To find the best stretching machine on the market, you must consider the best way to stretch your muscles. Regular stretching exercises are great, but don’t always enable you to get that deep muscle stretch that’s so effective for boosting flexibility.
But before you buy a stretching machine, there’s a lot to consider. What are they? What are the different types? How much should you expect to pay?
It’s important to find the right stretching machine for your fitness goals and body type, which is why we’ve put together this independent buying guide.
After reviewing over 30 different stretching machines from 8 of the top brands, we’ve created a shortlist of recommendations. This includes 5 of the top stretching machines in each of the 3 major categories: full body, leg stretch/leg split, and back stretch.
These are the machines proven to be most effective for relieving back pain and muscle tightness, increasing flexibility, and stretching your muscles.
What is a stretching machine?
Stretching tight muscles to improve flexibility can be hugely beneficial for almost any type of physical exercise. Whether that’s running, lifting weights, dancing, golf, tennis, basketball, martial arts, or baseball.
But without the right fitness equipment, stretching out each muscle group can be challenging. You need something that can support your body weight enough to let you stretch and relax your tight muscles.
That’s where stretching machines come in.
It’s a broad term that’s used to describe everything from inversion therapy tables to leg stretchers. Depending on the type of stretch machine you choose, you could isolate a single muscle group, or create a full body stretch routine.
How does a stretch machine work?
This depends on the type of stretch machine you’re using. Inversion tables can invert your body up to 180 degrees for spinal decompression, with traction handles that allow you to get a deeper stretch in your back muscles.
Leg stretch/splits machines have a much lower center of gravity, and are designed to put your legs through a range of motion they may not be used to. This is usually with assistance from a pivot system, with locking positions at different angles.
As the name suggests, full body stretch machines can be used to stretch each of the core muscle groups. The seat often pivots to create a more challenging stretch workout, with handles and safety straps to provide secure grip positions.
This type of machine is better suited to someone that’s already quite active, whereas an inversion table uses gravity to do most of the work for you.
Who should buy a stretch machine?
Anyone that wants to gain flexibility quickly while avoiding injury should consider using a stretching machine.
Muscle tightness and joint pain can occur at any age. A good quality stretch routine reduces the chance of this happening.
Yoga practitioners, athletes, and martial artists also use stretch machines to increase range of motion in their legs and arms.
Some of the best designs have controls that allow you to incrementally increase the range of motion, so you can track your progress and accurately measure any improvements.
It’s also possible to create an effective flexibility program with a stretch machine, where you perform sets and repetitions in a similar way to resistance workouts.
As with buying any new piece of exercise equipment, we recommend checking with your doctor before adding it to your fitness routine.
Stretch equipment for older adults
As we get older, we often experience stiffness in the muscles and joints. It’s a natural part of ageing, but with the help of a high-quality stretch trainer, it’s possible to increase mobility and limit the impact is has on your day-to-day life.
Most health professionals recommend warming up your muscles before you perform stretch exercises. Something as simple as a morning walk followed by 10 to 20 minutes on a stretch machine can yield noticeable results in a short space of time.
There’s no specific type of stretch machine for older adults, but you might want to avoid too much floor work with stretch out bands. Seated stretch trainers, such as the Precor 240i, or inversion tables are easy to mount and dismount, and give you complete control over the range of motion.
Why buy a stretching machine?
In recent years many jobs have become increasingly sedentary, as a result of more time being spent sitting at desks. This leads to muscle inactivity and reduced mobility, which can have a negative impact on the health of your muscles and joints.
One option is to sign up for a commercial gym membership. The problem is, if all you’re looking to do is stretch your muscles, this can prove costly and time consuming.
Another problem with fitness centers is they rarely have high quality stretching equipment. Suspension trainers and hyperextension benches are usually the most you can expect, but in each case the range of stretch exercises is limited.
With a suspension trainer, you need a high anchor point to fix it to, while hyperextension benches are designed for building strength in your lower back.
The best way to effectively stretch all your muscles is buying a stretch machine for your home. The convenience means you’re more likely to stretch regularly, and a 5-year warranty on many of the top designs means it’s cheaper than a gym membership.
Our top recommendation would be the Precor 240i StretchTrainer, or LifeSpan SP1000 if you’re on a tighter budget.
How often should I stretch?
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends static stretching at least 2 to 3 days per week. Each stretch should be repeated 2 to 4 times, and held for 15-30 seconds. Always precede this stretching workout with an active warm-up, such as walking or light cycling.
Top 5 Best Full Body Stretch Machines
Most full body stretch machines have similar designs, with a padded seat, multi-position handles, and solid steel frame. But it’s important to spot the subtle differences that separate a top rated stretch machine from the low quality junk.
Listed below you’ll find what we believe to be the best full body stretch machines on the market. This is based on build quality, warranty coverage, customer reviews, company background, and number of stretch exercises they support.
1. Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer
Despite its premium price, the Precor 240i StretchTrainer remains one of the top full-body stretching machines on the market.
The ergonomic handle design and seat position allows you to perform a wide range of stretch exercises, targeting every major muscle group. This includes your back, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, biceps, and core muscles (abs, intercostals, obliques).
By supporting a full body stretching workout, the Precor 240i can prove transformative for users of any age.
The resulting improvements in flexibility can help improve sports performance. Whether that’s the swing motion for golfers and baseball players, or strengthening the lower back for tennis players and gymnasts.
Durable seat and back covers combine with high quality cushioning to create a more comfortable stretching experience. This is a sign of the commercial-grade build quality, and encourages you to perform a wider range of stretching exercises at home.
The Precor 240i is also one of the most highly rated stretch machines on Amazon, with customers reporting improvements in flexibility and relief from back pain. Some even recommend it as a more convenient alternative to stretching in a yoga class.
2. LifeSpan SP1000 Stretch Partner Bench
If you’re looking for a stretch machine that’s a little more affordable than the Precor 240i, the SP1000 Stretch Partner Bench could be the next best thing.
The patented Flex-Smart pivot system allows you to perform a range of different stretches, and accommodates a range of different body types and flexibility levels.
- Low profile steel frame to boost stability
- Includes free Flexibility for Life stretching DVD, with a 30-minute tutorial
- Guide book covering 18 different types of stretch
- Dimensions: 49″L x 29″W x 38″H
- Product weight: 55 lbs
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
- Warranty: 5 years on the frame, 2 years parts, 90 days upholstery
Built around a solid steel frame, the SP1000 Stretch Partner supports full-body stretching with correct body position and stretching technique.
The arch at the front of the base frame creates an anchor point for your feet, which is something that’s missing from the Precor 240i. This allows you to perform additional back stretches with the support of the back and seat cushions.
LifeSpan Stretch Partner reviews on Amazon praise this machine for being more affordable than the Precor 240i. Customers also report an effective stretching experience for chronic back pain, and excellent customer service from LifeSpan.
3. Nitrofit Limber Pro Stretch Machine
Available at a similar price to the LifeSpan SP1000, the Nitrofit Limber Pro is the only stretch machine on the market with a removable calf stretch board. This can be set at 3 incline levels, allowing you to adjust the intensity of the stretch.
The adjustable seat also helps the Limber Pro adapt to a range of user heights and flexibility levels. There are 7 seat positions to choose from, which can be set using a simple locking pin.
- Handlebar mounted placard displays 9 illustrated stretch exercises
- Steel Frame with foam knee and back cushions
- Wheels integrated into front legs for easy storage
- Seat adjusts to fit users of varying size and flexibility levels
- Designated calf stretch station with support bars
- Calf board adjusts to 16, 23, or 30 degrees and is fully removable
- Safety wrist straps
- 300 lb Weight capacity
An instructional placard is mounted on the front, with a clear guide to 9 of the best stretch exercises. The footprint is also ideal for compact home gyms, measuring 50.5″L x 22.4″W without the calf board, or 65.5″ x 22.4″ with the calf board fitted.
The Nitrofit Limber Pro supports a wide range of standing and seated stretch positions, including standing calf raises, lat stretches for your back, and shoulder stretches.
Review feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with most awarding this machine the full 5 stars on Amazon. Customers enjoy the added benefit of the calf board, and find the stretch exercises beneficial for everything from low back pain to spinal fusion surgery rehab.
4. Motive Fitness TotalStretch TS200
The most unique feature of the TotalStretch TS200 is the ErgoStretch handlebar system, which offers two additional grip positions compared to the Precor 240i.
In terms of price, the two stretch machines are very similar, but the Precor design has a much higher average review rating. You also get an extra year’s warranty on parts.
- ErgoStretch Handlebar System
- ErgoStretch platform for lower leg stretches
- Foam padded rollers to support seated and standing stretches
- Exercise placard detailing a 10-stretch total body circuit
- Pivoting seat and back support for stability during seated stretches
- Dimensions: 59″L x 29″W x 40″H
- Product weight: 88 lbs
- Warranty: 5 years frame, 1 year parts, 90 days wear items
- Weight capacity: 325 lbs
But the TS200 isn’t without its benefits. As a commercial body stretching machine, the weight capacity is one of the highest on the market, with padded foam rollers to support standing stretches.
An ergonomic pivoting seat also enables you to perform a wide range of muscle stretches, while the high-density cushioning keeps you comfortable and supported.
Despite weighing 88 lbs, the TotalStretch TS200 is easy to move, thanks to a single front-mounted transport wheel.
Top 5 Best Leg Stretch Machines
Finding the best stretching machine doesn’t necessarily mean buying a full body trainer, like the Precor 240i.
What if you spend much of your day sitting at a desk, and simply need a way to stretch your legs?
In addition to relaxing your leg muscles and improving their flexibility, a good leg stretch machine allows you to increase the stretch intensity over time. This is perfect for focusing on your quads, hip flexors, and hamstrings, especially after running or cycling.
To save you time, we’ve shortlisted our top leg stretch machine recommendations. This is based on in-depth reviews and comparisons of 20+ highly rated designs.
1. Century VersaFlex 2.0 Stretching Machine
If you’re looking for a sturdy design that offers the ultimate in flexibility and progressive stretching, the Century VersaFlex 2.0 leg stretching machine could be your best option.
The cushioning in the seat and multi-position thigh pads ensures you remain comfortable and well supported throughout the stretch. As you increase the angle, bars on the inside of the leg supports help to prevent your feet from slipping off the pads.
So that you’re able to monitor your progress between stretching workouts, the Century VersaFlex 2.0 also features a degree indicator. This is particularly useful for deep stretches targeting your inner thigh.
Where the original Century VersaFlex and the VersaFlex 2.0 differ is in the back support. The 2.0 version has increased the back support’s size.
Comparing the two, we have to say the Century VersaFlex 2.0 is more comfortable than the original. Although, the price tag has increased as a result.
To boost the quality of your stretch experience, the VersaFlex 2.0 stretcher is designed with a low profile frame that makes it easy to step on and off. Having a wide seat and lumbar protection from the padding also helps reduce the risk of injury.
The ratchet mechanism is easy enough to use, and allows you to gradually increase the degree of stretch. Combine this with the ability to monitor your progress over time, and the result is one of the top leg stretch machines on the market.
2. Valor Fitness CA-27 Leg Stretch Machine
Anyone that wants to improve leg and hip flexibility through stretching can benefit from the Valor Fitness CA-27.
Back and leg supports are cushioned with high-density foam, to keep you comfortable throughout the exercise. There’s even an easy-to-use control wheel for adjusting the stretch intensity.
This also improves your control over the stretch, with small, incremental adjustments thanks to the built-in gear system.
- Crank wheel control for incremental leg stretching
- Padded seat and back support for maximum comfort
- Stretch your legs to a full 180 degrees
- Fully adjustable leg (2-positions) and back supports
- Delivered semi-assembled
- Solid steel frame
- 250 lb Weight capacity
- Warranty: 3 years frame, 2 years pad
- Dimensions: 76 in. L x 17 in. W x 52 in. H (49 lbs.)
The leg supports also feature adjustable pads, to cater for different leg lengths. It’s a feature we haven’t seen on any other leg stretcher,
Unfortunately there’s no way to measure the degree of stretch, which would be useful for monitoring your progress. This puts the CA-27 at a disadvantage to other leg stretch machines, such as the Century VersaFlex, which has a clear degree indicator.
Customer reviews for the CA-27 leg stretch machine are highly rated, with customers enjoying the high level of comfort and smooth crank wheel motion.
However, some people were unhappy about the lack of stretch handle, which would allow for deeper stretches. This is a feature that’s available on the Century VersaFlex machine.
3. ProForce StretchMaster II Leg Stretcher
The StretchMaster II is specifically designed to boost flexibility in your legs and hips, with a range of motion that supports deep stretches.
As with most leg stretch machines, there’s a control wheel for incremental adjustments of the stretch angle. This acts as a quick and easy way to determine how far you stretch.
Unfortunately you don’t have a separate handle to hold once you reach your target stretch position. This is a feature that’s available on the Century Versaflex machine.
Cushioning in the seat and leg pads allows you to stretch your legs in comfort, with an adjustable back support to reduce any stress on your lower spine.
The leg supports can’t be adjusted the way you can with the Valor Fitness CA-27, but the pads are designed to be much longer. This means users with short and long legs experience the same benefits from stretching.
4. Champs MMA 3 Bar Leg Stretcher
Champs MMA 3 Bar Leg Stretcher has made a name for itself in the boxing and martial arts disciplines. It helps you to ease leg tightness and promote flexibility so you’re fighting fit in no time at all.
In terms of movement, it has a 180 degree range, which puts it just under what the VersaFlex 2.0 offers.
But, it’s more portable and easier to assemble. You can fold the bars away and store them in a locker or bench. You can also easily take them on the road, or between home and the gym.
The stretching process is simple. You loop the included adjustable band around your waist and connect it to the middle bar. You can then put your ankles through the two outer bars’ handles. Pull the middle bar to increase your stretch.
The bars are made from anti-rust steel and have soft memory foam handles for a comfortable grip and support for your ankles and legs.
We liked that we could take it to the office and how it stretched our hammies and calves.
5. Ideal Stretch Hamstring Stretching Device
Invented by Steve Nichols, creator of Jacobs Ladder, Ideal Stretch is designed specifically to stretch your hamstrings.
The compact footprint and affordable price makes it a compelling alternative to conventional leg stretch machines. You can even combine Ideal Stretch with a stretch out strap for a lightweight and portable way to stretch all major muscle groups.
Despite the simple frame design, you’re still able to effectively stretch your hamstrings and calf muscles at the same time. This is all while lying safely on your back, in a position that maintains proper hip orientation and alleviates back pain.
The only downside compared to seated leg stretch machines is you can only train one leg at a time. However, each stretch is easy to perform, increases mobility in your hips and legs, and relieves lateral knee pain, with no pressure on the spine.
Customer reviews on Amazon praise the effectiveness of Ideal Stretch for relieving muscle tightness, stretching hamstrings, and its compact design. Some customers even used it as part of a physiotherapy program, and regaining mobility after a knee replacement.
Top 3 Best Stretch Out Straps / Stretch Bands
Not everyone has the budget or space in their home for a stretch machine. If you’re saving up to buy one and want to get started with some simple stretches, there’s a couple of products we can recommend.
For a lightweight, portable, and versatile alternative to stretching machines, you may want to consider stretch out straps.
Larger equipment, such as inversion tables and splits machines is ideal for home gyms, but what if you’re travelling? Maybe you’re heading to the gym on your lunch break and want to stretch your muscles after a workout?
That’s why we shortlisted 3 of the best stretch straps on the market, each of which has hundreds of highly rated reviews on Amazon.
1. OPTP Stretch Out Strap™
The lightweight and portable Stretch Out Strap is designed with multiple loops, to support deep, progressive muscle stretching. Because the intensity of each stretch is controlled by you, there’s no need for a spotter.
If you’re not sure how to create an effective stretch workout, OPTP provide you with a stretching exercise booklet. This details 30 of the best stretches for all major muscle groups, including color photos, contract-relax techniques, and effective warm-up stretches for sports.
- Includes OPTP Stretch Out Strap™ and instructional exercise book
- The first stretching strap on the market in 1993
- 6’4″ woven nylon strap with 10 individual loops
- Highly effective for warmup, exercise, and post-exercise
- Great for dancers and athletes, physical therapy, Pilates and yoga routines
- Top choice of physical therapists and athletic trainers for safe, effective, contract-relax stretches
- Potential to boost flexibility, improve range of motion, enhance muscle recovery, and reduce risk of injury
As a company, OPTP (Orthopedic Physical Therapy Products) specializes in products for physical therapy, fitness, and overall wellness. Based in Minnesota, they currently sell a wide range of products for everything from core strength to Pilates and Yoga.
With thousands of reviews on Amazon, and a near-perfect review score, this is without doubt one of the best stretch straps on the market. Customers love the Stretch Out Strap because it’s the same one they use with their physical therapists, enables them to perform deeper stretches, and made from strong, heavy duty material.
2. Yoga EVO Elastic Stretching Strap
The Yoga EVO Strap is fitted with 10 loops, each of which can be used as anchor points for your hands or ankles during Yoga poses. Alternatively, the flexible cotton blend means it’s soft enough to grip when you want to perform deep muscle stretches.
Each loop has a number, which makes it easier to track your progress as your flexibility improves. When you finish stretching, it only takes a few seconds to roll the strap up and store it away in the convenient carry pouch (provided).
- Replaced the conventional nylon strap with a cotton blend
- Loops designed to fit your hands and feet
- Free tutorials included – Online access to 120 mins of video workouts
- 10 soft and stretchy loops for maximum versatility
- Lightweight and portable design, supplied with carry pouch
- Track your stretching progress with numbered loops
- Free instructional eBook of stretching exercises
- Stretched length: 110 inches. Idle length: 55 inches
- Width: 1.2 inches
The Yoga Evo Stretching Strap also gives you immediate access to 120 min of professional HD video workouts, in addition to an instructional eBook. It’s a useful reference guide to basic stretching exercises, and helps you create your own customized stretch workouts.
Whereas the Yoga EVO Strap is elastic (stretches), the bestselling OPTP Stretch Out Strap™ is made of nylon (non-stretch). Although the stretch is nothing like a resistance band, there’s a little more ‘give’ than in the OPTP strap.
Amazon currently has hundreds of highly rated reviews, with customers praising the softness of the strap, range of stretching options, and how it helps hold your posture during Yoga poses.
3. Gradient Fitness 12-Loop Stretch Strap
The stretch strap from Gradient Fitness is similar to the design from OPTP, in that they’re both made from nylon. This means that it won’t stretch, unlike the Yoga EVO elastic strap.
Each strap is fitted with 12 independent stretching loops, which is 2 more than OPTP and Yoga EVO. These feature neoprene padded handles, to provide a comfortable grip for all stretches.
- Use it for Yoga, Increased Range of Motion, Physical Therapy, Athletic Teams, CrossFit
- Choice of 3 color combinations: Black and Grey, Grey and Green, or Pink and Grey
- Non-elastic non-latex stretching strap
- 100% premium quality nylon webbing
- Neoprene padded handles for a comfortable grip
- 12 independent stretching loops
- Includes Gravity Fitness guide to stretching strap exercises (digital and hardcopy)
- Lightweight and portable design, with nylon storage bag
- Length: 96 inches. Width: 1.5 inches
Gradient Fitness also provide you with a quick reference guide to 12 of the best stretch exercises for your body. These are designed to target each of the major muscle groups, and includes supine lateral hip stretches, prone quad stretches, and the supine hamstring stretch.
Unfortunately there’s no online video library of stretch workouts, which is something you get with the Yoga EVO. But you do get a convenient nylon storage bag and choice of three color combinations: black and grey, grey and green, and pink and grey.
The 12-Loop Stretch Strap is proving popular with customers on Amazon, with a near-perfect review score.
Many have found it incredibly useful as a form of physical therapy after knee surgery, or as a way of experiencing deep muscle stretches at home. They also appreciate the sturdy construction and comfort from the neoprene handles.
Top 3 Best Back Stretch (Inversion) Machines
Full body stretch machines, like the Precor 240i, are the perfect choice for anyone that wants a deep stretch in their back and shoulders.
But what if you need to take special care of your back or spine when stretching these muscles?
An inversion therapy table could be the best option, with optional attachments for lumbar traction and heat therapy to relieve lower back pain.
Below you’ll find our top 3 recommendations for a high quality home inversion table.
1. Teeter FitSpine X3 Inversion Table
The is Teeter’s number 1 seller on Amazon, with more than 2,000 reviews averaging 4.7/5.00 with the brand selling nearly 800 units per month.
As Teeter’s premium product, it has more sophisticated usability features compared to other Teeter products. Notably, getting onto the table was considerably easier than comparable units thanks to the extra-long ankle lock.
- 6-position adjustable safety pin to control inversion angle
- Foam padded head and back support for added comfort
- Full-length safety handles
- Molded ankle holders for a secure but comfortable grip
- Folds for quick and easy storage
- Dimensions: 28″W x 46″L x 63″H
- User height range: 4ft 8in – 6ft 6in
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
2. Teeter EP-560 Inversion Table
The EP-560 is one of Teeter’s most popular inversion tables, with over 1,000 highly rated reviews on Amazon. It’s also one of their most affordable, with a price that’s lower than their EP-970 and Contour L5 designs.
The biggest difference between Teeter and other inversion tables is the lack of padding. Rather than using vinyl covered padding, the EP-560 is fitted with a ComforTrak bed, which flexes to support your body as you move.
- ComforTrak bed that flexes for full support during stretches
- High-density foam ankle cups for added comfort
- Heavy gauge steel frame that folds for easy storage
- Grip-and-stretch handholds for deeper back stretches
- Ankle comfort dial adjusts to different sized feet
- Adjustable safety tether strap for secure inversion exercises
- Teeterlink App available to track usage
- Range of accessory options with the LTD version
- FDA Certified
- User height support: 4ft 6in – 6ft 6in
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
All Teeter inversion tables are FDA cleared for back pain, muscle tension and spasms, herniated disc, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and facet syndrome.
For added back pain relief, you can also buy a range of accessories. This includes Acupressure Nodes and a Lumbar Bridge, which attach to the table bed for deeper decompression of the lower back.
The only downside is you don’t have the Deluxe EZ-Reach Ankle System, which is available on the Teeter EP-970 LTD. It’s essentially a longer handle with a ratchet closure system that means you don’t have to bend as far to lock and release your ankles.
You’re also missing the full-length Stretch Max handles, but the precision rotation puts you in complete control of the inversion.
3. Innova ITX9600 Heavy Duty Inversion Therapy Table
Innova Fitness produce some of the best inversion tables on the market, with bestsellers like the ITX9800, ITM4800 (heat and massage therapy), and ITX9700.
But it’s the ITX9600 design that’s proven to be most popular for back stretching and spinal decompression. Thousands of customers have already left positive reviews on Amazon, praising the low price, secure locking pin system, and wide range of user height settings.
- 6-position adjustable safety pin to control inversion angle
- Foam padded head and back support for added comfort
- Full-length safety handles
- Molded ankle holders for a secure but comfortable grip
- Folds for quick and easy storage
- Dimensions: 28″W x 46″L x 63″H
- User height range: 4ft 10in – 6ft 6in
- Weight capacity: 300 lbs
Another win for this model is that it’s built for larger people. The 300 lb weight capacity and 6ft 6in maximum user height gives a secure stretch to those with bigger frames.
As a back stretching device, it’s not as effective as the Teeter EP-560, due to having fewer grip positions. But the 180-degree inversion range and full-length handles still make it an effective solution for back pain.
Even if you don’t have extensive stretching experience, you’ll find the ITX9600 easy-to-use, comfortable, and compact, thanks to its folding A-frame design.
For an extra +- $30, you can get the table’s premium version, the Innova ITX 9688. It includes an extended handle for the ankle holding system, making it that little bit more user friendly.
Want reviews of the top inversion tables on the market?
Video demonstrations of how to use different types of stretching machines:
Teeter EP-560 Inversion Table
Stretching machine exercises and workouts
Before buying a new stretch machine, it’s important decide which areas of your body you want to workout.
Stiffness in the neck could mean an inversion table is best, while a leg stretch / splits machine is better for loosening hamstrings and boosting flexibility.
It’s also useful to know what to expect from a stretching workout. This includes exercise options, stretch duration, and how often you need to use the machine to experience the best results.
Most full body stretching machines come with a placard mounted to the front, which displays the best stretches for that equipment. Even some stretch bands now come with online workout videos and eBooks, to help you gently increase your flexibility.
When used correctly, the results from using a stretching machine can be incredible.
Health benefits of using stretch machines
This guide was written to help you find the best stretching machine for your home. But we’ve also included a few lightweight and portable stretching devices, such as stretch out straps and hamstring stretchers.
So how can these products improve your quality of life?
Deep muscle stretching doesn’t just benefit superstar pro athletes, dancers and martial arts practitioners. Even with a simple stretch routine, you can enjoy greater flexibility, reduced muscle tightness, and improved athletic performance.
Daily stretching can also ensure correct posture, increase blood flow and nutrients to your joints, and even improve fine-muscle coordination.
But what about claims that stretching can increase strength, or reduce the risk of injury?
Does stretching increase muscle strength?
One study tested whether stretching could increase upper body strength, using sixteen experienced male powerlifters as the test subjects.
Nine of the powerlifters participated in two flexibility training sessions, twice per week for 8 weeks. The remaining seven powerlifters were assigned to the control group, which was assigned a routine with no stretching.
At the end of the 8 weeks, researchers found that flexibility training led to significantly more work being performed during the rebound bench press. Participants in the stretching group could lift a significantly greater load during the post-training test session.
Can pre-workout stretching reduce the risk of injury?
It’s widely accepted that a proper warm up prior to exercise, including stretching your muscles, can help reduce the risk of injury and limit the degree of muscle soreness.
But is there any science to back this up?
There have been numerous studies into the effects of stretching on muscle soreness and injury. Systematic reviews have then been performed to summarize the findings.
One was published in The BMJ medical journal, which looked at the results of 5 studies. Researchers concluded that stretching produced small and statistically non-significant reductions in muscle soreness.
Two of these studies included army recruit data from military training, which showed that muscle stretching before exercise does not produce useful reductions in the risk of injury.
Not a good start…
A separate Cochrane Review investigated the link between stretching and reduced muscle soreness.
This review included twelve studies, one of which involved 2377 participants, while the others were much smaller (10-30 participants each). The effects of pre-exercise and post-exercise stretching were measured.
Authors of the review concluded that muscle stretching does not produce clinically significant reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This was true for pre- and post-workout stretching.
Will stretching improve my exercise performance?
A 2007 study, published in the journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, investigated the link between static stretching exercises and exercise performance.
Thirty-eight volunteers were assigned to either a stretching group (STR) or control group (CON). Participants in the STR group followed a static stretching routine designed to work all major lower body muscle groups.
In comparison, the CON group performed no stretching or physical exercise during the 10-week study.
Each of the subjects had their flexibility, strength, endurance, and power assessed at the beginning of the study, then again after the 10 weeks.
The stretching group showed a clear and significant improvement in all areas, with an increase in flexibility (18.1%), standing long jump (2.3%), vertical jump (6.7%), 20-m sprint (1.3%), knee flexion 1RM (15.3%), knee extension 1RM (32.4%), knee flexion endurance (30.4%) and knee extension endurance (28.5%).
Researchers concluded that stretching exercises can improve performance in specific exercises.
Types of stretching machine
With such a wide range of stretch machines on the market, it’s difficult to know where to start.
Should you be looking at inversion tables for spinal decompression or a back traction machine, like the ComforTrac Home Lumbar device?
It’s also important to know which muscles you need to stretch. Is a full body stretch machine a worthwhile investment, or do you only need to boost flexibility in your hamstrings?
As part of our review, we looked at 3 main types of stretch machine:
- Full body stretch machines
- Leg stretching/splits machines
- Back/spine stretching machine
We’ll walk you through the pros and cons of each category, to help you find the best stretch machine for your home.
Whether you suffer from compressed discs in your lower back, muscle-tightening issues in your legs, or limited movement in your shoulders, the machines listed below could be the solution.
1. Stretch machines for the whole body
If you’re looking for the best stretching machine for boosting overall flexibility, you’ll want to invest in something like the Precor 240i StretchTrainer.
This type of stretch machine targets every major muscle group, including your hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and arms, as well as your upper and lower back.
Being able to stretch this many muscles with a single exercise is a quick way to enhance overall flexibility, improve posture, reduce tightness in the muscles and joints, and even alleviate lower back pain.
In addition to full body muscle stretching, the footprint is often smaller than the leg stretch/splits machines. This can create a more practical and enjoyable stretching experience in compact home gyms.
What to look for in a full body stretch machine
- Ensure you can train all major muscle groups (legs, back, arms, chest, etc.)
- Extensive warranty on the frame and parts
- Compact footprint if you have limited space in your home gym
- Lightweight frame for easy transport
- Ergonomics to support different user heights and body types
- Sturdy construction, with a high enough weight capacity
- High-density, comfortable cushioning in the seat
2. Leg stretch machines
Also known as splits machines, this is the equipment of choice for anyone looking to stretch their leg muscles, especially their hamstrings.
This could include martial arts practitioners, dancers, or anyone with tight hamstrings who simply wants to touch their toes a little easier.
Modern leg stretch machines are often fitted with a control wheel, which allows you to slowly increase the degree of stretch, in incremental steps.
One of the best examples is the Century Versaflex Stretching Machine, which is designed with comfortable padding and ergonomic leg supports.
What to look for in a leg stretch machine
- Sturdy frame design with a high weight capacity
- Control wheel to adjust the angle of the leg split (not ratcheting incremental)
- Quick and easy assembly (pre-assembled where possible)
- Adjustable back support for maximum neck and lumbar support
- Comfortable padded panels at contact points with your legs
3. Back stretching machines
If you’re experiencing lower back pain or tightness in your back muscles, an inversion table can be an excellent investment.
Their low cost means they’re incredibly popular for home gyms across the country, and many of the top designs have thousands of reviews on Amazon.
Each company has their own unique design features, and it’s important to weigh up the benefits of each before buying.
Do you need infrared heat therapy? Then the Ironman IFT range would be the best choice.
Looking to upgrade with a range of accessories? Choose an inversion table from Teeter, who sell gravity boots, lumbar bridges, acupressure nodes, traction handles, and even a vibrating cushion.
But inversion tables aren’t the only option when it comes to spinal decompression and stretching your back muscles.
There are dozens of back traction devices for stretching your lower back, such as the Nubax Trio, Back Magic, and ChiSoft Lumbar Stretcher.
These machines are designed help with everything from the realignment of spinal discs to healing pinched nerves. They’re more affordable and portable than inversion tables, but don’t allow the same level of deep stretching.
What to look for in a back stretch machine
- Sturdy frame design with a high weight capacity (300 – 350 lbs+)
- Memory foam back cushioning for maximum comfort
- Enough table length settings to support your height (most extend to 6’6″)
- Good warranty coverage (ideally 5 years+)
- On premium inversion therapy tables, look for a ratchet ankle locking system
- Secure locking system. Most inversion tables use a strap to limit the inversion angle, but Ironman iControl tables use a disk brake system.
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We go to great lengths to ensure that our reviews are completely comprehensive, usually covering everything from the design features to the warranty coverage and exercise options. This is all to help guide you towards the home gym equipment that’s best suited to your goals and budget, whilst also being the highest quality option in your chosen price range.