How to Buy Flexibility Gadgets

Flexibility gadgets that you can purchase for your home gym include a plastic exercise ball, a stretching mat, and stretching strap or rope. Most people get by just fine with fundamental stretching exercises that don’t use anything but body positioning and gravity. Still, there are some useful tools to help you work on your flexibility. If some of these gadgets get you to stretch when you otherwise wouldn’t, they’re worth the money.

Here’s a look at some worthwhile investments to help improve your flexibility:

  • An oversized plastic ball: This is a safe way to improve the flexibility of your lower back. You can drape your body over it forward, backward, or sideways. An oversized ball is also useful for abdominal and leg strengthening exercises. Expect to pay about $20-30.

    The right fit is important. When you sit on the ball, your thighs should be roughly parallel to the floor. However, if you’re somewhat inflexible, get a slightly bigger ball. You won’t have to bend as far. Also, for stretching, don’t inflate the ball all the way; it’ll be softer, easier to mold your body to, and less likely to roll away.

    An oversized plastic ball is a nifty flexibility gadget, perfect for exercising during pregnancy. [
    Credit: Photograph by John Urban
    An oversized plastic ball is a nifty flexibility gadget, perfect for exercising during pregnancy.
  • A stretching mat: You can use a thick towel or blanket to pad a hard floor, but a mat is a more formal reminder to do your stretches, and you can use it for abdominal exercises and floor exercises, too. Just about any mat you come across will suffice. A top-of-the-line mat — one that’s cushiony and long enough so that your head isn’t hitting your wood floor — shouldn’t cost more than $60. Some can be folded in half for storage; others roll up.

  • Stretching strap or rope: You may want to buy these nylon bands if you’re too stiff to get into certain stretching poses. For example, if you’re sitting on the floor with one leg out and you can’t reach your toes, you wrap the strap around your instep and hold a loop in each hand. After holding that position for a while, if you can stretch a little farther, you can let your hands creep up to the loop that’s slightly closer to your toes. You can also buy a length of yachting rope at your local hardware store. Just buy a length twice your height.

    Using a rope to perform a calf stretch. [Credit: Photograph by C.D. Stouffer, Detroit]
    Credit: Photograph by C.D. Stouffer, Detroit
    Using a rope to perform a calf stretch.
  • The Prostretch: This gadget is for stretching your calf and shin muscles and the sides of your ankles. The Prostretch is a shoe imprint cast in hard plastic and mounted on one or two curved rockers (wider versions of the rockers you find on rocking chairs). You place your foot on the imprint and drop your heel back toward the floor. Your toes point upward, giving you a terrific calf stretch. If you’re not very flexible, you can do this stretch while sitting down.

  • Precor Stretch Trainer: This gizmo is a seat with handlebars and tilting capabilities so that you can lean backward and forward into a stretch. A combination of your body weight and gravity helps control the intensity of the stretch. By switching arm and leg positions, you can stretch nearly every muscle in your body without getting out of the seat. At $700, the Stretch Trainer isn’t cheap, but it’s helpful for people who have trouble getting on and off the floor.

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