Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, September 23, 2022

‘Oh baby,’ Stretch Zone has cure for tight, tired muscles

Stretch Zone’s use of proprietary straps allows the company’s practitioners to physically secure clients and perform stretches that otherwise would not be possible. - Photo by David Laprad | Hamilton County Herald

It’s 8 a.m. and Josh McNabb is stretching to start the day.

He clutches a leg with both hands and slowly pulls it toward his torso until the muscles extend.

“How does that feel?” he asks.

“Like I need to do more of this.”

McNabb is not talking with himself; rather, he’s speaking with a client who’s strapped to one of the tables at Stretch Zone, a new assisted stretching facility on North Market Street in downtown Chattanooga.

The man on the table is not there to receive physical therapy, nor does he want McNabb to adjust his spine, he says. Instead, he’s giving Stretch Zone a test run after hearing about it from a friend.

“I stretch on my own but this goes deeper,” he grunts as McNabb stretches his IT band, a fibrous band of flexible fascia that extends from the hip to just below the outside of the knee.

Few of McNabb’s clients know this when they first come to Stretch Zone, but during their initial session, he schools them on the basics to help them better understand their musculature and why assisted stretching is beneficial.

“Think of stretching as a good, better, best situation,” McNabb suggests. “You stretching you is good. An athletic trainer or a physical therapist stretching you is better. Best is me stretching you while you’re strapped to a table so I can pin you in certain positions, leverage certain muscles in certain ways and move things in ways you couldn’t on your own.”

As manager of the Stretch Zone in Chattanooga and the person who does the demonstration sessions for new clients, McNabb is accustomed to hearing grunts, groans and other forms of guttural feedback.

“One lady says, ‘Oh, baby,’ when we get to where she wants us to stop,’” he laughs. “You don’t want a stretch to hurt; you want it to be intense but you’re still relaxed.”

McNabb says he welcomes any form of response and is not fond of clients who grin and bear it and insist they can handle a deeper stretch.

“I don’t like heroes. If you get to the point where you start activating other muscles, then you’re going to be sore.”

As McNabb continues the demonstration session, he teaches the man how to control the intensity of each stretch using numbers instead of grunts.

“I’m going to keep pulling until you say ‘three,’” he instructs the client. “You’ll know you’re there before I’ll know you’re there.”

After reaching three, McNabb gives the man a moment to breathe and then takes the stretch to five. After another break, he cranks the stretch up to seven before moving to something different.

“Our communication system is one of our biggest things,” McNabb notes. “You’ll never have to worry about us going as high as 10.”

The straps on the tables are another key selling point for Stretch Zone, McNabb says. He and his staff use the proprietary bands as a second set of hands that allow them to perform stretches that would otherwise not be possible.

“They help us isolate certain muscles and attack what we’re going after without rolling your body or you feeling like you need to activate your core. They allow you to turn off everything and relax.”

As McNabb works his way through the demo, an additional Stretch Zone practitioner is working on a limber stay-at-home mom on another table. Unlike a massage therapy spa, there are no partitions or walls between them, and everyone is within clear view of the receptionist seated near the entrance.

In addition, large windows that wrap around the facility let in ample natural light and add to the sense of being in an open rather than isolated space.

Although McNabb does not have the training of a physical therapist or chiropractor, he has a background in athletic conditioning and is certified through Stretch Zone’s corporate training program – as were the other practitioners at the Chattanooga facility.

McNabb doesn’t list the benefits of assisted stretching for his client – perhaps to avoid sounding like he’s promising specific outcomes for any issues the man might be experiencing – but a quick online search brings up a bevy of articles covering the topic.

“Practitioners claim there are numerous benefits to assisted stretching, such as increasing your flexibility, blood circulation and range of motion,” reads a March 2022 CNN Health article about assisted stretching. “It also helps decrease pain and stiffness and it lowers your risk of injury.”

Assisted stretching can also improve one’s core strength and posture, the article claims, and enhance a person’s athletic performance while reducing their recovery time.

“Stretching is even touted as a way to lower your stress levels, improve your sleep and boost your energy,” the author reports.

Given the range of benefits touted, it’s no surprise Chattanooga’s Stretch Zone is far from the company’s first. Stretch Zone founder Jorden Gold initially used assisted stretching to help his grandfather regain the mobility and comfort he lost due to diabetes.

After developing a proprietary system of assisted stretching, he launched the company’s first store front in 2015.

Stretch Zone now boasts 200-plus locations across the nation, including the Chattanooga site, for which local entrepreneurs David Neff and Paul Weatherholt own the franchise rights.

Stretch Zone plans to continue to expand nationally and even internationally this year and next.

Locally, Stretch Zone offers several assisted stretching plans at various prices. One commonly purchased plan costs $50 per session for one session per week for three months. Non-contract options are available, too, but are more expensive.

While Stretch Zone does not accept health insurance, McNabb says the first session is free to allow clients to experience the benefits before they spend any money.

In an article written by Franchising USA, Stretch Zone President and CEO Tony Zaccario says everyone needs to stretch, whether they’re scaling Mount Everest, working on their golf swing or sitting at a desk all day.

McNabb agrees and says Stretch Zone is there to help. Just don’t try to be a hero.