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.

Special Offer: Purchase MUSCLE prior to its launch date, July 25, 2023 and receive a personalized, signed bookplate, which you can insert in your first edition.

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