Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Book Review: The Muscular System

By Adams, Amy
Published August 30, 2004
240 pages

The Muscular System is an introductory text about, you guessed it, the human muscular system. The subject is covered broadly rather than in depth. It's more of a basic overview of both skeletal and smooth muscles, and how they work, and less of an in-depth guide to any particular aspect. Skeletal muscle are what we normally think of when someone says muscles - the muscles that attach to our skeleton and help us stand, move, and lift objects. Smooth muscles are those organ muscles, such as the heart, which are not physically dependent on the skeletal system and which we, generally, don't have much control over.

The book consists of 10 chapters:

1 - Anatomy of the Muscular System
2 - Energy Use by Muscles
3 - Muscular Adaptation to Exercise
4 - Development of the Muscular System
5 - Early Discoveries in Muscle Anatomy and Physiology
6 - Current Approaches to Understanding the Muscular System
7 - Muscular Injuries
8 - Muscular Dystrophy
9 - Other Diseases of the Skeletal Muscles
10 - Diseases of the Heart Muscle acronyms, a glossary, and additional reference sources.

Each chapter covers its subject broadly, starting from the very basics and then getting into a series of related sub-topics. Each sub-section is carefully explained, and studies are often cited in each section to further explain or support the information. Additional boxed text, as well as pictures, illustrations, and graphs, add to the text's message and help clarify points made in the text.

These sections are good - you'll find discussions of muscle knots vs. muscle sprains in chapter 7, for example, and left-right discrepancies in muscular development (you aren't the same from one side to another). But sometimes they have just enough information to tell you that you need to learn more. For example, the section on musculature in the 50+ population says that muscle size drops steadily after age 50, and this can be halted to an extent with training. But it doesn't discuss what kind of training beyond endurance vs. strength training, no word on methodology, or even if muscular mass is more important than raw strength or power (ability to apply strength with speed). You just don't know, and need to find out more. This is fine an introductory text, but it does feel like a limitation when you read the text. You want and need more but you don't have a path to getting it.

As a depressing aside, it's amazing and saddening how many of our studies on musculature are based on rats, not humans. A lot of what we know about muscles is extrapolated from animal studies. This is for a lot of good reasons, but it also means that much if it is "if the same is true in humans..." and not "studies in humans have shown..." Recently studies have shown human men and human women have differences in responses to training, protein intake, creatine kinase release after exercise, and so on - nevermind comparing species to species.

Content: 4 out of 5. Everything in it is on-target and well done. It's pretty basic, which is good, but sometimes it is a little too basic and misses a chance to more fully explain the concepts inside.
Presentation: 5 out of 5. Easy to read, laid out well, and illustrated well. The charts and illustrations are pertinent, clear, and reinforce the points being discussed.

Overall: A very good introduction to the muscular system. Sadly not worth the very high price tag. Worth checking out of the library and reading if you need a basic understanding of the human muscular system.

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