BOOK REVIEW: SEPTEMBER 2014

Title: Stretching Anatomy, 2nd Edition
Authors: Arnold Nelson & Jouko Kokkonen
Publisher: Human Kinetics Australia 2014
Details: Paperback, 216pp
RRP: $26.95 OR $22.91 for Network Members when buying online HERE and entering the Promo Code ‘network2014’.

Review by Peter Lawler

The Anatomy Series has been a bonanza for Human Kinetics. The first edition of this one alone, Stretching Anatomy, has sold in excess of 250,000 copies, which is amazing for a book of pain… Thus far, 22 titles have been published under the banner of 'Anatomy'. The 22 titles include nine from the French master Frederic Delavier – a man who epitomises brilliance.

What are the secrets of this series? There are two: formulaic construction and simplicity.
Stretching Anatomy’s duet of PhD authors are professors of kinesiology and exercise science respectively. Nelson is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine while Kokkonen is a lecturer at Brigham Young University in an array of sports sciences.

The concept of stretching has transformed over the decades. In the days of yore, stretching meant going to the pain threshold and then beyond. PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) was the pathway to success as your partner had to force the unfortunate to extremity. Beads of sweat and profanity prevailed, but all for a good cause – no pain no gain was the mantra, the clarion call to arms (and legs…).

A cursory glance of this second edition reveals such sadomasochism has died a peaceful death. Stretching Anatomy is a benevolent friend, a gentle giant, a cuddly bear in an indifferent world.
And so to the formula. Every exercise/stretch occupies a double page. Each has an anatomical drawing that is black and white. The muscle under work is coloured and identified via the archaic Latin that has never been replaced. Thus, you the fervent reader, will become acquainted with your Gemellus superior, the peroneus longus and the flexor hallucis longus and many other previously lost friends. Every stretch has an execution description and stretch notes which are words of wisdom, of caution and suitable variation.

Double pages follows double. The co-authors have compiled seven chapters of stretches of variable length that are suitable and safe for the neck to the feet and calves at the other end of your universe. The popularity of this book is due to the simplicity of the proffered stretches. Most are equipment-free, with just an occasional chair and floor mat required. Overall, it is self-resistance, compliant doorways and static patient holds.

Two further chapters supplement this book. Chapter 8 offers dynamic stretches as opposed to the static ones which elsewhere totally dominate this text. It is worth noting what the introductory notes say about the lingering debate regarding stretching versus dynamic stretching.

‘Numerous studies have established that pre-event static stretching may inhibit maximum strength, vertical jump performance, running speed and muscular endurance. In addition, recent studies have demonstrated that athletes with high levels of flexibility are more likely to suffer injuries than those with moderate flexibility. Some evidence shows that extremely tight people are less likely to experience muscle strains... it is speculated that if pre-event static stretching is reducing this type of injury, it is due to its ability to reduce the overall strength of the muscle. Strains, pulls and tears happen when a muscle is forcefully contracted, so by reducing the force output you are less likely to cause injury......finally, it is important to note that although studies show the lack of benefits of pre-event stretching, there is much in the evidence to support the benefits of static stretching AFTER a workout.’ (page 157). For all knowledge hungry coaches and trainers, this is food for thought.

The final chapter, ‘Customizing Your Stretching Program’, pursues two strands. Global programs are tabled for Joe Citizen to progress from Beginner level to Advanced. Twenty three specific sport programs are included. All advocate pre-event stretching is dynamic. Post-workout stretching should be static. Such harmony is essential for peaceful co-existence.

STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.