Should You Use a Stretch Strap? What Experts Say
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Stretch straps are an inexpensive tool that can help improve your range of motion, as long as they're used correctly.
Stretching used to seem so simple: Bend down and touch your toes; reach your arms overhead and lean to each side; grab one ankle and draw your heel to your glutes.
But these days, wild-looking yoga poses, muscle-specific stretching gadgets, and entire classes dedicated just to stretching have muddied the waters.
The five minutes of stretching you used to do before taking a jog may not seem “good enough” anymore, and it may leave you wondering if you need to add other tools, like stretch straps, to your routine.
The short answer to that question is “it depends.” Here’s what experts want you to know about using stretch straps, plus their favorite options if you choose to try one.
What is a stretch strap?
As far as stretching tools go, stretch straps are one of those items that are inexpensive, versatile, unlikely to cause harm, and likely to offer benefits when used correctly. So if you’re looking to add a stretching tool to your arsenal of home exercise equipment, it’s hard to go wrong with a stretch strap.
That said, spending the typical $5 to $15 on a stretch strap that you’ll never use is just throwing good money away. So before you make a purchase, you need to think about why you want the strap and how you plan to use it.
First, if you’re unfamiliar with a stretch strap, it’s typically a band of strong nylon material roughly 6 feet in length, often (but not always) with additional “handles” placed at periodic intervals.
These handles are nothing more than simple loops you can grasp with a hand or place a foot into for additional support to help hold a stretch. Sometimes the straps also come with a buckle so you can create a large loop with the band to help you achieve more challenging positions.
This is particularly true if you’re trying your hand at new yoga poses that require a combination of balance and flexibility—a stretch strap in a large loop can help you attain and hold yoga poses that you might not be able to do without the assistance.
(Start your day right with these yoga stretches.)
Stretch straps extend your reach
“Stretch straps allow better control for the stretch, as well as better grip and reach. They can act as your third hand,” says Lev Kalika, chiropractor and owner of New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy. “They’re helpful when you need to stretch in positions that don’t allow you to use your hands.”
In essence, stretch straps can “extend” your limbs in ways that allow you to challenge your range of motion safely while still focusing on the intended muscle groups.
Take, for instance, a seated forward fold designed to stretch the hamstrings. Many people assume the goal of this stretch is to touch the toes, and to do so, they end up collapsing forward with their back rounded, bending at an odd angle, or otherwise “cheating” to perform the stretch. This often changes the stretch’s focus from the hamstrings to the glutes or low back, and could actually lead to a pulled or strained muscle.
The goal of the seated forward fold, though, isn’t to touch the toes. It’s to stretch the hamstrings. If you don’t have much flexibility in your hamstrings, it does you no good to “cheat” to reach your hands closer to your toes. This is where a stretch strap comes in handy.
While sitting tall on your mat with your feet stretched out in front of you, you can loop the strap around the bottom of your feet, and hold one end of the strap in each hand so the strap is taut and you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
From here, as your hamstrings slowly loosen, you can work your hands closer to your feet (edging your hands further down the stretch strap) while maintaining a flat back and good posture as you tip forward from the hips (rather than collapsing and rounding your back as you stretch your arms to reach for your feet).
This allows you to maintain proper form and focus on your hamstrings while slowly increasing your range of motion.
(Build hamstring strength with these at-home moves.)
Stretch straps could help with flexibility (to an extent)
“A stretch strap can be an excellent tool for anyone looking to improve their flexibility,” says Josh Schlottman, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and nutritionist for Trainer Josh Fitness.
“Whether you’re beginning your fitness journey and looking for ways to complete basic stretches that you simply don’t have the flexibility to perform, or you’re an experienced yogi looking to deepen a warrior III stretch, boat, or bow stretch, a stretch strap can be handy. You just need to know how to use it appropriately.”
Here’s the thing about flexibility training, though: It’s helpful until it’s not. The point of flexibility training should be to attain a range of motion at your joints that makes your daily activities easier to perform.
For a yoga teacher, the ability to perform a standing split pose may be important, but for the average person who just wants to get through the day without back pain, focusing too much on stretching could lead to an over-stretching injury.
“You could find yourself over-stretching to the point where you end up pulling a muscle or tendon,” Schlottman says. “You may have joints that are naturally inflexible due to past injuries or the shape of your bones and sockets.”
If you use a stretch strap to “force” your joints into positions that are inappropriate based on your personal anatomy or current level of flexibility, you could stretch the muscle too far, leading to injury or even hyper-mobility, according to Schlottman.
(Is it safe to do ballistic stretching before exercise?)
How to use a stretch strap
To be clear, it’s completely possible to enjoy a good stretch without a stretch strap or other tools. There are lots of safe, effective, and attainable stretches for the vast majority of people without using a strap or other tool.
That said, if you struggle to perform specific stretches correctly because you don’t have the flexibility to enter the necessary position, a stretch strap can give you the added reach you need to perform the stretch without “cheating” or changing the focus of the stretch.
When using a stretch strap, you want to design your program like you would any other stretching program. Choose the stretch you want to perform, then hold it for a total of approximately 30 to 60 seconds, gradually increasing the range of motion at the joint.
“The most beneficial way to use a strap is to take the muscle toward its end range, aiming for a 8/10 stretch feeling,” says Glenn Coburn, a yoga instructor, and strength and conditioning coach with TRAINFITNESS, the leading educator of fitness professionals in the United Kingdom.
“Relax here for 15 to 20 seconds, focusing on your breath. As you feel the tension reduce, use the strap to guide the muscle into a new range of motion, aiming again for a 8/10 stretch feeling and holding for 20 seconds.”
He suggests repeating this three to five times throughout the day for each major muscle group.
(Read this before buying a back stretcher.)
Buying a quality stretch strap
It’s hard to go wrong with buying a nylon strap. Frankly, you could probably pick up 2-inch nylon material in a 6-foot length from a hardware store and enjoy roughly the same benefits as you would with a strap you buy from Amazon.
That said, straps with grips do make it easier to hook a foot or hand for more stability in a stretch, and a strap with a buckle allows you to create different loop sizes. Consider the following well-reviewed stretch straps when you decide to make your purchase.
(Learn the difference between dynamic and static stretching.)
Onory Yoga Strap Stretch Strap
The Onory Yoga Strap has received more than 4,500 ratings with an average of 4.7 stars. This basic stretch strap is 8 feet long, features 12 loops for your hands or feet, and comes with a handy instruction booklet to help walk you through common ways to use the strap.
The 8-foot length is especially nice for taller individuals who need a little extra reach. Best of all? You can pick it up online for less than $10.
The Original Stretch Out Strap with Book
Touted as the “original” stretch strap first introduced to the market in 1993, this strap from OPTP has amassed more than 16,000 Amazon reviews with an average rating of 4.7 stars.
It’s slightly shorter than the Onory, clocking in at roughly 6 feet in length with 10 handles, but that may make it a little easier to use for those of average or shorter heights.
It also comes with a booklet featuring 30 separate stretches with detailed how-to instructions for each stretch. You can pick it up for less than $20.
Gradient Fitness Stretching Strap
One thing that tends to be true of basic nylon stretch straps is that the nylon webbing can be uncomfortable if it rubs against the skin, especially if you’re applying pressure to the edges.
If you’re sensitive to this feeling, considering picking up the Gradient Fitness strap. Unlike many competitor straps, each of its 12 loops features neoprene padding to make gripping it more comfortable.
With almost 3,000 reviews on Amazon, it averages 4.6 stars and comes in five different colors. You can make your purchase for roughly $15.
Tumaz Yoga Strap
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with Extra Safe Adjustable D-Ring Buckle, Durable and Comfy Delicate Texture – Best for Daily Stretching, Physical Therapy, Fitness” product_price=”7.95″ product_category=”BISS” product_retailer=”Tumaz” content_rating=”” /]
The Tumaz Yoga Strap doesn’t offer hand grips like some of the other stretch straps, but it does come with a D-ring buckle so you can use the band as a single loop, adjusted to meet your exact stretching needs.
The band also comes in three different lengths (6 feet, 8 feet, or 10 feet) and 26 possible colors. With more than 7,500 ratings, it has an impressive 4.8-star average for satisfaction. While pricing varies based on length and color, you can pick one up for around $10.
- Lev Kalika, chiropractor and owner of New York Dynamic Neuromuscular Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy
- Josh Schlottman, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and nutritionist for Trainer Josh Fitness
- Glenn Coburn, a yoga instructor and strength and conditioning coach with TRAINFITNESS, the leading educator of fitness professionals in the United Kingdom