You may not know what a stretching machine is, but this piece of equipment could be your answer to better flexibility. Maybe you’ve been having trouble reaching down to tie your shoes, or you want to increase your splits. Perhaps you want to really sink into a backbend or broaden your range of motion for dance or another activity.
In any case, stretching equipment can help. By pushing your muscles comfortably past their limits, a stretching machine can increase mobility and flexibility in everything from your back and shoulders to your legs and feet. It can also help with muscle soreness and pain caused by working out. Using a stretching machine, you’ll be making sure you stretch safely, with proper form, to achieve your flexibility goals.
That’s why, in this article, we will be exploring what stretching machines are and how to use them properly. We’ll also cover some of the benefits of using a stretching machine and how you can make the most of your purchase. Finally, we’ll go through 5 of our top picks for stretching trainers depending on your goals, budget, and capabilities.
What is a Stretching Machine?
Just like weight sets help you target specific muscles and other gym equipment is optimized toward specific muscle groups, stretching machines help stretch certain muscles. This increases joint flexibility and can relieve pain and muscle tightness.
Depending on what type of stretching machine you’re considering, it can work on your muscles in several ways. A back stretcher machine, for example, may require you to invert for the spine to decompress and relieve pain. A leg stretch machine might use a pivot system with locks to help you incrementally stretch into your splits.
Any stretching machine has the goal to push your muscles to relax in uncomfortable positions, avoiding injury by taking the pressure off your lower back, neck, and other body parts. Stretching equipment is also good for loosening up your muscles and relieving pain caused by working out, sitting too long, or other activities.
As you continue training with stretching equipment, your muscles will eventually become more comfortable being stretched. This will improve your flexibility, allowing you to go even farther each time. This makes stretching machines ideal for improving your splits, backbends, hamstring flexibility, and more.
Who Should Buy a Stretching Machine?
The short answer to the question of who should buy stretching equipment is, very simply, anyone. People with sedentary jobs or lifestyles that require a lot of sitting are likely to experience muscle stiffness, as are people who are genetically less flexible naturally than others. Even athletes can suffer from sore, stiff muscles that detract from their flexibility. All this can make doing everyday tasks like bending, lifting, and even tying your shoes a hassle!
By using a stretching machine, you’ll be combating painful muscle stiffness and working toward a better, more limber, you! You can choose to simply stretch every day to allow for more range of motion or push yourself to accomplish tasks like the splits, backbends, and more. Research has even shown that increasing your flexibility can help accent your regular workouts, including strength training and aerobic exercises.
In sum, stretching equipment includes many benefits for not only your flexibility but also your overall fitness.
Benefits of a Stretch Machine
You might wonder why you should buy a stretching machine when you can stretch your body using your own bodyweight. While free stretching is a great way to complement your workouts, using a stretch machine offers several other benefits. These include:
- Targeting specific muscles and joints. Despite your best efforts, stretching without a machine inevitably puts pressure on other parts of your body. Your back especially can be injured in many stretches, including those for your legs. By using a machine, you’ll remove the tension and hone in on the muscles you actually want to stretch. This will also help you stretch deeper and longer, resulting in greater flexibility.
- Safer posture and form. Again, while free stretching might work for you, chances are your posture will slip. Your back might arch, you might overstretch, or you might overextend something while trying to stretch farther. By letting the stretching machine determine the perfect posture and position of your muscles while working on them, you’ll save yourself from muscle soreness and injury.
- Consistent flexibility training. Of all the training you put your body through, it’s likely your flexibility regimen gets put on the backburner. Not only is it the easiest to overlook, but many people underestimate how much flexibility can increase mobility and health. Having a stretching machine helps to keep you accountable, and you can also use it to track your stretching progress.
- Promoting Recovery. Stretching at the end of any workout is a key way to start the muscle recovery process. And what you do at the end of one workout helps to prepare you for the next one. Stretching after training helps to reduce muscle soreness while still improving flexibility and range of motion.
How to Use Stretching Equipment
There are many different types of stretching machines available, and each work a little differently to target different muscles. However, there are a few tips to know when you begin working with any stretching machine.
- Always warm-up before stretching. Cardio activities are a great way to warm up, so try jogging or cycling for some time before stretching. If you do weight training or strength exercises on days you want to stretch, be sure to take things slow. Stretching is an ideal way to avoid muscle soreness after a workout session with weights, but it’s important to take it easy so you don’t pull a muscle. Dynamic stretching such as leg and arm swings are a great way to warm up the body and increase blood flow to working muscles.
- Listen to your body when you’re using a stretching machine. Stretching can be painful, but you should be able to distinguish between bad and good pain. If your muscles are shaking uncontrollably or aching unbearably, you should stop or lessen your stretching immediately. Start with a light stretch before you increase how deep you go with it.
- Embrace the good pain… and breathe. If you feel slight pain as your muscles adjust to their new positions, keep at it and breathe. You’ll be amazed at how good your muscles feel once they get used to being stretched!
- Try to hold your stretches from 30 seconds to a minute. This gives your muscles the time they need to get used to the stretch. After this, you should even be able to go deeper into your movement. Use the settings on your stretching machine to help you push your muscles in a healthy, safe way.
- Don’t Bounce. You often will see people bouncing the stretch as they hold it but this doesn’t allow for a proper stretch and might lead to injury.
- Stretch consistently. Experts say to stretch 2-3 days a week, repeating stretches 2-4 times (at 30-second intervals) for optimal results.
Ready to embrace the next level of your flexibility? Let’s take a look at the top 5 stretching machines to help you toward your goals.
Total Body Stretch Machine
If you want overall mobility and flexibility, one of these products is for you. A total body stretch machine works nearly all the muscle groups, providing a safe—but effective—stretch. Want to open up your hips so you can get your splits? How about a gentle back stretch to help with bending down and lifting? What about your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and more? With a total body stretching machine, you’re pretty much covered.
These machines run higher on the budget than machines meant for one muscle group—the back or legs, for example. Still, you can justify the cost if you need a machine that covers all your bases.
The Nitrofit Limber Pro Stretch Machine gives your body the full stretch it needs. This stretching machine boasts a removable calf board for three different calf stretches. It also features an adjustable seat and handlebars for up to seven different back, shoulder, and leg stretches. Its customization options make this stretch machine ideal for any height and weight, along with any flexibility level. The Limber Pro Stretch machine has also garnered the respect of athletes of all different backgrounds.
- Height and flexibility customization (adjustable seat and calf platform)
- Cushioned seats and kneepads
- Suitable for 10 different full body stretches
- Ranked one of the best overall stretch machines
Who Makes It?
Known for their whole-body vibration machines, NitroFit has expanded into the stretching and muscle recovery industry in recent years. The Limber Pro Stretch Machine is the only stretch machine they sell. That hasn’t stopped customers from raving about its price, quality, and overall effectiveness.
The Bottom Line
If you’re just starting your flexibility journey and want something lightweight and compact, this stretching machine might be for you. At nearly a hundred dollars cheaper than some of the lower-end stretch machines, you really can’t beat its price… or its positive reviews!
The Precor 240i stretch machine is a bit better known than Nitrofit’s. This total body stretching machine offers up to eight different stretches to target the back, legs, shoulders, and glutes. Along with a cushioned seat and kneepads, it also comes with wrist straps for better security and control.
While this stretching machine is comparable to Nitrofit’s, it is costlier and doesn’t have a removable calf stretch board. This makes it less versatile than the Limber Pro Stretch Machine, but it has more satisfied reviews.
- Compact and optimal for a home gym
- Suitable for 8 different full body stretches
- 5-year warranty on frame, 2-year warranty on parts
Who Makes It?
Precor is known for their commercial gym equipment, which explains why this machine is so expensive—it’s built to last! They have also contributed to the home gym market, with everything from bikes and treadmills to stretch machines and ellipticals. Few customers have found fault with the quality of their products—or their durability.
The Bottom Line
A high-end stretch machine, Precor’s StretchTrainer is a bit pricier and offers fewer capabilities than the Nitrofit stretch machine. However, it is backed by a 5-year warranty and has more positive reviews, which makes it a fierce competitor. Dedicated to your flexibility and want a stretching machine from a trusted brand? This one might be for you.
Leg Stretching Machine
If you’re not concerned about making your entire body as flexible as possible or have a smaller budget, you might consider dialing down to focus on your legs. With a leg stretch machine, you’ll be targeting your quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, and hips. A leg stretching machine is ideal for people who need to be able to do the middle splits. Martial arts athletes and dancers may be prime examples of those who could benefit from targeting their legs’ flexibility. However, a leg stretcher can also be helpful if you simply want to touch your toes or tie your shoes.
While a leg stretching machine will target your middle splits, don’t let its design fool you! By stretching your middle splits, you’ll be targeting the muscles needed to do the front splits as well. These stretches are additionally ideal for increasing leg mobility in general.
Not only does this stretching machine come fully assembled, but it also has a padded seat and thigh rests. You can also protect your back with the machine’s adjustable back support. This leg stretcher’s gear system allows you to spin a steering wheel to adjust the amount of stretch. The leg holders can even go past 180 degrees if you want to work on your oversplit.
- Cushioned, adjustable seat and leg rest
- Comes fully assembled
- Steering wheel gear system allows the user to lock at a desired stretch
Who Makes It?
TMAS, which stands for The Martial Arts Store, makes gear for martial arts enthusiasts and athletes alike. Headquartered in the U.S., they have thousands of followers from around the country on social media.
The Bottom Line
This convenient stretching machine, built to withstand intense stretching sessions, is perfect for anyone looking to improve their leg flexibility. It’s budget-friendly and has proper back support to help you avoid injury.
TMAS’ offering might be the best bang for your buck, but Century’s leg stretching machine offers progress tracking. Using a bar-ratchet system, this leg stretcher features a degree indicator to help you see how far you’ve stretched. It’s also got the standard cushioned back support and thigh rests, and goes up to 190 degrees.
- Ratchet system and degree indicator to track progress
- Cushioned, adjustable leg rests
- Goes up to 190 degrees
Who Makes It?
Century has been around for years, providing martial arts products across the globe. Customers say that Century’s products are generally very reliable, though there have been complaints of missing parts in this kit.
The Bottom Line
While it’s more expensive than TMAS’ stretching machine, this leg stretcher’s degree indicator might make it worth the extra cash. If you’re someone who is motivated by numbers, this product is a good fit—have fun recording your progress!
Back Stretching Machine
If you’re looking to increase your back flexibility and nail that backbend, we’d recommend a full-body stretching machine. That’s because, despite the name, a back stretching machine is more for loosening your back muscles and decompressing your spine to get rid of pain. While a full-body stretching machine will increase your back flexibility, a back stretcher machine will simply relax your back and allow you to heal from pain or injury.
So, if you’re an athlete who suffers from back pain, a back stretch machine is meant for you. A back stretching machine can also help prevent injury by letting your muscles relax and decompress after a long day at work or extended sedentary period.
When it comes to a quality back stretching machine, you can’t get much better than Innova’s inversion table. With adjustable pads and a 300-pound weight capacity, this back stretcher machine accommodates customers of all sizes and heights. The best part? Innova has more than one customization option for inversion tables. They also sell back stretcher machines that have automated heat and massage therapy!
- Cushioned, adjustable back and headrest pads
- Secure ankle holding system
Who Makes It?
Innova Health and Fitness is a premium seller of back stretching machines to help relieve back pain. Their line of inversion tables are trusted around the globe for their durability, customization, and safety features.
The Bottom Line
Innova doesn’t have much competition in the back stretch machine market, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. If you need a good back stretch, you can trust this back stretching machine to get the job done.
Get Flexible and Relieve Pain
Now that you understand the flexibility and healing benefits of stretching machines, it’s time to make your choice. We’ve outlined some of the most cost-effective, highly rated machines on the market today to make your decision extra easy.
Whatever your goals—more flexibility, pain relief, or better fitness—a stretching machine is an optimal way to loosen up your muscles and enhance your everyday life. Once you get one, you’ll never go back to being stiff, sore, or immobile.
What do you do to stay flexible and limber in your life? Have any favorite stretching machines of your own? Let us know in the comments below.