Now that flexibility is getting more attention as an essential component of a balanced fitness program, equipment and accessory manufacturers are capitalizing on the opportunity by selling various devices aimed to help you stretch better, more efficiently or more comfortably.
The simplest stretching tools are of course bands, cords, ropes, towels, and other linear devices that help you simply hold onto an extended limb if you can't normally reach it, or just simply put more leverage into the stretch because of a more efficient body position obtained by using the device. We've used a lot of different ones; most recently, the StretchRite stretch trainer. It's a nylon strap with six oblong plastic ergonomically designed handgrips on each end that fit nicely into the palm of your hands. You simply hook the middle part of the strap (no grips on that short section) around various parts of a limb or appendage, and then hold the handgrips while stretching. For instance, sitting on the floor with legs extended straight in front, you loop the strap around your feet, grab the handgrips and pull into a low back/hamstring stretch â€“ great for those who can't normally reach their feet comfortably.
The concept is that the plastic grips offer better, well, grip, and also allow the user some way to measure progress since you may notice you're able to reach, say, the second one when before you could only reach the first. Good concept since we think one thing that keeps people from stretching is the lack of noticeable progress.
However, the handgrips aren't numbered and all look identical, so unless a person was closely paying attention to where his hands were, he or she might not notice that he or she had advanced one handgrip. And we think users who might really benefit from that visual feedback are the same less advanced ones who may not necessarily take note of their precise hand position. We value the idea of measuring progress, but a few of our testers preferred that the handgrips somehow be marked according to their positionâ€”by numbers or different colors or something. One tester actually didn't like the way the plastic grips banged each other and said he felt they got in the way of his stretching comfortably.
The device comes with a simple foldout poster that depicts 20 exercises with a stick figure illustration and a label as to which muscle group is being stretched. The pictures are pretty easy to follow, but in some cases it's a bit tough to make out which way exactly to move the body or the cord, and some of our reviewers said that they would have liked accompanying step-by-step instructions.
The bottom line? A flexible person or seasoned exerciser probably can do most of the standard stretches listed in the brochure without the aid of the StretchRite, although a slightly -- how do we put this kindly? -- anal or technologically motivated person may prefer having a tool that allows monitoring and measuring. The StretchRite -- like many other cords or ropes -- really does help deepen the stretches, which can feel great, plus it makes this whole flexibility thing seem more productive.
SNEWS Rating: 3 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $29.95
For more information: