If you’re working out hardcore, are super sore and aren’t making all the gains you want, you’re doing it wrong. What? You may think that the more you work out, the better you’ll become, but that is not always the case. Even the most elite athletes need muscle relief in order to continue performing at their best. These athletes turn to stretching machines to help them excel for the next day or the next workout.
Actually, there are numerous things active people and athletes can do to relieve their sore muscles and restore their bodies. In this article, we will discuss the best ways to restore your body via stretching machines. We will also discuss the latest research behind stretching, types of stretching and what products to consider if you are looking for a stretching machine for your home. Also, don’t forget to read our sample stretch workout that you can implement into your next fitness day. You’ll thank us!
The Science Behind Shredding Muscle
Not convinced that you need to stretch before or after a workout? Do you feel pretty loose once you get to exercising? If you’re like some people, you may just go to the gym and try to get the most strength sets and reps in and then leave. The more time you spend lifting weights at the gym, the more gains you make, right? Wrong!
Before we get in to the benefits of stretching and muscle recovery, let’s take a look at how our muscles are affected by exercise.
The Good Behind Shredding Muscle
You may have heard lots of information about the benefits of exercise, and they are extensive. Here are several benefits to exercise and strength training:
- Increases muscle mass
- Burns calories which is beneficial for weight control
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
- Improves mood, brain health and mental health
- Increases strength and improves the ability to do daily activities (1)
- Enhances insulin sensitivity
- Improves sleep
- Can potentially increase your lifespan
- Prevents age-related lean muscle mass decline
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), it is recommended that adults engage in exercise for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. If you like to do high intensity exercise, your recommendation is at least 75 minutes per week. For those who are interested in weight loss, the AHA recommendations that adults get 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. In terms of strength training, it is recommended that adults engage in weight-bearing exercise at least 2 times per week.
The Bad Behind Shredding Muscle
While exercise is essential to a healthy life and should be performed regularly, there are some damages that occur when we exercise. Regardless of your current activity level and where you want to be, muscle recovery and stretching is essential for everyone in order to prevent some of the damages of exercise.
Have you ever experienced any of the following?
- Muscle soreness, swelling and muscle damage
- Can interfere with sleep when exercise occurs too close to bedtime
- Certain types of excessive exercise may prevent muscle gains (2)
- Potential for injury and risk for dangerous “no pain, no gain” mentality
- Sparks release of catabolic inflammatory cytokines that causes the muscle to breakdown
- Potential for rhabdomyolysis related to excessive exercise, which can be debilitating and/or deadly
- May ignite or proliferate disordered body image tendencies of restrictive eating and excessive exercise (as seen in people who are prone to anorexia and bulimia nervosa)
Exercise-related injuries and accidents can happen to anyone. That being said, however, make sure you consult your healthcare team about your specific exercise limitations (if any). Aside from physical limitations, you may have mental and health-related factors that can contraindicate exercise. Also, when you are exercising, make sure you know how to operate the exercise equipment you are using. If you are unsure, ask!
Workout Recovery: Is it Essential?
While workout recovery is not a new idea, it is often overlooked by many active people. Professional athletes may be the ones who are most likely to engage in workout recovery, but they usually have a whole team of fitness trainers! If you don’t have your own personal massage therapist and fitness team, have no fear! There are many ways to engage in workout recovery so that you can be the best version of your fit self.
Here’s a list of restorative efforts you can make to heal your body both before and after a workout:
- Full body stretching (includes dynamic stretching and static stretching)
- Foam rolling and massage
- Proper diet and hydration
- Engage in active off-days which consist of activities like yoga, walking, biking or engaging in fun sports
- Good quality and consistent sleep habits
If you currently do not engage in post-workout recovery (or don’t think it is necessary), reconsider. While you may feel fine after some workouts, there’s a chance you can feel even better with proper body restoration. According to the research, stretching not only relieves pain and increases functional ability during daily activities, but it also is beneficial for exercise performance. Increased joint flexibility is one of the main benefits of stretching (3).
Stretching: Reward Yourself for a Great Workout
When comparing all of the muscle recovery methods we discussed, stretching is by far the easiest, most researched and most versatile. While you can engage in free stretching without a body stretching machine, you may not be able to do certain maneuvers. You can customize your stretching routine with full body stretching machines or more specific equipment like leg stretching machines and back stretching machines.
If you want a well-rounded home fitness space that caters to both your exercise and recovery needs, consider a body stretching machine for your home. In this article, we will review the Fitnessator’s Top Picks in full body stretching machines. For those who don’t have time to read the full review, jump down to “The Rundown” section for quick product specs. Also, don’t forget to check out our sample stretch workout!
Fitnessator’s Top Pick
Precor 240i Commercial Series StretchTrainer– The Most Complete Back Stretching Machine
Why We Love It:
If you suffer from back pain or neck pain, this is the spine stretching machine for you. Whether you experience stiffness from working out or working at a computer, the Precor 240i can give you some much-need relief. Since this back stretching machine can accommodate pain and discomfort from exercise and daily activities, it earned the Fitnessator Top Pick status.
Back stretching machines such as this one are usually able to incorporate stretches that relieve both pain in the back and neck. These back and neck stretching machines incorporate exercises and movements that are similar to common yoga poses. Child’s pose is a yoga pose that elongates the back and neck muscles to decompress the spine. Such positions are shown to be extremely effective in relieving pain along the entire spine (4).
- Ergonomic seat and handles to engage in neck, upper back and lower back stretches
- Can also engage in hip opening stretches and some quadriceps stretches (may depend on your height)
- Dimensions: 52in x 28in x 36in
- Total product weight is 60 lbs
- Precor Website Price: $649 (this may be a temporary special price; regular price is $899)
Things to Consider:
This spine stretching machine specializes in relieving soreness, aches and pains of the back and neck. While some people may be able to manipulate the machine for a few quadriceps stretches, this may not be available to everyone.
Many customers who purchase this product suffer from chronic low back pain. According to their reviews, these customers were told by doctors, physical therapists and personal trainers that this machine will help them. And guess what: These customers found relief of their lower back pain!
Even though customers say that assembly of this machine is quick and easy, some customers noted that the screws and holes did not always line up completely, making it difficult to install the stability screws. Overall, these assembly issues were resolved with some manipulation.
Who Should Purchase This Product:
While it may be obvious, if you suffer from back or neck pain that is associated with exercise or non-exercise activities like a desk job, this stretch machine may be the best for you. This machine would also be beneficial for those who are unable to engage in floor exercises due to joint problems, injury or being elderly. Since this stretch machine is raised off the floor and has handlebars, this is a relatively safe piece of equipment to use.
Fitnessator’s Runner Up
Total Gym Fitness Fusion Full Body Workout Exercise Machine– More than Just a Stretch Machine
Why We Love It:
If you’re looking to save money and space in your home fitness area, check out the Total Gym Fitness Fusion machine. Not only is this machine the cheapest on the list, but it is also the most versatile. You can engage in both strength and cable workouts, which gives you more bang for your buck and saves on space.
- Able to engage in resistance cardio training and stretching on this body stretching machine
- Available in teal or gray
- Dimensions: 56in x 18in x 9.5in
- Total product weight is 87 lbs
- Walmart Website Price: $399.99
Things to Consider:
While this full body stretch machine may appeal to many, keep in mind that this product has a weight limit of 275 lbs. Also, if you are really interested in muscle bulking, this machine may not be the best for you, especially if you’re looking for a full-body workout machine to save money. The cables on this machine provide some resistance, however, they may not provide heavy weight resistance for you to make major gains. If you are more interested in endurance and/or bodyweight exercises, this machine may be a good choice.
Aside from the appealing price and ability to do many different exercises, customers rave about all the accessories that come with this product. Upon purchase of this product, you will receive exercise DVDs, a nutrition guide, inspiration guide, Pilates kit, leg pulley system, abdominal attachments and more.
According to one customer, the assembly of this machine was complicated and required more work than advertised. Apparently the machine did not arrive assembled as stated by the company, making it too difficult to figure out. Consider arranging someone to set up the machine if you anticipate installation and assembly issues.
Who Should Purchase This Product:
This product can fit the bill for a variety of people. First, if you are looking for a moderately priced stretch machine, this one is a cost saver compared to the other products on the list. Also, if space is an issue, this all-in-one machine gives you tons of different workouts for minimal space. No need to purchase a cardio machine or leg machine. Since this stretch machine also has cables for resistance, you can probably get a really good chest workout.
Fitnessator’s Honorable Mention
Nitrofit Limber Pro– Best Leg Stretching Machine
Why We Love It:
Oftentimes athletes, dancers, gymnasts and leg day enthusiasts struggle with extreme soreness in their legs. If you’re like them, you often rely on your legs to perform intense physical activity and activities of daily living. Have you ever been completely debilitated after leg day? This leg and hamstring stretching machine is for you!
- Includes a calf stretch platform for several leg stretches
- Nine exercises (or more if you are creative) can be done on this machine
- Dimensions: 50.5in x 38.5in x 22.4in
- Total product weight is 56 lbs
- Nitrofit Website Price: $449.95
Things to Consider:
Even though this machine is great for leg stretches, you are also able to engage in several back and neck stretching exercises, which is beneficial for everyone. If you are creative, you may be able to do some resistance exercises with free weight dumbbells too! Consider doing some weighted calf raises on this machine.
According to customer reviews, some people decided to purchase this stretch machine in order to work on getting a deeper stretch than the stretches they were doing on the floor. With the calf stretch station, customers also enjoy the deep stretch in their legs from this leg-specific stretch machine.
On the other hand, some customers stated that assembly was way too complicated for this home delivery product. Also, the metal structure does not seem to be as sturdy as the commercial gym stretch machines.
Who Should Purchase This Product:
If you hobble around for several days after a leg workout, consider the Nitrofit Limber Pro. Not only does it offer leg stretches that are not available on the other machines, but it also provides very deep stretches for maximum relief. It also has the ability to offer back stretches for times when you lifted with your back, rather than lifting with your legs!
The Rundown on Stretching Machines
After reviewing the Fitnessator’s Top Picks in stretching machines, here’s a breakdown to help you compare these 3 products:
Less than $400
Back and neck stretches
Several lower body stretches
Able to engage in non-stretching exercises
|Precor 240i (Top Pick)||X||No|
|Total Gym Fusion (Runner Up)||X||X||Yes, cable exercises|
|Nitrofit Limber Pro (Honorable Mention)||X||X||Yes, calf raises and some gluteal exercises|
Sample Stretch Routine: Add it to Your Next Workout
Regardless of which body stretching machine you use, try this sample stretch routine before, during or after your next workout. Rather than being stretch-machine-specific, this routine focuses on several body areas to ensure that you are getting a full stretch. You can do this with or without a stretch machine. This sample stretch routine has been derived from professional dancers.
Duration and/or number of repetitions
Standing roll down and up
|3 roll ups and roll downs||Start standing straight. Slowly tuck in your chin and bend down to the ground. Imagine you are bending down while trying to unstack each and every vertebra as you roll down. Try to restack each vertebra as you roll up.|
|Hold 15 seconds on each side||With your left hand on your hip, bend towards the left. Extend your right hand over your head and all the way to the left. Breathe out as you bend to the side. Repeat on both sides.|
Wide forward bend
|Hold for 30 seconds||With legs wider than shoulder-width apart, keep your legs straight and bend forward to touch the ground.|
|20 repetitions||In the wide forward bend position, grab your elbows with your opposite hands. Release the back and slowly hang and swing from side to side.|
|Hold for 30 seconds on each side||With your right leg bent in front of you on the ground, extend your left leg straight to the back, so that you are on the ball of your left foot. Make sure your front foot is bent at a 90-degree angle. Your hips should be parallel with your leg.|
|Hold for 30 seconds on each side||In the runner’s lunge, shift your hips so that they are facing 90 degrees away from your leg. Your right leg should be bent and your left should be straight. Both legs should be going out to the side.|
|Hold for 30 seconds||In a wide position, place your hands on your knees and bend your legs out to the side. Your legs should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Use your hands to gently push your knees backward, feeling the stretch in the inner hips and thighs.|
|Hold for 30 seconds||This is a classic yoga pose. Press your heels into the floor while lengthening the back.|
|Circle for 20 repetitions on each side||Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Try to keep most of your spine on the floor. Hold your knees with your arms. Massage the lower back by making small circles with the knees. You should feel your pelvic bones being massaged against the floor.|
|Hold for 15 seconds on each side||This is your classic over-the-head triceps stretch. Breathe through this stretch, especially if you just had an arm day.|
Shoulder and chest bend
|Hold for 30 seconds||It is important to breathe during this exercise. With feet wide apart, clasp your hands together behind your back and bend forward. Once your torso is bending towards the floor, gently push your clasped hands up and over your head. You should feel this stretch around your shoulders and chest.|
|5 rolls to each side||Slowly roll your neck all the way around. Try to get your head to touch your chest, shoulders and/or back during the whole rotation. Relax your shoulders during this exercise.|
|Hold for 30 seconds on each side||Lie on your back with your legs straight out. Bend one leg and cross it over your body to the opposite side. Twist your upper body in the opposite direction so that you get a nice twist in the spine.|
Before You Purchase
After reading this article, you may feel more comfortable identifying which workout recovery methods work best for you, however, choosing a specific stretch machine may still be a challenge. That being said, however, make sure you identify which types of stretches you want to do with a stretching machine and which you can do without.
For example, perhaps you prefer to do back stretches on the floor and are looking for a leg and hamstring stretching machine. On the other hand, you may be well-versed in leg stretches and need something to really hyperextend and decompress your back muscles. Regardless of your needs, the three stretch machines listed in this article are compatible with a variety of people.
Do you currently engage in workout recovery methods? How often do you stretch? What’s your absolute favorite stretch? Let us know in the comments below.