The majority of people can manage well with fundamental stretching exercises that don’t require anything aside from body positioning and gravity. You can still find tools that can be used to help you improve your flexibility. If by using some gadgets, you are able to stretch when you otherwise wouldn’t, investing in them is worth it. The following are some useful gadgets to invest in:
A stretching mat: While you can pad a hard floor with a thick towel or a blanket, a mat is a better reminder to do you stretches. A mat can also be used for your abdominal workouts or floor exercises. Some stretching mats can go for more than $100, though a top of the line mat, with adequate cushioning and long enough to prevent your head from hitting the wood floor, can be bought for $60 or less. The mats can also be compacted for storage. Some can be folded while others can be rolled.
An oversized plastic ball: They can be used to safely and efficiently improve the flexibility of your lower back. You can envelope your body over it, either forward, backward, or sideways. An oversized ball is also useful for exercises that strengthen your abdominals and leg. They can be bought for about $30. The right fit is important. When sitting on the ball, your thighs should be more or less parallel to the floor. If, however, you are lacking in flexibility, you would benefit from a slightly bigger ball. You won’t have to bend as far. For stretching, don’t inflate the ball all the way; this way it will be easier to mold your body and less likely to roll away.
Stretching strap or rope: These nylon bands (Dynamic Stretching Strap or Stretch-Out Strap) should be used with the Active Isolated method of stretching. They can be bought for between $15 to $30 (including a video). They are useful if you’re too stiff to get into certain stretching poses. For instance, if you’re sitting on the floor with one leg out but are unable to reach out and touch your toes, you wrap the strap around your instep while holding a loop in each hand. After holding that position for a while, if you can stretch a little farther, you can move your hands up to the loop that’s slightly closer to your toes. This can also be done with yachting rope that is readily available at the local hardware store. Make sure to get one whose length is twice your height.
The Prostretch: This gadget is used to stretch both your calf and shin muscles as well as the sides of your ankles. The Prostretch consists of a shoe imprint cast in hard plastic, mounted on one or two rockers (wider versions of the rockers you find on rocking chairs). To use it, have to place your foot on the imprint and drop your heel back toward the floor. Your toes point upward, giving you an effective calf stretch. If you’re lacking in flexibility, you can even do this stretch from a sitting position. Since the Prostretch supports your entire foot, your calf stretch will be more effective than you would get by hanging your feet off the curb, although most curbs won’t cost you $25.
Precor Stretch Trainer: This gadget consists of a seat with handlebars. It has tilting capabilities, allowing you to lean backward and forward into a stretch. Your body weight and gravity, both contribute to the intensity of the stretch. You can stretch almost every muscle in your body by changing arm and leg positions, all without having to get out of the seat. For instance, if you want to stretch your hamstrings, you place your leg up on the front of the seat and then lean back. (This has the same effect as when you place one leg out in front of you then reach for your toe.) The handlebars are equipped with wrist straps so that you don’t fall backward in case you lose your balance. The gadget also has an adjustable safety pin to help you mount it properly.
The down side is you’ll have $700 less if you buy the Stretch Trainer. However, being in shape is very important, people who have difficulty getting on and off the floor gracefully can definitely benefit from it. It can help you stretch effectively by yourself, so you don’t need to ask three other people to help you stand up once you’re done stretching.