomic nerve supply
Attached to bone via tendon or each other via aponeurosisWalls of the heart
Body movementPumping of blood away from the heart
Rapid contraction but tire quicklyRapid contraction and tireless
Multinucleated cellsUninucleated cells


Let us compare the two in terms of control, location, and function.

  • Skeletal muscles are voluntary muscles; a person has complete control of their movement. Cardiac muscles, on the other hand, are involuntary muscles; the muscles contract and relax subconsciously.
  • The nerve supply for skeletal muscles originates from the central nervous system. This explains why skeletal muscles are voluntary. Cardiac muscles are supplied by the brain and autonomic nervous system, explaining the involuntary control of said muscles.
  • Skeletal muscles are distributed throughout the body; they are attached to bone via tendons like biceps, triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings. Attachment can also be achieved via aponeurosis (a sheet of pearly white fibrous tissue which takes the place of a tendon in sheet-like muscles having a wide area of attachment) like in the case of abdominal muscles. Cardiac muscles, on the other hand, are exclusively located along the walls of the heart.
  • Skeletal muscles are important in body movement like sitting, walking, and lifting. Cardiac muscles function solely for pumping blood away from the heart towards the lungs and throughout the body.
  • Skeletal muscles can contract rapidly but get tired easily. On the other hand, cardiac muscles can also contract rapidly but never get tired.
  • Skeletal muscles have no branches, unlike cardiac muscles that have branches.
  • The cells of skeletal muscles can have one or more nucleus per muscle fiber. In cardiac muscle cells there is one nucleus per fiber.


Watching the following video would help understand the difference between the three types of muscles: