A piece of exercise equipment that looks like a cage for a large circus tiger or like a medieval torture device might turn you away. But don't let appearances deceive you. The True Stretch gym 500ss could be a great investment in your health and fitness, with a few caveats. But, first, the raves.
This Jungle Gym-like cage for flexibility training is designed to let you use all four of your body's "contact points" (i.e., your two feet plus your two hands) to stretch all parts of your body and every little muscle in it just about any way you can think of. And because you're using all four points, you can get superior leverage, twists and pulls needed by your body to achieve the most individualized stretch.
Basically, you stand under the "dome" of the cage on its rubberized platform. Then, depending on the stretch you want to do, you place your legs, feet or hands on different bars that are in front, over and beside you, following the illustrated instructions in a plasticized flip chart, if you desire or need to.
We admit, some of our team started out as skeptics. Several of our testers wondered why anyone would bother with some fancy-schmantzy stretch cage when all that is needed is the floor, a ladder, a chair or even a fence. Plus, another tester thought, it looked so complicated with all those bars and angles.
No matter how skeptical to start, everyone has loved the feeling and the results. First of all, several testers of the male gender liked the idea of a piece of gear to use for stretching, admitting it was a "guy mentality" to want something like this when the floor would do just fine.
Added another, "The one minute I normally stretch would easily be two or three on this piece of equipment because I don't want to use a pad on the floor to stretch. This is much cooler."
Second, the few who thought it seemed overly complicated loved the comfort of the platform, the warmth of the powder-coated bars, and the ease of getting into great stretches since you used the bars to turn and move the body into deeper, more precise, yet more controlled stretches.
Added one tester: "I worked up the courage to step into the cage and began to stretch muscles I never knew I had. It was much easier to perform a stretch using the machine than I had ever done before on my own using straps, towels, chairs or other home gadgets."
So, if we love it so much, what are the caveats? First, the thing is big, really very big at nearly 7 feet tall, 4.5 feet deep and 4 feet wide. It looks sorta massive too with thick tubular steel framing. And you can't really wheel it from room-to-room since it weighs 128 pounds. So unless you have a dedicated exercise room or enough space in a corner of the garage or basement, you just won't be able to put this behemoth anywhere. Quipped one user despite how much he loved it: "I couldn't imagine putting this anywhere in my house unless I could also hang laundry on it during downtime."
Second, there's the cost: Its suggested retail is $1,200. OK, not bad for such a massive piece, but you can get a pretty decent treadmill or a really decent home gym for that price. Of course, if someone is going to stand on this and pull on it, it needs to be sturdy to be safe, thus the price.
We like the concept of a stretch gym, and we love the sturdy feel of this one. Now if only we could use it for drying laundry between flexibility sessions.
SNEWS Rating: 4 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested retail: $1,200 (30-year warranty on frame)
For more information: