I look back now at the first time I took TaeKwonDo and I did not realize how “old school” it was when it came to stretching machines and increasing my flexibility as it was first and only school I knew.
Since it was a more traditional school it did not have many.. well actually none of what was considered modern equipment to help you with your flexibility.
What it did have and what the school considered a stretch machine was just some PVC pipes put together with duct tape that helped you become more flexible.
Flash forward to today and since being a little older the ability to become more flexible has become much more difficult. So instead of going out and buying PVC, I started to look into Martial Arts stretching machines that could help me with my flexibility.
I am aware that there are no shortcuts to becoming more limber, its a matter of time and diligence however, during my research I have been able come up with a list of my top 4 leg stretching machines, in a variety of price ranges, that will help you become more limber.
Before I get to my list and to keep the suspense growing, I wanted to go over in just a very brief way, the benefits of increasing your flexibility that go beyond TaeKwonDo and being able to kick higher or with more power.
Benefits of A Leg Stretching Machine:
Less Risk of Injury
When you stretch you substantially reduce the risk of injury and in particular of pulling or even worse tearing a hamstring. Having either one of these happen to you will keep you from practicing TaeKwonDo for an extended period of time and will slow down your training.
I think it goes without saying the being more flexible with your legs in TaeKwonDo probably more then most other martial arts where the emphasis is on kicks, will improve your performance exponentially.
Being able to kick higher and with more power not only improves your skills but also prevents you from getting into bad habits from trying to kick higher or stronger without having the flexibility to do so.
Stretching will increase blood flow to your muscles and will give you good circulation and that can help protect you against a whole host of illnesses, from diabetes to kidney disease.
There have been studies done that suggests that static muscle stretching performed regularly can have a real impact by increasing blood flow to muscles in the lower leg,
Less Back Pain
When you stretch those hammies and other ligaments and muscles you help them to relax and not be so tense.
When you do this you reduce the stress on the lower back and this in turn makes your hamstrings, hips and quads become more flexible.
Above and beyond improving your kicks, stretching your hamstrings reduces lower back pain and your hamstring muscles will better support your back and pelvis while you move if the muscles are strong and flexible.
How to Use a Leg Stretching Machine:
- Start the training with some light cardio exercises to increase the body temperature. Walking, jogging, rowing, cycling, and skipping rope are good options for light-impact cardio workouts.
- Keep your hamstring muscles loose and relieve lower back pain by doing some basic stretches such as toe touches, just in case you don’t know what this is, its a common hamstring stretch in which you bend forward and reach your fingers toward your toes while keeping your legs straight.
- After that, Stretch your legs and sit on the floor. Now adjust the leg stretcher in such a way that your both legs are stretched apart in a very comfortable manner. Sit up straight and lean forward at the hips without rounding your back. Remember, your body posture is crucial if you want to use leg stretcher safely.
- Once you are successfully done with a mild stretch, now you need to increase the range of stretch. Don’t overdo it! Keep the stretch comfortable and hold the same position for about 30-60 seconds. Relax without holding your breath.
- At this point you would try to start bringing your legs together without holding your breath or bringing in the amount that you have stretched already and do this for about 10-15 seconds. After that relax your leg muscles and try to increase the stretch a little bit more. Once you have stretched out just a little further, hold that for about one minute
- Keep repeating this technique until you just can’t go any further and again hold that for another minute or two. If done like this you should see consistent improvement over time
Stretching Machine Techniques:
What to Do:
- Do keep both your legs and shoulder relaxed
- When increasing range of stretch remember to exhale
- Stretch as often as you can and at least three times per week to make any progress
- Don’t slouch. Good posture is important
What NOT to Do:
- Never lean back – Goes back to my good posture point
- Don’t tense yourself
- Don’t overdue it! You will know this when your legs start to shake or burn uncontrollably. Try not to get to this point.
Best Martial Arts Stretching Machines (in no particular order):
TMAS Pro Leg Stretcher
This machine comes fully assembled out of the box which, for someone like me who is handyman challenged, was a giant plus! The only piece you need to attach is the wheel which even for me was easy to do.
With the wheel you turn it clockwise to stretch and there are 20 turns to go from your legs in front of you together to a full split. The back support is also comfortable to use and you can adjust it for different angles.
Its is a solidly built machine and can handle larger sized people. You can find the current pricing on Amazon
Tiger Claw Steel Leg Stretcher
The sheer genius of this one is in it’s simplicity. It doesn’t try to over complicate its purpose and maybe its not as easy to use as other in certain places for example, on a carpet, but its light, easy to store and at a price that’s easy on the wallet.
It has a pull bar that you can adjust by use of screws and the padding for the feet is more then adequate.
You will have to do some minor assembly on this one but since its such a simple design its easy enough to do and is a small price to pay for a leg stretcher in this price range. Amazon generally has the best price on these.
Valor Fitness CA-27 Leg Stretch Machine
This machine has smooth, comfortable stretch that won’t place pressure on your knees. It has crank based design which I think is why its little less than machine that use a wheel-based design. The machine has a comfortable seat and appears to be well made.
The one thing I might change to have an adjustable handle bar underneath the crank wheel to hold onto while you’re stretching so you can pull yourself forward and get a deeper stretch for me is a minor point and I may be nitpicking.
You will have to do some minor assembly on this one but its not a big deal and should not take very long to do. Check out the latest prices on Amazon or your local sporting goods or martial arts store.
Century VersaFlex Stretching Machine
The machine is very sturdy, and the quality is really good. There are convenient handles on each leg and in the front help you with your hamstring stretches.
Its a bit on the larger size and pretty heavy so you could consider that either a positive or negative as it could be a hassle to move around and you need to have some space to be able to use it.
The cranking mechanism is very straightforward and simple to use. Basically you crank the handle down to stretch, and then it will lock into place with a little “click” every 5 degrees or so.
Then to release the mechanism all you do is the pull the handle up and it releases. This one is more complicated to put together then the others and so you need to be prepared for some potential assembly issues if you did not get the handyman gene.
Not to sound like a broken record here (old school expression) but Amazon usually has the best price.
Final Thoughts On Stretching:
I would finally like to say that although you do not have to get any one of these machines to get more flexible. But in my opinion, they certainly do make it easier and they also provide motivation as you see yourself become more and more limber with each crank of the wheel or shortening of the bar. And with any of these you can stretch on your own and at any time.
By using these machines at home and from the stretching that you will get in your TaeKwonDo ( or any Martial Art) class, you will find that stretching will become a natural fit into your lifestyle.
However in order to do this you must make a small daily effort and have the discipline to do it. Any of these stretching machines will help you do this.