Muscle, The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement

OVER TWO YEARS IN “TRAINING”, THE BOOK Launches July 25, with a Special Pre-LAUNCH Offer

Introduction to Muscle

Did you just blink? Was it voluntary or involuntary? Either way, one set of tiny motors closed your eyelids, and another set opened them. As you read these words, the muscles in the iris of your eye are automatically moving to adjust the amount of light they let in, and those around your lens are focusing the words on your retina. These are examples of movement–one of life’s essential features.

Sages as far back as Aristotle have tried—and failed—to come up with a universally acceptable definition of life. As a reasonable approximation, biology teachers resort to the mnemonic MRS GREN, which represents movement, reproduction, sensitivity, growth, respiration, excretion, and nutrition. These are the tightly interconnected index functions performed by all life forms. Among the seven attributes, movement plays double duty for animals, including humans. Not only is muscle movement critical to our internal workings of respiration, digestion, and reproduction, it also can transport us in search for the best air, food, and mate as well as remove us from danger. In this regard, plants suffer. appreciate our bodies, improve our health, and move artfully at all ages, an understanding of this rippling tissue and its myriad powers is paramount.

While it is possible for you to rest your eye muscles all night, another muscle never stops. Your heart has been contracting roughly 70-100 times a minute since you were a three-week-old embryo. Cardiac muscle is amazingly durable and has the potential to sustain a human for over 100 years. Also working behind the scenes and out of our conscious control are the smooth muscles that cause us to blush, have goosebumps, and digest food. A third kind of muscle firmly attached their ends to bones and can produce incredible feats of . These skeletal muscles have enabled one man to complete sixty-eight pullups in a minute, another to high-jump over eight feet, and a woman to bicycle at a record speed of 184 miles per hour.

Muscles stand apart not only for what they can do, but also because—unlike so many of our bodies’ internal elements—they can be observed. Only thinly draped with skin, muscles telegraph to an observer the person’s overall health and vigor. The liver, kidneys, and other internal organs are just as vital as muscle, but unless they are way out of kilter, their states of health are not apparent from across the room. What’s more, only muscle is amenable to spot training. With heavy lifting, you can develop bulging biceps; but heavy thinking won’t enlarge your brain. (And although heavy drinking will enlarge your liver, it will be your whole liver, not just part of it, and detrimentally so.)  

Regardless of your habits, are you happy with your weight? Strength? Physique? Blood pressure? Blood sugar level? Mental and physical endurance? Sleep pattern? Particularly if you are sedentary for most of the day, you likely have to answer “no” to at least one of these questions. Furthermore, do you want a long and active life? If so, healthy muscles are key.

Our muscle mass peaks at about age twenty-seven and thereafter begins a long and inexorable decline, which with good lifestyle choices, we can slow. Still, along the way, we may face a variety of maladies, including hypertension, myocardial infarction, gastric reflux, stress incontinence, or erectile dysfunction. All these problems stem from some muscle disorder, and a thorough understanding of how these derangements occur and can be treated guide informed lifestyle and treatment choices. Such understanding will have growing importance in future years as today’s cutting-edge, emerging, and imagined technologies evolve and mature. These include perfecting artificial hearts, editing genes to cure muscular dystrophy, and advancing immunology understanding that will make pig-to-human heart transplants feasible.   

Maladies aside, expected increases in life expectancy and leisure time will afford us the opportunity to enjoy our muscles wisely over extended years. Will diet supplements, exercise equipment, and gym memberships help? They come with enticing claims for building muscle and losing fat. But how many of them are phony, and which are scientifically based, life-maintaining, and life-enhancing advances that we should embrace? Answers to all these questions require an understanding of strength and movement.

Muscle: The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement is a guided tour through this force producer’s myriad virtues and capabilities. Ranging between the disparate worlds of biology, art history, popular culture, and bodybuilding, as well as the frontiers of gene editing and stem cell research, you will come to understand and marvel at muscle’s structure and function and be in position to understand new developments. We need, for example, to find a way for astronauts to maintain muscle mass during a zero-gravity trip to Mars. And is it true that the act of smiling can make you happier?

Humans’ infatuation with muscles spans millennia.  Depicted in bronze and marble, ancient Grecian sculptures of Titan, Atlas, Heracles, and fellow immortals are exceedingly buff, although it is unlikely that their sculptors had any direct knowledge of muscle anatomy. That changed in the Renaissance, and it shows. Michelangelo’s muscular and lifelike David is a stunning tribute to the sculptor’s genius and to Michelangelo’s clandestine cadaver dissections. More recently, icons of pop culture, imagined and real, include Popeye, Superman, the Jolly Green Giant, Charles Atlas, and Steve Reeves—all with ripped physiques. Anyone who wants to enhance their own musculature to emulate Marvel movie-stars and those of us who just wish to maintain health and well being without getting “swole” need a firm grasp of the subject. Let’s get moving.

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Reviews for Muscle

Two Economic Indicators: Old Bones and a New Book

Old Bones: In order to get a sense of the changing economy, investors watch market indexes, unemployment rates, and maybe the rise and fall of hemlines. Then acting on their favored information, they might speculate in Bitcoin or other ephemera, but more tangible indicators and opportunities await. If one really wants to predict where the economy is going, the fluctuating prices for Tyrannosaurus rex fossilized skeletons may be the best indicator to watch. Presently there are only 20 relatively intact sets of T rex fossils, and owners seem attached to them. but more fossils will be unearthed. How sensitive will they be to market pressures? When should the astute investor jump in?

I blogged about the T rex marketplace several years ago and recounted the discovery and eventual auction of Sue for roughly $8 million in 1997 (more like $13 million in today’s dollars). In 2019, I also alerted potential buyers to the availability of a baby T rex fossilized skeleton on eBay for a “buy it now” $2.95 million. It did not sell, and I do not know its present whereabouts.

What’s happened more recently?

  • In 2020, an anonymous bidder purchased another remarkably intact T rex, Stan, for a staggering $32 million, the highest price ever paid for a fossil. Bull market!
  • In November 2022, Christie’s in Hong Kong canceled the auction of Shen at the last minute. Market crash! The auction house stated that the specimen would “benefit from further study.” Shen, which means gold-like in Chinese, had been expected to sell for between $15 million and $25 million before an astute observer noted that parts of Shen may be replicas of Stan’s bones.
  • In December 2022, Sotheby’s brought the gavel down on a T rex skull, Maximus, for $6.1 million, far less than the expected $15 million to $20 million. Bear market!
  • Then in April 2023, Trinity, an assemblage of parts from three different T rexs brought in a mere $4.8 million, less than the Zurich auctioneer’s estimated range of $5.6 to $9 million. Recession? Depression?

Bull or bear, the whole idea of auctioning privately acquired fossils severely sickens academic paleontologists. Amateur and professional fossil hunters yearn to discover a pot of gold and may not excavate, record, and preserve their finds as carefully as would academically inclined paleontologists. Also mega-wealthy private investors can outbid museums for any discovered bounty, potentially removing these world treasures from scientific scrutiny and public appreciation.

Such was the worry when Stan fell into the hands of an anonymous bidder. But a year and a half later, by sleuthing American trade records, National Geographic magazine tracked this nearly 6-ton shipment from New York to Abu Dhabi. Officials there owned up the the purchase. When their new natural history museum opens in 2025, Stan will be the featured attraction.

Decide for yourself about bidding on the next T rex that comes on the market. Just remember that your budget should include plans for a display area that is accessible to the public and that is suitable for featuring your 40-foot-long, 12-foot-high, stone-bone investment, far more solid than Bitcoins or tweets regardless of market fluctuations.

If you are pinched for funds at the moment but still would like a T rex for your living room, polyurethane casts of Stan are available for a down-to-earth $120,000.


A New Book: Launching July 25:

Muscle, The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement

Goodreads Rating: FIVE STARS “…some laugh out loud moments.”

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Muscle Monikers, Part II

Excerpted from Muscle, The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement, Chapter One, Discovery and Description

a well-developed rectus abdominus

Length determines the name for some muscles. Thumb in Latin is pollux, and it has two muscles that fold (flex) the thumb across the palm— the flexor pollicis longus and flexor pollicis brevis. Size matters too. I am guessing that you are presently sitting on your gluteus maximus muscles. (Gluteus comes from Greek gloutos, buttock.)
Between the gluteus maximus and the pelvis are the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles. And smack against the backof the hip joint is a matched pair of small muscles, the superior and inferior gemelli— twins. In the abdominal wall, alignment is everything. The rectus (straight) abdominis (the highly valued “six-pack”) runs longitudinally, while the obliquus externus abdominis and transversus abdominis run their separate routes.

Other muscles resemble geometric shapes and are so named.
There are three “quadratus” (square) muscles. One is in the foot,
one is deep in the forearm, and the other crosses the hip joint. The
rhomboid major and minor are parallelogram-shaped muscles that
attach on the thoracic spine and the shoulder blade; and the deltoid,
crossing over the top of the shoulder, is the shape of the Greek letter
Δ. The serratus anterior has a jagged origin from multiple ribs on
the front of the chest, and the gracilis is indeed slender or gracile— a
long, thin muscle on the inner thigh.

Several muscles’ names describe their action. The cremaster (a
muscle that lifts the testicle) derives its name from the Greek verb
for “I hang,” and the levator scapulae raises the shoulder blade.
A few muscles’ names simply identify their origins and insertions.
For instance, the sternocleidomastoid is the strappy muscle on the
side of the neck that turns your head to the side. One end attaches
on the breastbone (sterno) and collarbone (clavicle, cleido) and the
other end fastens to the mastoid process of the skull, which is palpable
just behind the earlobe.

Some muscles received names of objects they resemble. Piriformis, a hip muscle, is pear-shaped. The deep calf muscle, the soleus, is sandal-shaped. Overlying it is the bulgy gastrocnemius, literally the belly of the leg. In each palm and sole are four worm-shaped muscles, lumbricales manus and lumbricales pedis, respectively. The Latin name for earthworm is Lumbricus.

My favorite muscle name is sartorius, which applies to the longest muscle in the body. It starts high on the pelvic rim, crosses the front of the thigh, and finishes on the inside of the leg just below the knee. Contracting the sartorius on both sides causes the hips to flex, the thighs to rotate outward, and the knees to flex, resulting in the owner ending up in a cross- leg sitting position. This is the position that tailors traditionally assumed when working on garments in their laps. Sartor in Latin means tailor, hence sartorius’s name.

MUSCLE, The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement, launches July 25, 2023. Order now.

Purchase before launch date and CONTACT us with your snail mail address to receive a personalized bookplate.

Muscle Monikers, Part One

Excerpted from Muscle, The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement, Chapter One, Discovery and Description

While interest in and knowledge of anatomy increased steadily during the Renaissance, differentiating and naming the newly observed muscles proceeded with fits and starts. Andreas Vesalius, in his landmark anatomy tome of 1543, tended to number them. In addition to naming two jaw muscles and the six-pack, he also named an arm muscle the anterior cubitum flectentium musculus[NG1] —though it seems, in this case, a nice succinct number would have been more user-friendly. Had all the muscles retained numbers, however, it could get cumbersome if somebody asked you to flex your number 489 and you couldn’t remember which one it was, out of the roughly 650 that humans have.

Fortunately, anatomists after Vesalius pitched in and gave the muscles descriptive names and renamed the anterior cubitum flectentium musculus the biceps. That’s part of the good news. The bad news is that because Latin was the language of science at the time, some of the names may seem foreign to those of us whose Latin skills are languishing. The other part of the good news is that with a uniform Latin terminology, anatomists and health-care providers around the world could and continue to communicate clearly with one another; and with a bit of linguistic dissection, the names are not all that foreign.

Some of the original names were outright poetic. Consider, for instance, the contributions of Jan Jesenius (1566–1621), a Bohemian physician, politician, and philosopher. He named the muscles controlling the eyeball’s movement amatorius (muscle of lovers), superbus (proud muscle), bibitorius (muscle of drinkers), indignatorius (muscle of anger), and humilis (muscle of lowliness). Twenty years later Jesenius was executed, but it was his political allegiance rather than his muscle naming that got him in trouble. It is too bad that in 1895 anatomists standardized the nomenclature and dully renamed the eye muscles according to their location (superior, inferior, medial, lateral) and alignment (rectus [straight] and oblique). In fact, contraction of the medial rectus muscles would make one cross-eyed, so maybe the Terminology Committee should have left them as the muscle of drinkers (bibitorius).

Most names are straightforward and need only a smattering of Latin to understand. For instance, some muscles received names according to their location, such as the subclavius (under the clavicle) and the intercostales externi (external layer, between the ribs). Others are named by the number of their parts: Bi- means two, and the biceps has two origins, one from the shoulder blade, one from the upper arm bone. The triceps has three origins, and the quadriceps has . . . well, guess.

Muscle, The Gripping Story of Strength and Movement, launches July 25, 2023. Order now.

Bones Introduces Its New Companion, Arriving July 25

An entertaining illustrated deep dive into muscle, from the discovery of human anatomy to the latest science of strength training. Read more…

Special Offer

Purchase MUSCLE prior to its launch date, July 25, 2023.

Send your snail mail address and first name.

Receive a personalized, signed bookplate, which you can insert in your first edition.

Order now from the publisher, WW Norton, or from

Read excerpt from Chapter One, Discovery and Description: Muscle Monikers

About Spring  …ing Ligaments

Pronghorn are the fastest North American land mammals. They first won this accolade more than 10,000 years ago when their ancestors successfully eluded cheetahs, long-legged hyenas, and huge bears, thought to be far swifter than modern varieties. All those ancient predators died off, perhaps because they could no longer have pronghorn for dinner. Today pronghorn remain a marvel of adaptations that equip them for speed across the Great Plains and western mountains from southern Canada to northern Mexico.  

John J. Audubon described their locomotion this way:

The walk is a slow and somewhat pompous gait, their trot elegant and graceful, and their gallop or “run” light and inconceivably swift; they pass along, up and down hills, or along the level plain with the same apparent ease, while so rapidly do their legs perform their graceful  movements  in  propelling  their  bodies  over  the ground, that like the spokes of a fast turning wheel we can  hardly  see  them,  but  instead,  observe  a  gauzy  or film-like appearance where they should be visible. 

Yes, modern cheetahs are the fastest land mammals on earth, topping out at about 70 miles per hour, but only for a few seconds and several hundred yards. Greyhounds also are fleet of foot, but they tire quickly as well. Pronghorn can sprint almost as fast, but they can also maintain a 45-mph pace for miles. At the end they appear not to be particularly winded as they look back with their keen eyesight and likely laugh at whatever perceived danger startled them. Compared to other hoofed creatures, their windpipes, hearts, and lungs are oversized—all which endow pronghorn with “horsepower.” Some enterprising investigators proved this by persuading two pronghorn, which had been raised in captivity, to wear face masks and measured their oxygen consumption while they ran on a treadmill. (I would have loved to see that spectacle.)  The researchers showed that the pronghorns’ oxygen-delivery capacity was three times that of other animals of similar weight.

The combination of a large “carburetor” and “engine” and equally important adaptations in its “suspension system” and “wheels” results in an unparalleled speed machine. Of course, the “suspension system” and “wheels” are really this speedster’s arrangement of bones, muscles, and ligaments.

At about 110 pounds, a pronghorn’s is mostly torso. Imagine a thin head and neck sticking out of a steamer trunk that is supported on broomsticks. Its muscular shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees (stifle joints to veterinarians) appear to be part of its torso with only long, spindly legs visible beneath. These energy-efficient limbs can move quickly, just as the speed and ease of repeatedly swinging a broomstick greatly exceed the facility of swinging a bulgy baseball bat.

Three features make these long levers even more effective. Pronghorn lack collar bones, which adds to their forelimbs’ mobility in the direction of running. This increases both the tempo and length of their stride.

As with horses, a pronghorn’s metacarpals and metatarsals are reduced to two, which are fused together. They are called cannon bones (described in a previous post), and in pronghorn they are nine inches long and remarkably thin.

Thirdly, a strong ligament, the appropriately named springing ligament, attaches each cannon bone to its corresponding toe bone. The ligament stretches when the speedster puts weight on its hoof (toes), and it then snaps back like a rubber band to add stored energy to the power of the stride. And stride it does. A pronghorn can travel as far as 29 feet each time its hooves touch the ground; and at a pace of three strides per second, it runs a hundred yards in just over three seconds, about three times faster than Usain Bolt, the world’s fastest human.

The pronhorn’s anatomical features that favor speed do not, however, make them good jumpers. Whereas a deer can soar over a seven-foot-tall fence with ease and soften their landing on their forelegs, pronghorn look for a way under even a four-foot-tall barrier. When they do jump, even over a small gulley, they tend to land on their hind legs, which one observer described as “goofy-looking” maneuver. It would, however, spare their spindly front cannon bones from breaking.

Here is one final conversation point when you find yourself among bone, muscle, and ligament lovers. Antlers, found on deer, moose, and caribou, for instance, are made of bone and are shed every year. Horns, possessed by mountain sheep and rhinos, for example, are bony extensions of their skulls; they are sheathed in keratin (the same protein that constitutes hair and fingernails) and are permanent. Pronghorn are unique in that the keratin sheaths on their horns are shed annually.    

MUSCLE will be perfect, the publisher has delayed its launch to July 25 to make it so.

pre-order now from WW Norton or from

In this lively, lucid book, orthopedic surgeon Roy A. Meals takes us on a wide-ranging journey through anatomy, biology, history, and health to unlock the mysteries of our muscles. He breaks down the three different types of muscle—smooth, skeletal, and cardiac—and explores major advancements in medicine and fitness, including cutting-edge gene-editing research and the science behind popular muscle conditioning strategies. Along the way, he offers insight into the changing aesthetic and cultural conception of muscle, from Michelangelo’s David to present-day bodybuilders, and shares fascinating examples of strange muscular maladies and their treatment. Brimming with fun facts and infectious enthusiasm, Muscle sheds light on the astonishing, essential tissue that moves us through life.

Wagging Tails Break Bones

Imagine that you are a tyrannosaur rumbling around 76 million years ago in what is now Montana. As fearsome as you are, you are in mortal danger from a low-slung herbivore half your size and weight, even though you may have one for dinner now and then. The rub is that Zuul crurivastator had a tail to kill for, or rather, to kill with. Zuul’s tail was nine feet long with a club at its terminus the size of a 3-inch-thick cafeteria tray. The knob enclosed two large, heavy osteoderms, which are bony plates in the skin seen today in armadillos, crocodiles, and Gila monsters, but with much smaller dimensions. Many dinosaurs possessed osteoderm armor, but tail clubs were unusual. If Zuul flailed its tail and hit your shin bone (remember, you are a Gorgosaurus or other tyrannosaur of the time*), it could render you much less tyrannical, perhaps fatally cripple you. And the fossil record does include various tyrannosaur skeletons with such injuries. Not coincidentally, “crurivastator” means “destroyer of shins.”

Well, the described scenario has been circulating for years and might be of interest for a Jurassic Park sequel, but evidence now suggests that it is wrong. A recent report opines that Zuul wagged its tail violently not to ward off predators but rather to fight over mates, similar to the way modern-day bison and mountain goats butt heads–not to the death, but to establish preeminence. So, you may ask, what is the evidence for a Zuul mating ritual? Intriguing to say the least.

In 2014, paleontologists were using a Bobcat frontend loader to rapidly remove a 39-foot “overburden” of stone sediment to expose the geologic layer that they were interested in exploring. The machine unexpectedly scraped across the surface of a Zuul’s tail club. Because the animal’s fossilized skeleton had not been exposed to erosive forces since it was originally covered with silt 76 million years ago, it was in pristine condition—99% complete including tail and trunk osteoderms in their original positions along with some skin and non-bony keratin scales and sheaths of the creature’s many spikes. (Keratin is the protein that constitutes nails and hair and covers bird beaks and cow horns.) Since keratin and skin are not normally preserved in the fossil record, this Zuul was deemed a “dinosaur mummy.” The Royal Ontario Museum purchased the two 15-ton blocks of stone that encased Zuul and then spent years with magnifying lenses, micro jackhammers, and paint brushes tediously extricating Zuul from its stone tomb, as highlighted in this three-minute descriptive video.

Osteoderms on the beast’s flanks were of particular interest because they showed signs of fracture, whereas signs of similar injuries to osteoderms on the rest of the body were uncommon. The injuries were not inflicted by piercing teeth or slashing claws rendered by a tyrannosaur, rather they resulted from blunt, heavy blows. Furthermore, the damaged osteoderms showed differing degrees of healing, implying that the insults were sublethal and recurrent, perhaps even ritual. Paleontologists have yet to determine the sex of any dinosaur, so you are free to speculate whether these osteoderm-damaging encounters involved competing Zuul females or males.

OK, it’s time to stop envisioning yourself as a tyrannosaur. Rather imagine the myriad yet-to-be-discovered fossils, which will reveal prehistoric animals’ anatomy and also maybe their behavior. Thank you, bone.

*The best-known species of tyrannosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex, did not live at the same time as Zuul, but rather 8-10 million years later.


Launching June 13, 2023

pre-order now from the publisher, WW Norton, or from

An entertaining illustrated deep dive into muscle, from the discovery of human anatomy to the latest science of strength training.

Muscle tissue powers every heartbeat, blink, jog, jump, and goosebump. It is the force behind the most critical bodily functions, including digestion and childbirth, as well as extreme feats of athleticism. We can mold our muscles with exercise and observe the results.

In this lively, lucid book, orthopedic surgeon Roy A. Meals takes us on a wide-ranging journey through anatomy, biology, history, and health to unlock the mysteries of our muscles. He breaks down the three different types of muscle―smooth, skeletal, and cardiac―and explores major advancements in medicine and fitness, including cutting-edge gene-editing research and the science behind popular muscle conditioning strategies. Along the way, he offers insight into the changing aesthetic and cultural conception of muscle, from Michelangelo’s David to present-day bodybuilders, and shares fascinating examples of strange muscular maladies and their treatment. Brimming with fun facts and infectious enthusiasm, Muscle sheds light on the astonishing, essential tissue that moves us through life.

Deceptively Named Restaurants

Should travelers find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings when it is time to eat, a restaurant’s signage often signals its featured cuisine. For instance, Waffle House, International House of Pancakes, California Pizza Kitchen, Steak n’ Shake, Taco Bell, and Red Lobster aren’t keeping any secrets.

Yet it is hard if not impossible to ascertain the featured fare of other eateries, especially high-end ones. A listing of the world’s 50 best restaurants includes only one, Casa do Porco in Sao Paulo, House of the Pig in Portuguese (ranked #5), that hints at its menu. Some of the top restaurants have names that seem meaningless. These include Diverxo (#4, Madrid), The Jane (#21, Antwerp), and Sorn (#39, Bangkok). When translated, others have names that have meaning, but their relationship with food is murky. Take, for instance, Pujol (Small Hill, #5, Mexico City), Septime (a position in fencing, #22, Paris), and Belcanto (A Beautiful Song, #46, Lisbon). Then there are ones that worry me. I can only hope that their names have nothing to do with what they serve. Otherwise, what might you expect to find on your plate at Geranium (#1, Copenhagen), Nobelhart and Schmutzig (#17, Berlin), or The Chairman (#24, Hong Kong)?

You are probably asking yourself, “What’s the point of this discourse in a blog supposedly focused on muscle and bone?” Well, every non-vegetarian restaurant serves muscle, but I challenge you to find one that has muscle in its name. (Bertha’s Mussels in Baltimore gets close. Even so, it recently closed.) Bones are another matter. A quick google search turned up more than 50 U.S. eateries with bones in their names, but they rarely if ever serve bones. (Maybe that’s why none are listed in the international top 50.)

Smokey Bones is a chain of about 60 establishments in 16 Eastern states, otherwise, bone-related restaurants seem to be one-offs. They are scattered widely and have names such as Shell and Bones (New Haven), Bourbon and Bones (Scottsdale), Fish Bones Grill (Lewiston), Chicken Bones (Baltimore), Dirty Bones (Dallas), and Rice and Bones (Berkeley). But really, are these establishments luring you in for a savory platter of marrow bones and a steaming cup of bone broth*? Aren’t they really saying that you should come have some meat, perhaps still on the bone? Yet nobody is straightforward and calls their eatery Meat or Flesh or Muscle. It seems that bones in the name is just thinly veiled code for we-specialize-in-serving-animal-derived-protein. Perhaps the subtlety is designed to mollify vegetarians.

After stewing over this possibility, I decided it would be safer and more palatable to sample a bones-named restaurant rather than one dishing out pujols, chairmen, or schmutzig. I chose Bones in Atlanta. It has been an institution since opening in 1979. Its website unabashedly states, “Bones has received the Best of Atlanta Steakhouse Award each year for the past sixteen years. Recently, Zagat recognized Bones as having the highest rating for food and service of any steakhouse in America.”

Their lunch menu includes Bones Lobster Bisque, Bones Burger, and BLT with Bones Bacon. I am guessing that these dishes do not have bones in them but are just some of their signature plates. The same goes for dinner. Their Bones Seafood Platter is offered along with an array of steaks, chops, and seafood. It appears, however, that the only time diners can actually have a bone brought to their table is when they order a “bone-in” filet or rib-eye.

So as a bone lover, I was disappointed about the disconnect between Bones’ name and its fare, but I was fully pleased with the ambient setting, good service, and great food. I agreed with this Zagat reviewer. “Bring a big appetite…to this ridiculously decadent power steakhouse that beats those national chains hands down.” I had scallops because they fit my cholesterol and monetary budgets better than their land-derived meat options, bone in or out. On leaving, I received a box of faux bones to gnaw on at bedtime.

To my reckoning, the only restaurant that has a legitimate claim to its osseous name is Hueso (bone in Spanish) in Guadalajara. There, 10,000 bleached bones adorn the walls. Regardless of what Hueso serves, I can’t wait to visit.

Hueso, Guadalajara

* See the previous post relating to eating bone: Bone Broth, My Quest for the Best.


Launching June 13, 2023

pre-order now from the publisher or from

An entertaining illustrated deep dive into muscle, from the discovery of human anatomy to the latest science of strength training.

Muscle tissue powers every heartbeat, blink, jog, jump, and goosebump. It is the force behind the most critical bodily functions, including digestion and childbirth, as well as extreme feats of athleticism. We can mold our muscles with exercise and observe the results.

In this lively, lucid book, orthopedic surgeon Roy A. Meals takes us on a wide-ranging journey through anatomy, biology, history, and health to unlock the mysteries of our muscles. He breaks down the three different types of muscle―smooth, skeletal, and cardiac―and explores major advancements in medicine and fitness, including cutting-edge gene-editing research and the science behind popular muscle conditioning strategies. Along the way, he offers insight into the changing aesthetic and cultural conception of muscle, from Michelangelo’s David to present-day bodybuilders, and shares fascinating examples of strange muscular maladies and their treatment. Brimming with fun facts and infectious enthusiasm, Muscle sheds light on the astonishing, essential tissue that moves us through life. 90 illustrations

Eugen Sandow, The Father of Modern Body Building

Concurrent with the modern Olympic movement, the emphasis on the perfect human physique came to captivate Prussian Eugen Sandow (1867-1925). He described his early teenage self as weedy, fragile, and pale-skinned. When he was fifteen, his father took him on a trip to Rome where the young man became infatuated with the brawny brutes represented in Greek and Roman statuary. He dreamed of emulating them, and on return home Sandow committed himself to achieve a state of physical perfection. To determine exactly what the “Grecian ideal” should be, he visited museums and measured statues’ various dimensions.

Then taking tips from circus strongmen, Sandow began pumping iron to achieve the Grecian ideal of broad shoulders, tapered back, small waist, and detailed but overwhelmingly huge muscles. He performed lots of reps. It worked (and it still does).

Sandow stressed the aesthetics of muscle size and definition over strength, but he became strong in the process. At eighteen, he left home and toured Europe first as a circus athlete and professional wrestler and later as a weightlifter. Eventually, Florenz Ziegfield contracted him to show off in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Once they discovered that the audiences were more interested in Sandow’s robust physique than in how much weight he was lifting, Ziegfield asked him to pose and flex in what he called “muscle display performances” to highlight various muscle groups.

Subsequently, Sandow traveled the world, published Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture, and name-branded a line of cigars, possibly the first celebrity endorsement of a commercial product. In his performances, Sandow dazzled audiences with feats of strength such as lifting pianos, bending iron bars, bench-pressing cows, and tearing decks of cards in half, a stunt for which Sandow was once bested. A young man in the audience, who later became the “World’s Strongest Youth,” jumped on the stage, took half of the torn deck from Sandow, and tore it in half again.

In 1901, Sandow hosted the first major bodybuilding show, “The Great Competition,” for an overflowing crowd at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Clad in leopard-skin leotards, the sixty contestants flexed their muscles for the enthusiastic crowd and the discerning eyes of the three judges, who were Charles Lawes, a sculptor and athlete; Arthur Conan Doyle, author and friend of Sandow’s; and Sandow himself. The winner received a gold-plated statuette of the competition’s nearly naked host.

For all these accomplishments, Sandow is known as the father of modern bodybuilding. (Take note, bodybuilding contests stress form, not strength. By contrast, powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters are not judged at all on their appearance, just on their strength and explosive speed, respectively.) Sandow inspired the golden age of body builders, which included Steve Reeves, Frank Zane, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Today, the award for the Mr. Olympia contest is “The Sandow.”


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The Tooth Is Mightier Than the Bone

Despite my unwavering respect for bone because of its durability and hardness, I must admit that teeth are equally durable and even harder. The tooth’s enamel is the hardest substance in the body and consists almost entirely of the same calcium crystal that constitutes bone. Enamel, however, has none of the collagen meshwork that give bones a bit of resiliency when suddenly stressed, so teeth are far more brittle.

Bones come in vastly more shapes and sizes than teeth and have the same collagen/calcium composition through and through. By contrast, teeth have multiple layers of differing compositions and attributes.  Supporting the crown and extending to the tips of the roots, the dentin is softer and more porous than the enamel. Dentin surrounds the pulp, where a tooth’s blood vessels and nerves reside and where endodontists make their living performing root canals. Covering the dentin below the gum line is a thin layer of cementum, which is softer than both enamel and dentin. Its principal function is to support what dentists blithely call the PDL—periodontal ligament. I object to this name, because bone lovers know that ligaments span from bone to bone across joints, stabilize them, allow motion in some directions, and prevent motion in others. When I posed this flagrant misuse of the term ligament to my dentist, he lamely responded that the PDL spans from bone to tooth and stabilizes the roots in their sockets. For the most part, however, motion between tooth and bone is undesirable, so I think the PDL, which is about as thick as several sheets of paper, should be called the periodontal membrane or covering. Yet my opinion is apparently not shared with those who love teeth more than bones. (In the US alone, dentists outnumber me nearly 200,000 to one.)

Regardless of what it is called, the PDL is responsible for this essay’s title, because if teeth and bones become engaged in a shoving match, teeth win. This is because pressure on a tooth causes specialized bone-dissolving cells in the areas where the PDL is being compressed to remove bone and let the tooth move along. In its wake, specialized bone-forming cells fill the void. Voila, orthodontics is born.  

Humans have been relying on the PDL to perform this bone-defying feat as far back as ancient Egypt, where mummies have been discovered with metal bands wrapped around their teeth. Archaeologists surmise that long-gone fibrous strands tied the bands together to create tooth movement and beautiful toothy grins. Primitive orthodontic appliances also appear among ancient Greek and Roman artefacts.

A major advance came in the 18th century, when Pierre Fauchard, known as the Father of Modern Orthodontia, began wiring arched metal strips to the teeth to get them moving. To achieve an even greater mechanical advantage, an 1822 invention enhanced the shoving match with external headgear, although it probably did not enhance the user’s social standing while movement was underway. An 1840 book, The Dental Art, described soldering knobs on the metal arches to which rubber bands could be attached and that greatly reduced the need for external headgear. Now, many orthodontic appliances are nearly invisible.

In addition, tooth movement can be accelerated by drilling small holes into the bone surrounding the target teeth. This weakens the bone and stimulates activity in the bone-dissolving cells. Enterprising orthodontists have also capitalized on bone’s accommodating nature to improve the bite efficiency and smile (or snarl?) of man’s best friends.

I suppose some dentists dream of taking on greater challenges in the animal realm, but I just hope they appreciate that any change stems from bone’s calm, controlled response to stress. It just moves away from those tooth-root bullies.


Should you need another conversation starter, try this. Growing evidence supports the theory that teeth developed from scales on the outside our finny ancestors’ bodies and gradually migrated inside while morphing into enamel, dentin, cementum, and the PD … layer.


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