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I understand that muscles can only contract and shorten and thus can only pull, but why can't a muscle push when it relaxes and returns to its initial length?

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    $\begingroup$ Try to push something with a piece of string :-) To push with something, it needs to be rigid. Muscles aren't. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Nov 3 '20 at 15:47
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In effect, the "Push" does happen automatically when the muscle relaxes. The muscle itself does not push and cannot push, but it sets off the connected bones from the adjoining joint/s after its contraction. It's the same as firing a gun or a catapult or a rubber band - create big tension in the contraction or pull, and let go suddenly, and there is the Push, achieved on relaxation.

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    $\begingroup$ You are now answering a lot of old (and sometimes downvoted) questions. There is nothing bad on this per se, but please do not use the answer box to simply write a small comment below the question. If you have to add something, please add it but write real answer which explain something and add references. Since you are a new user, I also recommend you take a look into the help section on what is expected from answers here.This avoids deletion of your answers. $\endgroup$ – Chris Nov 19 '20 at 9:05

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