Top critical review
Good for beginners, but...
Reviewed in the United States on March 27, 2014
This book gives a great introduction to different schools of stretching and some relevant biology and bio-mechanics. Neither of these are really integrated into the remainder of the text, and the illustrations of the biology relevant to muscle firing are inadequate. Much more helpful and relevant would be an address of nutrition and stretching (drinking water isn't even mentioned).
Walker shines in his personal experience, which can weigh in heavily against laboratory research from scientific journals. His expertise on how long to hold stretches and the benefits of different kinds of stretching is won over years of experience. Walker is a genuine synthesist, taking from everything useful. While he shows some familiarity with contemporary scientific studies, he's not engaging with a depth or aptitude that warrants the title of the book. For example, he cites a 1970's study of muscle firing and ignores contemporary work of fascial tension altogether. It would be wonderful to team him up with a scientist more abreast of recent directions in the literature.
The practical section is straight-forward and clear. Particularly helpful are the pointers to complementary stretches for muscle groups, but it's curious that he didn't include antagonist stretches given their importance.
The real disappointments of the book for me are as follows. 1) Details, man! Despite emphasizing the importance of a number of approaches to stretching, he doesn't emphasize dynamic or muscularly engaged stretching in his examples. He rarely mentions engaging the muscles being stretched. This leaves us with yet another book of largely passive stretching. The angles of the stretches are often not specified enough to target the muscle groups, nor does he give adequate proprioceptive cues to alert you when you are or are not accessing the sweet spot. 2) There is no choreography for a sequence that would hit all major muscle groups. Walker does give a small chart of important stretches depending upon the kind of activity you do, which is of some use. 3) The stretches do not blow my mind. There are very few that I've not seen before, and he'd do well to borrow more from yoga. 4) I'm left wondering whether his reliance on passive stretching will render muscles that are indeed elongated but not integrated.