Hooves on the Ground: Muscles, Testing and Function with Posture and Pain, (Kendall, McCreary, Provance)

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a book, not because I’ve not been reading but because I’ve not been feeling social and like sharing anything, so it’s possibly a very good sign that the first book that I go to review is one which I had dragged out to find a diagram for a bodybuilding pal.


It has, as the title suggests, two major components – Posture and Pain, and Testing and Function – and both of these sections are great. They can be read individually, but being a layman I ended up cross-referencing from one to the other a lot – Reading and observing posture, then finding the diagrams for the individual muscle groups mentioned, and testing them for length/shortening and weakness/strength. One of my favourite things about this book is that for a lot of things it does use cartoons, not photographs, so it’s a lot easier to see the movement and shape of muscles when the one that you’re observing is highlighted in red and the others are all just outlines, as compared to if they’re photographs or more exact diagrams.

The posture section shows, as well as the “problematic” postures, the  explanation for how each of them affects the muscles underneath, and which muscles thus need to be strengthened and which need to be counterbalanced in order to correct the posture (Not just for aesthetic reasons either, it explains how the various postures can translate into muscle weaknesses and pain later in life). It’s all extremely well laid out and presented in accessible, readable language, with photographs and diagrams, and technical terms explained in a glossary.

A long, extremely useful section of the book takes each of the muscles in turn, describes its placement and function, and also how to both flex and relax the muscle as far as possible – This is good for a handful of things; Finding relaxed or comfortable configurations for individual sore muscles, devising exercises to specifically strengthen individual muscle groups, and working out which muscles are compensating and “taking over” for other muscles during a movement, which is extremely common in hypermobile people; Archetypally, using ones latissimus dorsi to “stabilise” arm movements that should mostly be affecting the biceps, resulting in soreness and inefficient movements, but the same applies to basically any movement where a larger muscle can compensate for weakness in a smaller group. Near the end of the section is a series of diagrams of the superficial nerves, which is also extremely useful for trying to localise hard-to-describe pains.

Throughout the book there are worksheets and explanations of how to record a patient’s performance and presentation, which are extremely useful when you’re looking at yourself and trying to objectively assess how bad something is, or how good it is.

As with most textbooks, this is a book to drop in and out of, focusing on the system or the movement that you need. I’ve been using it mostly to work out which muscle groups I need to address more in my workouts, and to make sure that the things that I do to “help” when I’m relaxing aren’t actually making things worse in the long run.

I’d definitely reccommend this book, possibly as the first book to get when assessing your own body’s condition especially in relation to the pain that comes with hypermobility. As much as doctors are often too quick to turn to “deconditioning” as an answer to everything, there is absolutely power in knowing where all your muscles are and how to use them correctly, and thus to know which ones are underperforming and need work.

Exact details of my copy: Muscles Testing and Function, Florence Peterson Kendall, Elizabeth Kendall McCreary, Patricia Geise Provance, with Posture and Pain first and second editions by Henry Otis Kendall, 4th Edition, 1993. Second hand, £3.45.

Disclaimer: Nothing said above is intended as a substitute for qualified medical advice, or to supersede the advice of a qualified physician. This is my personal review of my experiences with a book, as a layman. I am not a medical professional, of any kind, and any health issues should be discussed with a doctor or other appropriate professional.

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