Fitness Friday

I Tried It: Assisted Stretching

Sessions at Bellaire's new StretchLab, which aim to increase flexibility and range of motion, are somewhere between a massage and a workout.

By Kirsten Keller April 19, 2019

What exactly is "assisted stretching?" I spoke to Brian and Robyn Goldstein, the husband-and-wife team behind StretchLab, back in October when they announced they were expanding the small national franchise here in Houston. The new Bellaire location is the first in the Bayou City and the third in Texas.

Now that they're open for business, I decided to try it for myself. I arrived at 6702 Ferris St. almost a week after StretchLab's official opening and found contractors busy readying Row House, a new rowing studio next door housed under Xponential Fitness, the same parent company as StretchLab. The Goldsteins own the next-door studio, too, which is expected to open late next month.

But StretchLab is ready now. Inside, 10 benches dot the space, and there are no partitions to separate them—I could see one woman on another bench in the middle of her session. Still, the space is large enough—and feels even larger thanks to navy-colored walls—that I didn’t feel exposed during my own stretch sesh.

I was paired with Andrés Renteria, a "flexologist" with a background in Pilates and dance.

“Each of our flexologists comes from different fitness backgrounds, and our clients may find that they match really well with a certain background,” Brian Goldstein explained.

Prior to starting each session, the flexologist asks about any prior injuries or areas to focus on during the stretch. I wasn’t feeling particularly sore or tight, so I got a taste of a classic, 25-minute session. 

Renteria briefly explained each stretch right before we did it and let me know if he was going to touch more sensitive areas of my body to assist, like my hips and thighs.

For larger muscle group stretches, he pushed into the stretch until my pain reached a seven on a 10-point scale, at which point he held the stretch, then told me to contract my muscles and push against him. He wold then push me back into the stretch, a little farther this time. This method, commonly used at StretchLab, is called "proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation" and helps to increase range of motion. 

Next, we moved on to smaller muscle group stretches, where I was to reach a lower pain threshold. This part included head and neck stretches and was the closest the session came to a massage. 

That was the interesting thing about the session: When I came off the bench, I felt flexible and loose, but that was about it. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. The goal of StretchLab is to keep you flexible with a good range of motion, which helps improve your quality of life. 

“It’s not like you come out super relaxed like after a massage or super pumped like after a cycling session,” said Samuel Martinez, who heads the front desk. “StretchLab is somewhere in the middle.” 

The only piece of equipment used in my session was a half-cylinder foam roller for a back stretch. Depending on each client’s needs, other equipment may be used. StretchLab carries an array of Hyperice products, including a vibrating foam roller and therapy ball. Flexologists may also use the Hypervolt, which has a variety of vibrating attachments to be used on larger muscle groups.

New clients can come in for a $29 introductory stretch. After that, 25-minute sessions cost $49 each and 50-minute sessions are $95. Discounted packages are available if you buy in packs of four or eight.

The Goldsteins are scoping out locations for more StretchLab and Row House studios here, including potentially in the Loop, The Woodlands, and the GOOF. The Goldsteins knew that Bellaire should be their first home, though—Robin grew up here, and the couple lives nearby.

So far, so good: Opening weekend—Thursday through Sunday—saw 160 people come in, more than the Goldsteins expected.

“We’ve been blown away by how well received the concept is,” Brian said.

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