Stretching Machines Overview:
It might seem a bit strange to use a piece of equipment to aid in stretching tight muscles, but stretching machines are welcome tools for those who want to improve flexibility by allowing muscles to stretch and relax more quickly.
Everyone knows the feeling of tight muscles. It can range from stiffness to outright pain. And taking the time and, more importantly, knowing how to work on stretching out each muscle group can be challenging.
Devices such as leg stretchers or stretching machines that are designed for the whole body help to gently extend muscles into a more useful state of flexibility. It might feel like an unfair advantage, but those who have made the leap never look back. People who do any kind of physical exercise, including running, lifting weights, dancing, martial arts, golf, tennis, baseball, basketball, and more, all can often use a helping hand, or in this case piece of stretching equipment.
Keep in mind, not all stretch machines were built the same, nor are they built to stretch all the same muscle groups. So we will break down the two main types to help you decide which might work best for you.
1. Stretch Machines for the Whole Body
Stretching machines such as the Precor 240i StretchTrainers represent a type of machine that targets broader areas of the body including the hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, arms, upper and lower back, plus much more. Ideally it hits every major muscle group with a gentle but effective stretch. Among its many benefits, this kind of stretching machine can effectively help reduce back pain, improve posture, reduce joint and muscle tightness, and supercharge overall flexibility.
What to Look For in a Full Body Stretch Machine:
- Targets all core muscle groups
- Sturdy construction
- Comfortable padding where you need it (seat and knee pads)
- Wrist straps
- Great warranty
- Well designed ergonomics
- Ability to accommodate all sizes of user
- Small footprint and easy transport
Best by Price:
Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer – $750 – 74 Amazon Reviews
LifeSpan Fitness SP1000 Stretch Partner Stretching Machine – $499 – 61 Reviews
2. Leg Stretching Machines (aka Splits Machines)
This is the type of machine that focuses on helping people stretch their legs, especially their hamstrings by incremental increasing degrees. An example of this is the Century Versaflex Stretching Machine. If doing the splits is important to you, as it can be for martial arts practioners and dancers, this is the type of machine you want. But it’s also a great machine to use if tight hamstrings are a problem for you, or you just want to be able to touch your toes a little easier.
Leg or splits machines often have a control wheel that allows you to slowly increase the amount of your stretch. And comfortable padding comes into play here since your legs will be extended out by the leg supports. So make sure you choose a machine that is adjustable and comfortable.
What to Look For in a Leg Stretching Machine:
- Sturdy construction
- Padded panels
- Adjustable back support
- A control wheel is better than a ratcheting incremental stretch.
- Easy assembly
Best Leg / Splits Machines by Price:
Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS – $209 – 83 Reviews
ProForce Stretchmaster II Leg Stretcher – $249 – 35 Reviews
Valor Fitness CA-27 Leg Stretch Machine – $181 – 42 Reviews
Our Top Picks
We split up our picks for the best stretch machine into the two main categories of stretch equipment: the full body stretch machine, and the leg stretch machine. The desired flexibility results that users may be looking for in a stretching machine occasionally overlap, but these two categories of equipment are separate enough that two top picks will probably be of the most help.
Top Full Body Stretcher Pick:
Precor 240i StretchTrainer
The Precor 240i stretch machine is a commercial-grade, multi-functional tool that is durable, comfortable, and designed to stretch every major muscle group. This device comes at a premium price, but it’s worth the “stretch”, as you’re going to experience levels of flexibility you didn’t know were possible through the variable stretch exercises you can perform with it. Stretching in yoga class or any other classes is an excellent way to improve your body. However, with a full-body machine at home, even bett er, right near where you spend the most time, you’re going to use it a lot more and thus get a lot more flexible and faster. The Precor 240i StretchTrainer is the cream of the crop in this area. Athletes such as golfers, baseball players, and tennis players used this stretcher to stay highly flexible and improve their game, but it’s truly transformative for anyone of any age or flexibility level. The best part is, having a Precor at home, you’re going to use it every day.
- Stretch Exercise Variations
- The Precor 240i StretchTrainer allows for eight core stretch exercises including lower back, shoulders, upper back, glutes and hips, hips/legs/back, inner thighs/groin, and quadriceps.
- It has a handy placard attached that explains each stretch.
- Move and Store – It’s only 60 lbs, with a compact footprint of 52 L x 28 W x 36 H) so it’s fairly easy to move and store within your home.
Top Leg Stretcher (Splits Machine) Pick:
Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS
Our pick for the best leg stretcher is the Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS. The Pro is a split machine that allows you to work on stretching your hamstrings and improve your splits even beyond 180 degrees. We’ll just say right off the bat, a great feature is that the Pro Leg Stretcher comes fully assembled in the package. It’s a rugged, well-built product that is going to take your leg stretch to the next level as well as last for as long as you’re using it. Beyond being a sturdy leg split machine, the Pro has padded foot rests, padded seat, and great adjustable back support for a comfortable and customizable stretch.
- Control wheel – The great thing about a control wheel on a stretch machine like this is that you can increase your stretch by tiny increments instead of pre-defined cranks or notch levels. To keep tabs on your progress, just count the number of wheel rotations you can get to.
- Fully assembled – The fact that it comes assembled just gives the Pro an edge.
- Sturdy construction – It’s made to last.
Overall, most leg stretchers will get results, but if you’re looking for top of the charts efficiency and ease of use (and assembly), the Pro Leg Stretcher has the edge. We’ll be covering other models in future leg machine reviews, so stay tuned. Click here or the button below for our full review of the Pro Leg Stretcher by TMAS:
Benefits of Using Stretch Machines and How They Work
Getting a deep, satisfying, and beneficial stretch is a never-ending quest for everyone from superstar pro athletes to regular, mortal humans. Dancers and martial arts practitioners can spend years working on the flexibility their hamstrings to improve their splits using traditional methods. Golfers try stretching their back, hips, and arms to get their drive more accurate. But once we stop stretching, your muscles immediately begin to revert to a tighter state. It might protect the body in some ancient way, but for us today, it’s just frustrating.
One advantage that a stretch machine has over stretching in a class, is you really go at your own comfort level without feeling the pressure to overstretch. Any good yoga instructor would never push you too far, but it can be difficult to gauge where your current limits are. In the privacy and comfort of your own home, you can really take the time to slowly, session by session improve and deepen your flexibility.
Martial Arts Leg Stretch Machines
As we have noted above, the Pro Leg Stretcher works great as a martial arts leg stretcher. Almost any martial arts enthusiast can benefit from being loose and limber especially when doing the splits. Trying to achieve the splits without a machine can get you there, but enhancing your stretch with a dedicated martial arts stretching machine can get you there faster, more consistently, and with results you can measure. With its control wheel, the Pro Leg Stretcher split machine allows you to gradually increase your stretch at your own pace and comfort level.
Martial Arts Full Body Stretching Machines
Martial arts stretch equipment also doesn’t have to only mean something that works your legs or helps you do the splits. Stretch equipment such as the Precor 240i StretchTrainer or Lifespan StretchPartner are full body stretching machines that can help someone practicing anything from karate to jiu jitsu to Krav Maga gain more flexibility by targeting almost every major muscle group.
Stretching Machine Exercises and Workouts
Once you purchase a stretch machine, obviously you’re going to want to start using it right away. But it’s important to think about and carefully consider your goals. What areas of your body are experiencing stiffness? What degree do you want to achieve for doing the splits on your split machine? Are you going to commit to a daily regimen of stretching?
Develop a Stretching Habit
At any age, we’re going to feel muscle tightness. It’s just the nature of having muscles, tendons, and joints. But as yoga practitioners, athletes, and martial artists can testify to, learning and getting into the habit of doing a proper stretch routine can work wonders for your body and overall well being. If you already workout, it’s easy to end the workout with stretch exercises. If you don’t workout, what are you waiting for?
Stretch Equipment for Older Adults
Many people who are older might be experiencing stiffness in their muscles and joints. Unfortunately, that’s just a part of aging. Fortunately you don’t have to just accept it! A little discipline and habit-formation can get you incredible results with a stretch machine such as the Precor 240 StretchTrainer. Perhaps you make it a routine to get right on your Precor right after a morning walk (it’s always a good idea to warm up your muscles before stretch exercises). If a walk is part of your routine already, then 10 to 20 minutes on the exercise equipment can flow nicely right after.
A Word of Caution
As with any piece of exercise equipment, you should always check in with your doctor before you embark on a new flexibility program with a stretch machine. It’s smart to know what you’re capable of and understand your limits before starting. A quick appointment with your physician can help you safely start your routine and gaining flexibility quickly while avoiding injury.
Final Word on Stretching Machines
Pieces of exercise equipment such as a rowing machine or elliptical trainer can give you a great workout, help you lose weight, or get your cardio working. But stretch machines are a different breed. You might not ride your spinning bike every single day because you probably want to rest your legs to avoid overuse. However, with a stretch machine, you can absolutely use it every day. Of course, you want to be careful and very methodically and gently increase your flexibility. But if you want relief from tightness or to deepen your stretch, a stretch machine will help you get there. Between leg stretchers/split machines and full body stretching machines the uses will of course overlap. And the kind of device you choose really depends on your needs. But whether you’re doing it for sports or just to limber up after a long day hunched over a computer, the results from using a stretching machine can be incredible.
Here’s a video of a woman demonstrating use of a leg stretching machine. As she points out, you should always be properly warmed up when using one of these devices: