Book Review: Sport Stretch, 2nd Edition: 311 Stretches for 41 Sports, Michael J. Alter (1997)

July 29th, 2005 11:59 pm by Kelly Garbato

Jam Packed with Stretches for Every Muscle Group

four out of five stars

I’m a former couch potato who started doing Tae Bo and cardio kickboxing almost two years ago. I recently added yoga to my routine for flexibility, and pilates for strength and control, but found that I needed more. In particular, I wanted greater flexibility in my adductor muscles so that I could kick higher and with increased control. I found that I was also having some knee problems. So I checked out every book that my local library had on stretching and flexibility; out of the dozen or so books I looked at, I liked three of them, including “Sport Stretch,” well enough that I purchased my own copies.

“Sport Stretch” begins with a discussion of flexibility, then launches into descriptions of 311 different stretches. Most of these consist of a single illustration with a few bulleted instructions. The stretches themselves are arranged into chapters based on muscle groups, including feet and ankles, lower legs, hamstrings, adductors, quadriceps, hips and gluteals, lower torso, upper back, neck, pectorals, shoulders, and arms and wrists.

Additionally, the author includes an index at the beginning of the book that singles out stretches that are helpful for specific sports. One- to three-page sections are dedicated to each of the following: archery; baseball, softball, and cricket; basketball; bowling; cross-country skiing; cycling and triathlon; dance; diving; figure skating; football; golf; gymnastics; hiking and backpacking; ice hockey; in-line skating; jogging; lacrosse; martial arts; race walking; rowing, kayacking, and canoeing; sailing and windsurfing; skiing; soccer; squash; swimming; table tennis; tennis, racquetball, and handball; track and field; volleyball; water skiing; weight lifting; and wrestling.

As a BEGINNER, I found most of the stretches helpful. There were some standard moves that I was already familiar with from my high school gym classes, as well as some more challenging exercises I learned in yoga. However, a number of the stretches were completely new to me. I’m especially happy with the adductor section, as it’s exactly what I needed to help with my roundhouse kicks! Note the emphasis on “beginner,” though – because I’m such a novice, I really can’t say whether more advanced athletes will find “Sports Stretch” useful or not.

As much as I like the book, I do have a few complaints. Most of the stretches, with few exceptions, only have a single illustration. Given the minimalist instructions, many of the moves could have used at least one extra picture. Also, once I eased into certain stretches, I found it difficult to gracefully get OUT of them. It seems to me as though the author should have included “exit strategies” for some of a stretches, particularly the more advanced ones! Finally, a few stretches come with the following caveat: “This exercise may be too advanced or dangerous for even some elite athletes.” Now, I would think that “elite” or even “professional” athletes have trainers, and wouldn’t need to rely on a book for stretching advice – so I really don’t see why the author included these seemingly dangerous stretches. Unless he’s asking for a lawsuit! ;)

Otherwise, a great buy, at least for beginner-to-moderate athletes.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

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