FLEXING FOR POWER
Olympic swimmer Dara Torres won five medals at the 2000 Summer Games after training with stretching guru Bob Cooley for just six months. His secret (detailed in his upcoming book, The Genius of Flexibility: Inside Stretching and Yoga) is RESISTENCE STRETCHING. Put simply, Cooley's method stretches a muscle by engaging it while simultaneously lengthening it, which leads to an overall relaxation of the muscle and a subsequent increase in flexibility. "The moment you make a muscle more flexible," he says, "you access your acceleration speed and power, and that means you are immediately faster." To see for yourself, try Cooley's take on the hamstring stretch, below.
(1) lie on your back, bring your left knee toward your chest, and contract your hamstring by bending your knee and pulling your heel down; while engaging your hamstring, slowly straighten your leg with your arms until (2) it is perpendicular to the floor; repeat ten times, then switch legs. [RECOVERY]
GO AHEAD, BE SORE
That après-weight-lifting traditionpopping a couple of painkillersmay actually undo all your hard work. A 2001 study at the University of Arkansas School for Medical Sciences found that when ibuprofen or acetaminophen blocks the ouch of inflammation, it also SUPPRESSES THE PRODUCTION OF PROSTAGLANDINS. "Prostaglandins stimulate the muscle to synthesize new protein and to grow," says head researcher Todd Trappe, so blocking them could hurt your chances of developing a Hermann Maier-esque physique. But, hey, it won't kill you to take some natural-analgesic initiative: Ease into that new workout slowly and stretch when you're done. That's good medicine.