Chew On This!

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Simon says: say “cheese”.

Simon says: pucker your lips.

Simon says: knit your eyebrows.

Simon says: name all the muscles of the face.

Simon just zoomed from a fun-guy to a stick-in-the-mud with one innocent request, didn’t he?

In Simon’s defense, shouldn’t we know the names of the muscles that are responsible for the communication of our personality and expressions all our waking hours?  Shouldn’t those soft tissues that convey our thoughts, feelings, and reactions- not to mention perform our basic physiological facial maintenance- get some love?  These unsung heroes can make or break poker deals, flash your pearly whites to earn you an extra scoop at the ice cream parlor, or just perform mundane tasks like… lubricate your eyeballs.

The hard-working masseter is the strongest muscle in your body.

With reverence to their tireless efforts, let’s unite and say a little collective thank you to all the muscles of the face and commit to learning a bit more about just one of them.  I’ve chosen the lucky winner, the band of fibrous tissue that gets food into my belly and therefore stands out above all the rest, the masseter muscle.

The masseter has a thick, squareish shape and originates on the zygomatic arch (cheek bone) and inserts on the lateral surface of the mandible (lower jaw).   It has two portions, the superficial and deep.  The superficial fibers can be accessed through topical applications and the deep layer can be accessed by reaching inside the mouth.

The masseter is the strongest muscle in the body relative to its size and is the puppeteer of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ).  Its main action is to elevate the mandible (closing the lower jaw bone to upper jaw bone) and clench the teeth.  It also assists in the side-to-side movement of the mandible.  Its basic functional movement is chewing food, which is apropos given its name is derived from the latin word, maseter, which translates to “chewer.”  This muscle is also used in speaking and swallowing.

When the masseter is unhappy for any reason, it can cause an array of conditions or disorders in the TMJ from chronic pain to grinding of the teeth.  It behooves those who appreciate pain free talking, chewing, smiling, and sleeping to give this guy a little love every once and a while.

Check back on Friday for some masseter-loving techniques!

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Amanda Joyce

I’m a 500 hour Certified YA teacher through YogaWorks as well as a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer through NASM and ISSA (with continuing education certificates with CHEK, TRX, BOSU and about 20 others). I consider the human body the most sophisticated piece of machinery that will ever be created so I'm dedicated to my pedagogic endeavors in order to bring my clients the results they need. I love the Yoga and Fitness communities and am excited to have found a home that straddles them both. I consider my YTU education to be one of the most important tools I've found both personally and professionally.

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I have heard that the masseter is the strongest muscle in the body – happy to add the clarification ‘relative to its size.’ As a jaw clencher it’s helpful to give this powerhouse a name and now try to get it back to functioning properly…


This is such a small and powerful and magical muscle. The first time I get to massage on this after 26 years of its hardwork, it was so sore. There is also article about chewing more can benefits to the human body health, not only the speaking/ swallowing/ eating/ chewing part!


So true! The face is often neglected or forgotten, I guess the same could also be said for the feet. What a great way to highlight an often overlooked area of the body! Love the creative style of writing in this piece!


So true! The face is so often forgotten & neglected, but I suppose the same could be said for the feet as well. Love the writing style in this piece! Thanks for highlighting a forgotten area in such a creative way!

Marie streich

Thanks for the great article about this often forgotten muscle. I didn’t know it was the strongest muscle in the body, relative to its size. !


Thanks for the information on the masseter. It is always good to know the name of the muscle that is giving me so much pain!


Its easy to forget about the face muscles and our jaw does so much – talking, chewing, smiling along with other facial expressions! Thanks for the reminder to release it along with our other personal self care techniques.


How did I not know this was the strongest muscle in the body!? I think the Temporalis relation, is incredible how it dips behind the masseter and zygomatic arch. Honestly, I dont stress this muscle often except…. when I blow up a coregeous ball!

Sebastien Noel

on oubli souvent de prendre soin de nos muscles du visage.Pour ma part j’avais jamais observer et pris conscience de ces muscles.Merci


I think this is a great reminder that the muscles of the face need to be cared for as well. TMJ and teeth grinding can also be very common during class…I will have to remember to present in a similar fashion to your Simon says!

jJanie Hickman

Isn’t it amazing how we take so much for granted. As a dental hygienist, I am well aware of TMJ problems and the pain involved. I am glad I am taking the YTU level 1 and learning ways to alleviate this pain. Knowledge is power.

Catherine Jervis

Haha i love the introduction to this article! Coming from the fitness world I think we often often ignore the muscles that aren’t actively involved in improving our lifts, yoga poses, running, swimming, etc. You did a good job describing the location of the masster and is pivotal role in speaking and chewing– something that I think we are all very happy to have use of!

Christine Heroux

Thanks for the article. I just recently remembered that the masseter also needs to be addressed from the inside of the mouth. This is just again another reminder and somewhere where I can send clients to get accurate information.

Laurie Streff Kostman

As a fitness professional teaching several classes a week, I can whole jaw, cheek and headedly relate to the impact the YTU balls have on the hard working muscles we use to talk, eat, smile and express ourselves. Rolling on the masseter in particular brings great relief to my jaw area, as well as a huge wave of down regulation to my entire body, due to the comfy side-lying position it takes to perform it in. I enjoy your writing style, Amanda; wonderful detail and terrific points of importance, along with just the right amount of humor. I agree with… Read more »


I once had a dentist to whom I mentioned that I thought jaw issues could occur due to unhealthy habitual movement patterns in other parts of the body. He agreed wholeheartedly. You don’t think of a dentist as someone who thinks about things outside what is inside the mouth, but this dentist took a holistic approach. While he didn’t offer advice for other parts of the body, he did outfit me with a mouth guard which helped me keep a neutral jaw position when I slept. This helped to relax my masseter. So do YTU balls, which really highlight for… Read more »

Jona Joyce

I can never forget how much regular therapy of these angry tissues can change your life. YTU Therapy Balls are perfect for so much self care, but I my opinion this is the most over looked areas of the body in desperate need of them. Thank you for sharing.

Gina Decker

Thank you for this information. Interesting to know the masseter it is one of the strongest muscles working in the body. My temporalis muscle is very tight because of the tapping and grinding I do in my sleep. I wear a guard to protect my teeth and roll and massage the temporalis muscle regularly. Now, I suppose I should start massaging and rolling out the masseter.

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Gen Morris

It always suprisies me how much stress I can hold in the jaw. Such an easy roll to relieve this extra pressure which can contribute to headaches.


Such an issue for people. Often the grinding leads to migraines also. My students love using the balls on their jaw.

Stephanie F. Osmena

I am always in a jaw lock when I exercise. I’ve got to stop this and bring more awareness to my mandible, which I did not know is also called the masseter.I am new to biomechanics and found your blog very informative. Thank you!

Mai Nguyen

Very important muscle to know! Fun and informative read.

Tracy Hodgeman

Amanda, this was a real treat. Thank you for your delicious use of words and humor to describe such an important and chewy muscle. Bravo!!!

Rose Washburn

When I think of my body’s musculature I rarely think of my face! I typically think of bigger muscles like the hamstrings being the workhorses. The masseter is a key muscle with a big job that we don’t typically think about until we experience a problem. Good idea to keep it happy!


Hi Amanda,
Thanks fo the reminder. I often tell my students to relax their faces and their jaws. I’ll use more anatomical terms with some further explanation next time.


thanks for this! As someone who has tmj/tmd, it’s astonishing to me how most dental practitioners do such a poor job at helping TM/TMD sufferers learn about this muscle and how to keep it relaxed. The techniques are not difficult and don’t take much time but astonishing how much it is ignored by profesionals. Thanks for making the effort to educate us.