If you think stretching is only for martial artists or contortionists, you better think again. Have you ever felt frustrated that you could not get something from that overhead shelf? Did you ever wish that your lower back is stronger every time you need to pick up your toddler? Is reaching your toes to tie those shoelaces an immense task in itself? We have been there at one point or another, no thanks to the sedentary lifestyle that most of us are guilty of.
Here is where stretching comes to the rescue. Stretching increases your flexibility and range of motion. It helps your muscles relax so that you are more mobile to effectively perform different activities. Furthermore, it improves posture, circulation and coordination, relieves stress, and prevents injury.
While you can always have a good stretch alone or with a partner, having a stretching machine is even better. It helps you keep the correct form during stretches. You are in complete control of your pace, and you enjoy the privacy and comfort of home!
In this post, you will know what types of machines are available on the market, what features to look for, and what brands produce the best products today. We also go a step forward by giving you a rundown of the finest stretching machines whether for the legs, the back, or the whole body.
So read on and find out about how this brilliant equipment can work wonders for your body.
Stretching machines are certainly not created equal, and their manufacturers’ awesome marketing efforts make it even more difficult to tell the excellent ones apart from the not-so-good-ones.
As simple as they may seem, we will help you filter those options. Here are the factors to consider in choosing the perfect product for you.
Size and User-Weight Support
Although most stretching machines are adjustable, make sure that it is able to accommodate your height and weight. Ideally, the machine can support a weight at least 15lb higher than yours.
Some stretching tools like elastic or rubber stretch bands direct the intensity of your stretch without your input. When they take the lead, the stretching can be painful or ineffective. Look for a machine that allows the focus muscle or area to control your stretches.
A good machine stretches the whole muscle instead of one confined area of the muscle. If it stretches only the joints like knees and ankles, it’s not a good choice either.
Comfort of Use
Most stretching machines have padding for additional comfort. Choose those that have nicely padded seats, leg panels and knee cushions.
Expensive machines are usually more versatile. If you can afford it, choose those that provide more options for stretching different muscle groups. When it comes to price, the rule is to look for the best quality that fits your budget.
Top 5 Stretching Machines
Try visiting your favorite fitness store or clicking the search button and you will surely find many stretching machine options up for sale.
We’re here to help you cut the hunting game short. We checked out all machines available on the market and had our panel of experts put them to a thorough test.
We proudly present the 5 best options we found. Take your pick now!
1. Precor 240i Stretch Trainer
A versatile full-body stretch machine, the Precor 240i Stretch Trainer gets the top spot in our best of the best list.
Get this: you can target not one, but eight key muscle groups in one superb machine! It even has an easy-to-follow graphic stretching guide that shows how you can effectively stretch your lower back, hamstrings, glutes or hips, hips/legs/back, inner thighs/groin, upper back, shoulders and quadriceps.
The Precor 240i places emphasis on both safety and comfort.
It features an ergonomic design that helps stabilize your back, something that is important regardless of the muscle group you are focusing on. It enforces proper posture so you are sure to stretch in the ideal body position, therefore avoiding injury and maximizing benefits. The seats, handle bars, and knee pads are cushioned to make your stretches as comfortable as possible.
Another key characteristic of the Precor 240i is its safety wrist straps. In case you lose grip of the handles, these straps keep you from completely falling off the machine.
This 60-pound stretching machine has a maximum user weight of 250 pounds.
Although it is solidly built, Precor gives a 5-year warranty on frame, 2 years on parts and 90 days on upholstery.
More often than not, a product’s good quality corresponds to a lofty price. The same is true with the Precor 240i.
If you have the resources, there is no reason to say no to all the stretching benefits, not to mention the safety and comfort features incorporated in the machine. Read more about the awesome Precor 240i in this post and you will definitely agree.
2. Valor Fitness CA-27
Coming in at second place is an affordable leg stretching machine, the Valor Fitness CA-27.
It enables you to stretch beyond 180 degrees and although we don’t find it necessary, it just means that the machine can push you to your limits. Anytime you’re ready!
More than this, what we really love about the Valor Fitness CA-27 is its steering wheel mechanism that allows a gradual increase in your stretch. For majority of users, a smooth adjustment is much more favorable than a sudden change. You can be sure that it can adapt to whatever pace is comfortable for you. However, you may want to note that the machine has no indicator of the progress of your stretch.
The Valor Fitness CA-27 also gained points from our experts because of its padded and adjustable back and leg supports. Unlike other leg stretching machines, Valor Fitness considered the fact that not all users fall under average heights so accordingly, leg lengths vary as well. Again, this adaptable machine adjusts to your needs.
At 49 lbs., it is still heavy but not as much as other leg stretchers. However, be aware that its maximum recommended user weight is 250 lbs.
The Valor Fitness CA-27 is very easy to set up as there is almost no assembly required and you can start experiencing the wonderful benefits of stretching in no time.
3. Century Versaflex
The Century Versaflex is also a popular choice for an affordable leg stretching or splits machine.
The unanimous choice for the most loved feature of the Century Versaflex is its degree indicator. Unlike most splits machines, the Versaflex lets you know how far you are going with every stretch. Isn’t it great to know that you are just a few degrees away from your best stretch ever? Talk about motivation right in front of you!
The Versaflex allows you to stretch up to 190 degrees. While it may not present much of a challenge to those who are already flexible and used to doing splits, it is certainly tough enough for most of us.
It is important to note that it can only be adjusted in 5 degree increments. It can be a sizeable jump especially when you are nearing your threshold so be prepared for that.
There are front and side handles that help you extend your stretches and maximize your use of the machine. It also has a comfortable seat, back support, and leg padding. However, the leg rests may be a bit short for users who are over 6 feet tall.
Our panel of experts note that the Versaflex can be challenging to assemble. It weighs 55 lbs and is a bit bulky so you need to plan its permanent location in advance.
Although it has its limitations, the Century Versaflex is an affordable and decent stretching machine that lives up to expectations. For a more detailed review, check out this post.
4. Pro Leg Stretcher
The fourth spot belongs to another splits machine, the Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS.
You will love this reasonably priced leg stretching machine from the onset. Why? Simply because it comes out of the packaging almost fully assembled! All that is left to do is attach its removable turning wheel and you’re ready to work on your splits.
Whether you are a beginner or a pro, it can accommodate your level of flexibility. It enables you to stretch beyond 180 degrees if you want to push yourself that far. If not, you can just take it light and easy. The power is in the steering wheel in your hands.
The gear system allows smooth and gradual stretching which is perfect if you are in the process of working on our maximum stretch. When you reach your personal best, you can use the stop latch mechanism to hold it for a while until you slowly become more comfortable with it.
Although it does not have a system to check the degree of your stretch, you can still monitor your progress by simply counting the wheel turns.
This sturdy leg stretcher is also comfortable, thanks to its padded seat, back support, and foot rests. The back support is also adjustable to fit different user sizes. There are five position settings to choose from, including flat.
For its quality and ease of use, the Pro Leg Stretcher is definitely a good buy for only a little over $200!
5. Stamina In Line Back Stretch Bench
Completing our top 5 list is an easy-to-use spine stretching machine, the Stamina In Line Back Stretch Bench.
A back stretching machine is your best alternative if you want to decompress your spine but you are not comfortable using an inversion table.
The Stamina In Line is made of a solid steel frame with a vinyl upholstered bench. There are contoured foam padded supports that hold your ankles as you stretch. You don’t need to stress yourself about keeping them in place because they remain locked when the bench is in use.
As for the upper part of your body, there are also foam padded arm supports. You can set your preferred distance between the arm supports and your body: wide, medium or narrow. Your armpits may become a bit sore from the pressure but it can be resolved by using some type of belt to hold your torso.
The Stamina In Line is suitable for users of different heights. The settings are defined by holes along the easily adjustable chrome bar.
There is a lever on the right side of your body that you pull back and forth repeatedly to reach your desired stretch level. Once you are done, you just push the lever toward your feet to release.
If you want the convenience of a portable stretching equipment, this back stretch bench is perfect for you. You can set it on any flat surface and it is ready to serve you, even while watching TV! When not in use, it fits right under your bed for storage.
Overall, the Stamina In Line Back Stretch Bench is a good option to stretch and strengthen not only your back but also your shoulders, knees, hips and ankles.
While we originally intended to have a top 5 list, our panel of experts noted two more commendable stretching machines.
Yes, we are extending our list with the following honorable mentions:
1. Nitrofit Limber Pro Stretch Machine
Working on a limited budget but eyeing the Precor Stretch Trainer? Check out the Nitrofit Limber Pro Stretch Machine. They have very similar features but the Nitrofit costs almost half the price of the Precor!
The Nitrofit’s main advantage over the rest of its competitors, including Precor, is its adjustable seat. Regardless of your size or flexibility level, you can comfortable use it and effectively stretch a number of muscle groups. Just rotate the knob counter clockwise, slide the seat closer or farther away from the handles, use the pull pin, and turn the knob the other way around to lock the setting.
It also has a station in front with a separate set of support bars for stretching your calf muscles. If you opt not to use it or if you are concerned about limiting the machine’s footprint, you can easily remove it for quick storage.
Like the Precor, the Nitrofit also has an illustrated exercise guide. Simply move the main handles for easy access. If you like structure and sure results in your exercise, you are going to love this visual aid.
This stable stretching machine has one of the highest maximum weight capacities at 300 lbs. However, despite its flexibility, you can not disregard the possibility of accidentally falling or losing grip of the handles. With the safety wrist straps, you will feel secure with every stretch.
Without a doubt, the Nitrofit Limber Pro should be one of your top options.
2. Ideal Stretch Hamstring Stretching Device
An extremely underrated stretching device rounds up our prestigious list. We gladly introduce to you the Ideal Stretch Hamstring Stretching Device.
Using the Ideal Stretch is very much like having your very own stretching partner. It helps you stretch your calf, your hamstring, and even your lower back while making sure that you maintain proper hip positioning. It even comes with a DVD to guide you during your exercise.
This portable stretching device comes in two collapsible parts that can easily fit in a bag. Don’t you just love a stretching partner that is always there for you anywhere, anytime?
If you want a simple yet effective stretching tool at a very affordable price, the Ideal Stretch Hamstring Stretching Device will not let you down.
Types of Stretching Machines
Stretching machines can be categorized based on the muscle group that they focus on. Knowing the difference between these types is a major step towards owning the machine that is perfect for you.
Because this type stretches all major muscles, full body stretching machines are best for people who want to enhance their flexibility, maintain good posture, reduce back pain, and decrease the tightness of muscles.
For those who spend a lot of time sitting, this type is perfect because it focuses on stretching your legs or hamstrings. Also called splits machines, they are usually found in gyms. They have padded leg and thigh supports and waist bands. Stretching is done slowly by turning the hand levers or wheels.
If your back or spine need more attention, this type gives those parts the special care they need. Back stretching machines are typically compact and portable. They have feet support and the user pushes on the hand levers for a deep back stretch.
The Top Brands
There is an increasing appreciation of the value of stretching as a key aspect of any exercise. Thus, there is also an upsurge in the number of companies that produce stretching machines.
Among them, the top names that are known to have excellent stretching and fitness equipment are Precor and Valor Fitness.
Established in 1980, Precor has carved a name for itself in offering quality and innovative exercise equipment. People at Precor have dedicated themselves to developing products that are appropriate for every user’s needs. Built around proven science and advanced engineering, their products not only promise but actually deliver excellent results that make it very much worth the high price tag.
Its stretching machine has the Precor trademark ergonomic design. Unlike most machines, it has safety wrist straps and an illustrated exercise guide.
Aside from its best-selling stretch trainer, Precor also has a wide range of exercise equipment that is preferred by health clubs, hotels and spas, and fitness enthusiasts all over the world. It has heavy-duty cardio equipment like ellipticals, treadmills and bikes, and also offers strength training products like squat machines, modulars and multi-stations, benches and racks.
For excellent fitness equipment, you can definitely count on Precor.
Although it entered the market much later than Precor, one could not disregard Valor Fitness as a major player in the industry.
Established in 2006, Valor Fitness manufactures fitness equipment for home as well as light commercial use. It prides itself in producing squat racks, weight benches, power racks, boxing gyms and platforms at a more pocket-friendly price.
Its leg stretcher is a popular choice because of its adjustable back and leg support that suit people of varying sizes. Users also love its smooth wheel movement that allows them to increase the degree of their stretch at a more comfortable pace.
Quality that meets affordability – you can be sure that Valor Fitness is there to make it happen.
Other Things to Consider
Let’s say that the search for the perfect stretching machine is over. Are you wondering if you’re doing your stretches correctly? Do you want to maximize the benefits?
Here are a few things that you should remember.
Before Stretching. While it is commonly a pre-exercise routine, you need to do some light activity for about five to 10 minutes to prepare the body for stretching. You can jog in place or perform jumping jacks to warm the muscles.
Pushing Yourself. How far do you need to stretch? The answer varies simply because every person is different. As a general rule, gradually increase your stretch until you feel the first feeling of tension. After holding it for a while, slowly release to avoid injury.
Length of Stretch. Holding your stretch for 30 seconds per muscle group is enough. Maintaining the position for 10 seconds will make your stretch less effective while extending it for a longer period will increase your chances of tearing a muscle.
After Stretching. Contrary to popular belief, stretching should not be done prior to regular exercise alone. It is also advisable to do static stretching or holding a stretch for some time after your workout. The increased temperature will be helpful for the muscles that you want to lengthen or strengthen.
Keeping Your Increased Flexibility. Don’t slack off after a good stretching session. To achieve maximum results, you should perform each stretch three times for no less than two times per week.
Indeed, stretching offers amazing benefits that you can enjoy if you do it properly. Whether for running, ball sports, dancing, martial arts, or simply your daily activities, your increased flexibility and mobility will be a major advantage.
In buying a stretching machine, you need to decide first if you need a full body, leg, or back stretcher. Look for sturdy construction, comfort, and ease of use. Seek brands like Precor, Valor Fitness, Century and Nitrofit because they manufacture the best products on the market today.
Get up and get a versatile stretching equipment for your whole body, the amazing Precor Stretch Trainer.