Muscle Strength and Muscle Tone

Muscle Strength and Muscle Tone



    -muscular strengthening increases muscle fiber size. 

    -Initial gains in strength can be attributed to greater fiber recruitment – a greater number of muscle fibers are receiving the impulse to contract and therefore produce a stronger contraction. 

    -On the other hand, muscle strength ideally happens at a more conscious level like when you forcefully contract your muscles to be able to hold, lift, pull, and do other physical exertions.


    -Muscle tone is the muscle’s innate ability to react to a certain degree of stretch.

    -Muscle tone is a more unconscious component compared to the more conscious or voluntary muscle strength.

    -means that there is the right amount of “tension” inside the muscle at rest, and that the muscle is inherently able to contract on command.

    Types of Tone

    High tone means there is too much tension in the muscle at rest. In other words, the muscle is tight and tense even though it is not doing anything.

    A child with spastic cerebral palsy has high tone, which causes the arms and legs to be tightly contorted. When the arms and legs are not regularly stretched and moved through physical therapy, then “contractures” may occur, which mean less and less range of movement is possible.

    Low tone means there is not enough tension in the muscle when it is at rest.

    The muscle may have a slightly mushy or floppy feel to it, and there is a lack of graded control of the muscle when it is being used (graded control means that just the right amount of movement and effort is used as appropriate to the task at hand).

    Child leaning on desk while writing

    Normal tone means there’s the right amount of tension inside the muscle at rest, the muscle is tight even though it’s not doing anything. 

    **It is important to remember that muscle tone is on a continuum – you can have normal muscle tone that is a bit on the low side or a bit on the high side.


    The Effect of Low Muscle Tone

    Children with low tone in their muscles may battle to sit upright for any period of time, and may slouch over like the child in this picture.

    They may also lack endurance for gross and fine motor activities and may struggle with games that require coordinated, controlled movements.

    The tone of the muscles affects postural control and postural stability. Postural control and postural stability give you the “background” control of your body that is necessary for helping you to stay upright and to stabilize you during movement.

    Postural stability needs to develop in 3 main areas:

    1.Neck muscles

    2.Shoulder Girdle muscles

    3.Core Muscles (trunk muscles)


    A lack of stability in these areas may have an impact on a child's Fine Motor and  Gross Motor Skills.

    **This information serves to inform, not to diagnose. Please contact your health professional if you have any concerns about your child's muscle tone, postural control or any other aspects of development.