An Honest Review Of StretchLab's One-On-One Stretching Sessions

Here's how the studio works.

An honest review of StretchLab's one-on-one stretching studio.

Over the past few years, there’s been a rise in assisted stretching studios — aka places where a trained professional folds and lengthens your body for recovery. The idea is that instead of doing forward folds or calf stretches at home on your own, you go in for a personalized stretch from a pro that pushes your body just a little bit more. One such spot is StretchLab.

As someone who always seems to have an ache or pain, the notion of StretchLab definitely piqued my interest. What really sets the studio apart, I learned, is its team of “flexologists” who all have a bodywork certification as well as a background in massage therapy, personal training, chiropractic, or yoga. In other words, these are folks who know all the best ways to turn you into a pretzel.

During a StretchLab session, a flexologist guides you through a series of stretches that have been customized to your specific needs. Have tight hips? They’ll focus on the muscles in that area of your body. Struggling with shoulder pain? Expect your upper back to get a lot of attention. Either way, StretchLab uses a “push and release” method of stretching to help your body let go of tension. Also called proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching (PNF), you’re supposed to contract certain muscles for a few seconds and then relax, which in turn “tricks” your brain into letting your muscles stretch a little deeper.

According to StretchLab — and countless studies — the benefits of stretching include increased range of motion and flexibility, reduced stress, reduced muscle and joint pain, improved sports performance, easier relaxation, and better posture. All good things, right? Here’s my firsthand take on what it was like to give StretchLab a try.

What Is StretchLab?

At StretchLab, you can opt for either a one-on-one or group stretching session with a pro. There are 25-minute and 50-minute long sessions, so the duration is up to you. When you get there, you’ll go through a body scan that pinpoints areas of tension so your flexologist knows which spots to focus on. After that, you lie down on the treatment table to get stretched. While your technician will give extra TLC to your pain points, your entire body gets some lengthening love — so you leave feeling nice and loose.

First Impressions

When I first walked into the StretchLab studio, I thought it looked a lot like a physical therapy or chiropractic office. The location I went to in New Jersey had modern art on the walls, blue cushy stretch tables lining the studio, and a little shop in the front. There was even an oil diffuser puffing away, so the space smelled like relaxing essential oils.

As I waited for my session, I sipped some water, looked around at the racks of StretchLab merch, and also picked out a pair of grippy socks. (You’re supposed to wear grippy socks to each session so you don’t slip or slide during your stretch. If you don’t have any you can buy some near the front desk.)

What A StretchLab Experience Is Like

My experience started with a round of overhead squats in front of StretchLab’s 3D scanner that analyzes how well your body moves. As I dropped it low, the scanner took note of my body’s weak points and tight zones before presenting me and my flexologist with a handy MAPS score on a screen. (This score looked like a row of numbers and red points on a human model, and luckily wasn’t up to me to interpret.)

The scan confirmed that I do have extra tight hamstrings, just as I suspected. But it also let me in on a few other secrets about my mobility, muscle activation, posture, and symmetry. Turns out my left side is way tighter than my right. And my hips need a lot of work, too.

With our newfound knowledge, we headed over to the stretch table where I laid back and got ready for a 25-minute session. My flexologist told me about the “push and release” method of stretching, which admittedly took me a few tries to get right — something that’s totally OK and expected. We then started in on my tight hamstrings. I placed a grippy-socked foot upon the flexologist’s shoulder as she pushed on my leg. I was instructed to gently push back into her shoulder for a few breaths before she pushed my leg back again just a little bit further. This was the PNF method at work, and I definitely noticed that my range of motion improved.

It’s up to you to tell your flexologist what’s working and what isn’t as you get stretched. If something doesn’t feel right, they want to know. They also encourage you to think of stretching tension on a scale of one to 10. You want to land somewhere around a five or six during a stretch: Not in pain, but not totally comfortable, either. The goal is to feel a good level of tension as your body releases into a slightly deeper stretch.

After my hamstrings were warm we focused on a figure-four stretch and supine twist, all meant to loosen up my tight hips. The session ended with me sitting on the side of the table as the flexologist stretched my arms, shoulders, and upper back. This part felt so good, kind of like a therapeutic massage.

My Takeaway

I left the stretch feeling lighter and more limber than usual. The next day I had a tiny touch of soreness in my shoulders, but nothing unbearable. Mostly I felt refreshed and relaxed, so much so that I can see why treatments at StretchLab could be a remedy for everyday muscle soreness, especially for folks who sit at a desk (like me) or exercisers who have sore muscles (also like me). Just like a trip to a chiropractor or physical therapist, it’s a nice way to treat your body well — and, if you keep going back, ensure that you’ll reach all your flexibility goals.

Studies referenced:

Carlson, C.R. (1990). Muscle stretching as an alternative relaxation training procedure. J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2197297/

Hindle, K. B. (2012). Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): Its Mechanisms and Effects on Range of Motion and Muscular Function. Journal of Human Kinetics, 31, 105-113. https://doi.org/10.2478/v10078-012-0011-y

Hrysomallis, C. (2010). Effectiveness of strengthening and stretching exercises for the postural correction of abducted scapulae: a review. J Strength Cond Res. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181c069d8.

Iwata, M. (2019). Dynamic Stretching Has Sustained Effects on Range of Motion and Passive Stiffness of the Hamstring Muscles. J Sports Sci Med. PMID: 30787647; PMCID: PMC6370952.

Montero-Marín, J. (2013). Efectividad de un programa de estiramientos sobre los niveles de ansiedad de los trabajadores de una plataforma logística: un estudio controlado aleatorizado [Effectiveness of a stretching program on anxiety levels of workers in a logistic platform: a randomized controlled study]. Aten Primaria. doi: 10.1016/j.aprim.2013.03.002.

Peck, E. (2014). The Effects of Stretching on Performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports: May/June 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 3 - p 179-185doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000052

Peeler, J. (2007). Effectiveness of static quadriceps stretching in individuals with patellofemoral joint pain. Clin J Sport Med. doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e3180f60afc.