StretchLab is an up-and-coming fitness franchise that specializes in active-assisted stretching with the promise of less muscle pain and an improved range of motion. In this review, I will share my experience after one month of doing regular StrechLab sessions (and most importantly) clarify if it’s worth your time and money.
As a whole, the StretchLab is worth every penny, especially for the people who need to stretch more often but don’t have the skill to do it themselves. StretchLab Flexologists use MAPS scans to assess mobility and posture and based on the results they design full-body stretches and percussive therapy treatments using the Hypervolt massage gun.
However, please keep in mind that for the real results you need more than just one session (more on that later).
What Is StretchLab?
I tried StretchLab for the first time over 4 weeks ago and decided to get a membership almost immediately.
In general, StretchLab is a fitness studio that offers safe customized assisted stretch therapy.
The company is owned by Xponential Fitness, the largest fitness franchisor of boutique fitness brands like Cyclebar, RowHouse, Stride, and PureBarre.
Is assisted stretch therapy Effective? As a whole, assisted stretch therapy is effective because it uses proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching techniques, which are commonly used in sports clubs, clinical facilities, and rehabilitation centers to enhance both active and passive range of motion.
Plus, please remember that assisted stretching allows for a deeper stretch, compared to do-it-yourself (I will compare the two later on in this article).
What I like about StretchLab is its relaxed atmosphere and friendly environment. It almost makes me feel like in a massage studio in Bangkok where you can see all the benches and happy people laying down and being stretched.
How many StretchLab locations are there? As of today, the StretchLab franchise has over 180 locations in the U.S and over 20 locations that are coming soon.
How Does StretchLab Work?
Overall, the StretchLab works by providing one-on-one stretch and mobility sessions.
They also offer Physmodo MPAS scanning assessments to identify your weak points and limitation in the range of motion. Based on the test results, certified flexologists can customize the stretching sessions.
In the picture below you can see the example of the Physmodo MPAS scan assessment (you have the same technology in the TRX MAPS scan).
What is a Physmodo MAPS scan? As a whole, the Physmodo MPAS scan uses state-of-the-art motion capture technology that performs a full-scale body movement scan in under 30 seconds. It delivers an overall score in four categories: mobility, muscle activation, posture, and symmetry.
My experience from visiting StretchLab
Here is what my typical session at the stretch lab looks like.
- Immediately after I come to the StretchLab studio, I got recognized by one of the staff to confirm my appointment. One of the staff members discuss my current flexibility status and ask about any injuries.
- The session starts right on time and I don’t have to change my clothes (ensure you come with comfy gym clothes).
- First, we start with the MAPS full-body scanning, which is the machine has a built-in 3D camera and captures thousands of data points from my posture.
- The assessment takes less than 60 seconds. It involves doing three reps of bodyweight squats with hands over my head.
- Once the MAPS scan is done, I get to see the score from my mobility, muscle activation, posture, and symmetry. A total score is derived from these four categories and indicates overall biomechanical health and readiness.
- The StretchLab Flexologist discuss the results with me and design the assisted stretch program.
Simply put, the goal of each StretchLab session is to improve your overall mobility score (this is the purpose of doing a re-test after the session).
StretchLab MAPS Score
StretchLab MAPS score is based on the assessment from the overhead squat.
One study has shown that “overhead squat has substantial reliability and is able to assess the multiple movement patterns as part of a comprehensive examination” (Post, Eric G et al. 2017)
On the one hand, I really like this approach because the scanner displays some inefficiencies and muscle tension on a large screen.
You can see exactly where your weak points are, while the StretchLab trainer helps to understand what stretches needs to be done.
I also like that each StretchLab session starts and ends with the Physmodo MPAS scan, so you can compare your results and see how well your body responded to the stretch session.
What I don’t like
On the other hand, I’m a little bit skeptical about this type of technology because the results will vary based on several factors, for example, warm-up.
Doing overhead squats without any warm-up or mobility drills can significantly limit the range of motion.
For example, try doing 5 sets of 10 bodyweight squats and you will notice that each consecutive set is becoming easier to do. You can not only go deeper but also faster.
So if you’re coming to the StretchLab “cold”, it doesn’t take a magician to understand that 50 minutes of stretch session almost guarantees a better score (a good tactic for selling more sessions and memberships).
What Does A StretchLab Do?
Apart from performing a MAPS scan, the whole StretchLab session is about active-assisted stretching, which is a form of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) technique used by athletes, older adults, and rehabilitation patients, and anyone participating in a fitness program.
What is PNF stretching? As a whole, PNF is the most effective stretching technique when the aim is to increase the range of motion. It includes multiple techniques, with two being the most popular: the contract-relax method (CR) and the contract-relax-antagonist-contract method (CRAC).
- Contract-relax method works by lengthening and holding the muscle in one position while the person who lays down contracts the same muscle to its peak tension.
- The contract-relax-antagonist-contract method works similar to the contract-relax method, however, the person who lays down contracts the opposite muscle to the muscle that’s being stretched.
I like PNF stretching a lot (mainly because it makes me feel like I’m getting good results). According to many studies, PNF stretching technique achieves the greatest gains in ROM (Sharman, Melanie J et al. 2006).
However, it’s very difficult to do it yourself, without a partner. In the StretchLab session, you will likely receive at least one of these two methods, as well as static stretch (depending on the location and skills of your Flexologist).
How Does StretchLab Session Looks Like?
A StretchLab offers two types of sessions: one-on-one and group. Each session takes either 25 or 50 minutes.
The difference between 25 and 50-minute StretchLab sessions is the longer class offers extensive full-body stretch that focuses on all major muscle groups.
It also includes Hypervolt percussion therapy to further accelerate results.
On the other hand, a 25-minute session works mainly on the largest muscle groups or focuses on your specific area of concern (e.g. alleviate muscle tightness from the lower back).
The first time I tried StretchLab, I took the longer, 50-minute class because I was curious about how would 50-minute assisted stretch make me feel.
After my first visit, I changed my membership for 25 minutes.
How often should you do StretchLab?
For the best results, you should get assisted stretching at StretchLab three times per week, depending on the duration of the session and your main concern.
Also, several studies have shown that stretching appears to be equally effective, whether performed daily or 3 times per week.
Dr. Amélia Pasqual Marques from the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil documented the effect of stretching on flexibility, muscle tightness, and electromyographic activity in three groups. The stretching program lasted 4 weeks.
The only difference between the groups was the frequency of the stretching.
- Group A (once a week)
- Group B (three times a week)
- Group C (five times a week)
Take a look at the graph below.
As you can see above, the flexibility improved in all groups, however, groups B and C got significantly better results. Also, there was not a big difference between groups B and C, which shows that stretching more often (or even every day) does not mean better results.
Dr. Marques concluded that “stretching three times a week is sufficient to improve flexibility compared to stretching at a higher frequency” (Marques, A P et al. 2009).
How long until you see the results?
You can expect to see results from StretchLab after the first 4 to 6 weeks, depending on your current flexibility and muscle tension. People who are already flexible may not get as good results, whereas people who don’t stretch at all will see significant improvements.
If you’re already flexible and you’re looking for more progress, I recommend doing yoga, not the StretchLab.
StretchLab vs Static Stretching
The difference between StretchLab and static stretching is that during the StretchLab session you get stretched by certified Flexologists who specialize in proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation techniques, whereas with static stretching you just stretch yourself.
The advantage of static stretching is that you can do it anytime during the day, without having to book a session. Plus, it’s always free.
Addressing biomechanical restrictions of the soft tissue, restoring full range of motion, and releasing trigger points require skills and practice.
Most people did not receive any formal training in terms of anatomy and physiology.
This means that to reap the benefits of static stretching, you need to know what you’re doing.
It’s kind of like a massage. You can do it yourself with accessories like foam rollers and massage balls (which is hard if you don’t have a clue what to do), or you can go to a certified massage therapist to do it for you.
What is more effective?
As a whole, StretchLab is more effective than static stretching because they use PNF techniques and percussion therapy. Studies have shown that PNF stretching is more effective than static stretching at improving mobility and increasing range of motion.
StretchLab Membership and First Session Cost
Here is the breakdown of StretchLab membership and session cost.
|StretchLab Membership Cost||Cost|
|The first session (50 minutes)||$49|
|4 sessions (25 minutes)||$169|
|4 sessions (50 minutes)||$289|
|8 sessions (25 minutes)||$299|
|8 sessions (50 minutes)||$539|
NOTE: Please keep in mind that these prices will depend on the location of the studio.
Are Stretch Labs Good For You?
Overall, Stretch Labs are good for you because they help to reduce muscle and joint pain, improve range of motion and improve performance. Plus, regular assisted stretching in the long term can also reduce stress and improve your posture.
In the list below you can find who is the stretch lab good for.
- Athletes and well-trained individuals who want to reduce muscle tension.
- Office workers and students who spend most of the day behind their desks.
- People who are looking for a practical alternative to expensive massages.
- Busy professionals to help them reduce stress and muscle tension.
What do I wear to StretchLab?
For the stretch lab session, I usually come in wearing regular workout clothes, yoga pants, gym shorts, and, T-shirts.
For women, you don’t want to wear any skirts because you will be lying down on the bench.
Should I tip at StretchLab?
In general, you should tip at StretchLab, especially if you feel like they did a great job and truly helped you to get rid of muscle tension and improved flexibility.
On the other hand, if you weren’t satisfied with your session, and your questions weren’t answered, you should not leave the tip.
I genuinely think that each session in the StretchLab got me more flexible and mobile. I am a creature of habit and prefer to stick to my own tried-and-true routines. However, I also love to try new things and if there is a new concept, I just can’t ignore it.
I highly recommend this place to everyone who needs to stretch more and does not have the time or skills to do it themselves.