by: Michael Wong, MD
Real Bodywork introduces an easy learning approach of human muscle anatomy to the Android platform with their app, “Learn Muscles: Anatomy.”
Part of their musculoskeletal series, “Learn Muscles” has one goal set in mind: to teach basic knowledge of all muscles in the human body.
Real Bodywork not only kept to their style and achieved this goal with a clean and user-friendly interface, but combined audio and video for a rich multimedia experience as well.
First, before we dive into reviewing the app itself, an understanding of the developer may be helpful to appreciate “Learn Muscles” in a better context. Real Bodywork is a company that focuses their products and educational services for massage therapists and yoga instructors or enthusiasts. They have been very active on the smartphone app markets as well.
Despite their focus, they have produced numerous anatomy apps, including human musculoskeletal and even equine anatomy applications on the iTunes market. Although intended for laymen, instructors, or therapists, these apps delve into the medical realm as well and are mostly categorized as medical apps. They have been criticised for being too introductory and not comprehensive enough at times but, given this background, I am actually quite impressed and believe that their apps are at an appropriate level for their targeted market.
However, they may want to clarify that on their introduction pages. Since we are healthcare oriented here at iMedicalApps, we’ll take a closer look at “Learn Muscles” from a medical point of view.
“Learn Muscles” starts with a menu of browsing options for the face, arm, torso, and leg muscle groups. A diagram guided navigation menu for the more commonly encountered muscles can be found under the “Overview” selection for those who need visual assistance to guide their inquiry. There is also a search function available to find specific muscles.
Self-testing options, a common feature in this genre of medical apps, are unsurprisingly available under the “Quiz” selection. Lastly, there are search and settings options for users to adjust their experiences accordingly to their liking.
A tap into the body part of interest will bring up a list of muscles included within that territory, arranged by their relative location to each other. Further navigation to a specific muscle will pull up an illustrated picture of that muscle.
Tapping “info” on the top right corner at this point will bring up basic information flash card-style on pronunciation (assisted by an audio clip), action, origin, insertion, and nerve innervation.
Occasionally, special comments are written for the muscle of interest as well. While appreciating the reconstructed picture of a muscle, a swipe left or right will bring you to the previous or next listed muscle, which is a nice additional feature that makes navigation slightly easier.
As a little added bonus, there are 4 video lectures included in this app with one clip for each body part. They last no more than 5 minutes each with the shortest being for the face, lasting less than 2 minutes. The videos are saved locally on your phone, and internet access is not required to play these video clips.
Disappointingly, the videos are very introductory and far from being comprehensive, only describing limited groups of muscles in their short lectures.
Lastly, the Quiz section is very standard with very nice customization options. You may set up the quizzes to be like an old-fashioned identification test, or you can spice things up and test yourself on the actions, insertions, or origins of the muscles.
This app generally works well overall for those who are inquiring about the basics of muscles or for those who are looking for a quick reference. The app is robust and the interface is intuitive and easy to to navigate. Although the pictures are illustrations, they make the muscle of interest easily identifiable. The information provided is concise and to-the-point and the pronunciation audio clip for each muscle is a nice added touch, too.
What makes the app good for some may not be enough for others. From a medicine perspective, the information on the muscles is just too concise and lacking in clinically relevant data. The still pictures certainly are not manipulable and thus the majority of the pictures do not expose the origin or insertion sites of the muscles of interest. What would have been nice was to include the 3D model shown in the video clips in the app itself.
The video clips themselves are far from being comprehensive, and leave out too many other muscles from the discussion. I perhaps may be a little too picky, but the resolution of the video clips was also just too low for my phone. Everything in the video was pixelated and blurry.
Lastly, although the app has a library of muscles that does seem exhaustive, I still managed to notice that Psoas Minor was missing from the list, indicating that the library is not complete.
Review Version: 1.3
Phone used for review: Samsung Galaxy S III
- Clean and intuitive UI
- Concise, to-the-point information
- Multimedia experience
- Customizable quizzes
- Information is too concise, and lacking in clinically relevant data
- Muscle library is close, but not complete
- Only one-view illustrated picture of the muscles are provided
- Video lectures are not comprehensive
- Low resolution videos
- All in all, I believe the app does its job fairly, especially for the laymen population who are curious about muscular anatomy
- There is however, so much more to know about muscles than their insertions, origins, or nerve innervations
- For health care providers, knowing relative positions of muscles to other organs, nerves, and vessels are just as important
- Given this limitation, I cannot recommend this app to medical students, nurses, or other health care providers
- So far, unless there is a big update coming down the pipe that would expand the library, include more diagrams and pictures of muscles, and add more video lectures, I would pass on this app