Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ category

Anatomy Trains: Chapter 1

June 30, 2010

Chapter 1 of Anatomy Trains is all the sciency stuff about fascia and tensegrity. Since the Anatomy Trains site already has summaries of those things, I’ll simply point you there instead of writing something myself.


Tensegrity (from Anatomy trains website). Or see the wikipedia entry.

Also, there is a excerpt from Chapter 1 here.

Finally, this chapter also talks about a concept called “double-bag theory.” Again, this is already explained on page 8 in this PDF file.

Read all of the above, and you will have a decent idea of what’s in chapter 1 and you should be fine for understanding the summaries of the upcoming chapters.

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: Chapter 1

June 29, 2010

In Chapter 1 of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Robert Sapolsky draws a contrast of causes of death today and throughout most of human history. For example, in the early 20th century the main causes of death were infection, such as the flu or tuberculosis. If you were female you worried about dying from child birth. Today, it’s cancer and heart disease. Why? Well, one of main factors is psychological stress. Stress can make us sick. That’s what this book is all about – what stress is, different types of stress, and why its bad for us.

To start, some initial concepts.

This book deals with chronic psychological and social stress. The reason zebras don’t get ulcers (am I answering this too soon?) is because they only have to deal with acute physical stressors, whereas people are stressed all the time. We worry about getting the kids dressed in the morning, the traffic on the way to work, the deadline at work, the economy, and so on. There are enough things to worry about that you can be stressed all day, everyday. Zebras only have to worry about the lion for a few minutes every once in a while. Basically, our bodies are designed to handle these short term physical stress well, but not chronic psychological stress.

Stress knocks us out of homeostasis. A stressor is anything that knocks us out of homeostasis and the stress response reestablishes homeostasis. With that said, Sapolsky prefers the term allostasis. How these two differ isn’t a big deal for a simple summary. Read the book if you must know.

When stress goes on for two long, the stress response can be more damaging that the stressor itself. All the things that occur during the stress response, and are good for the short term, hurt us if turned on too often. For example, during a stress response your body mobilizes glucose to provide the body with energy. This increases blood sugar. What happens if blood sugar is constantly elevated? Diabetes. Another example is blood pressure. Increasing blood pressure is good when you have to run from a lion, but constantly elevated blood pressure can lead to cardiovascular disease.

There are other examples given and we will talk about those (and the ones already mentioned) in more detail when I get to the appropriate chapter. That’s it for chapter 1, see ya next time.

Anatomy Trains: Introduction

June 21, 2010

Note: This is the first edition of a series I will do that gives summaries of fitness books I’m reading. I will look at them chapter by chapter. The purpose of this to better retain the information that I get from the books I read. Far to often I read a book and then later forget the info that I read. Hopefully, this will help. Of course, I also hope that anyone reading this will get a benefit from it as well.


The gist of the book is explained in the first sentence: “The basis for the book is simple: whatever else they may be doing individually, muscle also influence functionally integrated body-wide continuities within the fascial webbing.” Essentially, fascia connects muscles into units, called “myofascial meridians,” which allows muscles along a line to effect other muscles/structures along the same line. This is a possible explanation as to why pain in one area of the body can have an origin in another part.

The various myofascial lines depicted on a human body. Image from:

This is contrasted with the “isolated muscle theory” which looks only at the action of a single muscle on its attachment points. An alternative is to look at how the pull of muscles effect surrounding structures beyond it’s attachment points (through the fascial system). This opens up new treatment modalities.

The author admits that this concept is not established science, but is pleased with its success in clinical practice. He goes on to say that there is still too little research to claim an objective reality for the meridians. This is actually great to hear because it shows that he is a evidence based practitioner, and if the concept turns out to be incorrect, he won’t dogmatically hold to it.

Although it is frequently termed the “Anatomy Trains Method (ATM)”, the ATM is actually not a new treatment therapy, but a way of looking at the body as whole so as to discover new therapies. In that sense, the ATM is a premise, not a conclusion.

The final thing to note about this chapter is the basic terminology. “Myofascia” refers to the bundle of muscle and fascia. It’s a “meridian” in the sense that the body has different lines of pull that envelope the body like latitude and longitude envelope the globe. The ATM further breaks down into “myofascial continuity” which are two adjacently linked muscles, whereas the meridians are the entire series, line, or track (to use the trains terminology) of linked muscles.

It needs to be said that myofascial is not a functionally distinct term per say, as all tissues are ultimately integrated (muscle, connective, nervous, vascular, ect.).

So, that’s about it for the introduction to the book. Coming soon will be chapter 1.