Scientists have been often quoted remarking what a feat of engineering nature managed to achieve in our standing upright daily, thanks to our very adaptable spines. However, no matter how great the engineering, mistakes are bound to happen, particularly resulting in additional stress on our backs, necks and spines.
This stresses are as a result of compression of the vertebrae during daily activities, and more often than not, failing to exercise to correct the problem before it gets too far. The price is thus paid in back pain, pinched nerves (which are extremely painful) and restricted ability to move. Once it gets to this stage, there are few things that can be done to help, including professional spinal decompression, chiropractic care and therapeutic massages. However, these are pretty costly and the results may not even last that long to begin with.
That’s where inversion tables come in.
Over the decades, inversion tables have grown in popularity, not only as rehabilitation equipment, but also for home exercise to take care of flexibility problems.
The best inversion tables should be those that place the highest priority on user safety over everything else. Of course, there are other features that matter, like range of motion, comfort, ease of use… etc, but they come nowhere close to the fact that you’re in one piece by the time you’re done using it.
There are a few dozens of different designs available for inversion tables, but all in all, they should focus on the same basic goals – to rotate your body in such a way that it’s completely inverted and help to eliminate back pain.
This inversion table is particularly unique, because, for one, it supports a whooping 600lbs, whereas most others can barely handle half that weight, and still somehow manages to work in both the traditional ‘face-up’ position and ‘face-down’ position.
This inversion table was specifically designed to help deal with blood circulation problems by letting you sit up while inverted to relieve existing compressive fatigue normally felt by the shoulder and neck region.
What’s more, the whole thing is almost completely automated. With 5 preset settings, all you have to do is press a button and the machine automatically adjusts itself to the angle of your choice.
Despite their position further down on this list, don’t for a second dismiss these inversion tables for anything less than superior. They are just as high performing as the Health Max Pro, but due to a few missing features, the Healthmax Pro made it to the top above the rest of the pack.
The Ironman Fitness Gravity 4000 is a fully-featured inversion table, will a wide range of angles that are all controlled and adjustable using a tether strap and safety bar, both attached to the frame. Full inversion is seemingly a common measuring stick with many potential customers, but for the sake of safety, the ability to return to an upright position is the greatest concern one should have regarding it.
It’s capable of going to full 90 degrees, but for beginners, it’s not a setting that we would advise trying out. One of the things you will enjoy about it, though, is the great comfort of its ankle locks and the frame’s sturdiness.
If you’re a complete beginner to the world of inversion tables, the Exerpeutic Inversion Table might be more suitable for you. It’s a starter-level inversion table that doesn’t come bloated with features, maintaining its integrity as a good old inversion table and nothing more.
The addition of a thick foam on the ankle locks and backboard was a nice surprise, though. (Most entry-level inversion tables use hard plastic for the backboard and almost no padding on the ankle locks).
Additionally, it includes a hand grip that helps users regain momentum when lost or return to a vertical position. However, due to the dire lack of features, you might want to get an a personal lumbar support belt and an arched back-stretching platform.
It could also use a bit more padding at the ankles, so we suggest you use a foam exercise mat or a small pillow to cover unpadded areas.
The iControl 600 is a bit pricier than most items on this list, its price in the $200 – $300 range, but that’s also because this is one of those devices that sets the pace for ‘design over practicality.’
Ironman is already a household name with their famous iControl 500 model, featuring an infrared therapy table, but the iControl 600 takes it up a notch and introduces a newly designed locking system.
This model offers some of the most high density padding you will ever come across out there,, at an incredible 2.75″. It also comes with a stretching bar that’s fitted at the rear end of the frame and will only yield at a 300 lb capacity.
The iControl 600 features an ankle holder with a new, design that helps distribute weight around your feet evenly in order to prevent discomfort, with an extra-length handle that reduces the strain on your lower back when you bend down to lock and release.
Despite all its new introductions to the world of inversion tables, what really got it on the list was the disc brake inversion control system. It provides a sturdy way of being able to lock the inversion angle with barely any force, and even better, without having to step off and adjust the safety straps.
If you’ve use Teeter Hang Ups inversion tables before, you’ll notice the EP-960 model comes with the exact same owner’s manual as any other model that’s meant to help you assemble the 74-pound beast as quickly as you can. As a bonus, it comes with a DVD highlighting all the new features and the how-to’s of this particular model.
It’s an easy-to use inversion table alright, but the 74-pound weight makes it a bit of a downer when it comes to portability. They, perhaps, decided to make up for this with one of the longest warranties on an inversion table you’ll ever find on the market – 5 years – so they must be pretty confident their product was built to last.
Lastly, it has built-on security features such as: cam locks, which are essentially heat-treated steel parts and auto-locking hinges that mean the product will be even more reliable and secure. It also features a tether strap that allows you to pre-set rotation angles at 20, 40 and 60 degrees. It should serve as a guide to finding the correct and comfortable position for maximum decompression and stretching.
What is an inversion table?
An inversion table, as mentioned before, is a device usually comprised of two components – a comfort bed and an A-frame that supports it, and primarily used to correct spinal problems or for exercise.
Primary features on an inversion table
The back support can offer various degrees of support to between half an inch of padding to 2.5’’ if memory foam. High-end models may feature removable pillows for your neck, head and lumbar region.
The construction of the frame for the individual inversion table varies from model to model and primarily depends on the price, but regardless, most models include a standard scratch resistant protective coating to improve durability.
WIth a little observation, you can determine the weight capacity of your inversion table, with entry level tables supporting a maximum of 250 pounds, compared to the more specialised 350+ pounds.
Another standard feature on all inversion tables is an ankle holder system which prevents the user from sliding down the table once the inversion table crosses the 90 degrees angle.
This is a standard feature on most inversion tables, though it may be referred to using different names or acronyms, for instance Teeter’s EZ Angle Tether Strap.
It’s purpose is to this allows you set whatever rotation angles, in terms of degrees, that you need. This makes for an easy guide to to finding the most comfortable position for maximum stretching and spine decompression.
A warning to beginners is to ensure you know what you’re doing during the adjustment, because even slight hiccups along the way could lead to back injury. For instance, beginners shouldn’t straight out begin with 90 degree inversion, for inversion tables that support that particular feature,
Always check with a specialist before attempting new non-prescribed exercises.
Benefits of inversion therapy
SInce we’re here, it’s perhaps worth mentioning that inversion therapy has profound benefits for people with back problems, but it isn’t for everyone. Make sure you acquaint yourself with the potential health risks to see if it’s the best form of therapy you should seek to relieve your back pain.
In fact, before you start using an inversion therapy table, make sure you consult your local medical practitioner. Once you get the go-ahead, you can get started, and may notice some of the following health benefits.
Improved joint health
Various tasks in your day-to-day activities can have negative effects to the overall performance of your joints. This includes high-impact exercise, running and regular walking.
Inversion therapy sessions negate the effects of the resulting compression by reversing the force placed on your spine when you stand, sit, and exercise.
Increases blood circulation
This is by far the most popular of benefits stated by inversion table manufacturers on their product pages. When you that as you invert your body, the brain is receives freshly oxygenated blood quicker. By remaining in these positions, even for relatively short amounts of time, blood flow is encouraged from the lower body the heart,before being pumped back through the lungs.
How to pick the best inversion table for your needs
As with nearly all machinery, different types of inversion tables are made to suit different niches of people with different needs. You will have to put some, if not all, of these features into consideration before you finally decide on the inversion table that will best suit you.
Types of inversion tables First things first, you need to decide the type of inversion table you want to use. There are two primary types of inversion tables – motorized tables and manual ones. A manual inversion table will require you to use your own strength in order to move the table through different angles while a motorized can be thought of as ‘automatic,’ such that they allow the user to easily shift his/her position from one angle to the next
Flexibility Some units have hefty prices on them but have no flexibility in terms of the ability to allow you to incorporate different exercises. Get a unit that will let your back move as far away from the table as possible. This allows you to have much more freedom when exercising without bumping your back on the platform.
Backboard The backboard is meant to provide great support for you while inverted and when you are getting back into position. There are two different types backboards – the mesh type and the soft-padded ones. None is particularly better than the other and either one can provide great support as you work your back out, all that’s left is your personal preference for comfort.
Comfort Another crucial feature to be on the lookout for is the relative comfort of the inversion table as you use it. This overlaps with the previous point, since the comfort is, for the most part, dictated by the quality of the backboard. A fair warning to beginners is that high prices don’t always translate into higher levels of comfort, since comfort is subjective enough to be pinned on individuality rather than the price of a product.
Easy of use A cardinal rule when it comes to buying just about anything is that a product is only as useful as it is easy to use, For that reason, whatever inversion table you decide to get should be one that’s easy to handle and get into the rhythm of. A well-designed inversion table is one that will require a maximum of two or three steps for the user to carry out before riding. Usually, you should be able to find your height and adjust the central then you’re good to go. This shouldn’t be a strict guiding point, but you should find a model that’s just as easy as that to use.
Ankle restraint While you’re inverted, your ankles are going to need to be held down somehow so you don’t slide all the way down, so it’s a pretty important feature to have. Ankle restraints need to be comfortable while still functioning to keep the legs in position. Due to the fact that it’s a must-have on basically any inversion table, it should be easy to put on and remove, while at the same time allowing for maximum comfort and support. There are basically two types of ankle restraints available
The bar type : These allow you to anchor your ankles in place
The adjustable strap: These simply hold you in place.
Choosing which one you want comes down to a matter of personal preference, since you don’t want to feel unsafe while being held nearly upside down by a product you don’t exactly trust.
Frame The frame will be what’s essentially supporting your weight, so it has to be made of a tough material that won’t deform under stress. When shopping for an inversion table, get one with a steel frame, otherwise it’s really not worth buying. Some would argue there are models made from tough polymer composites, and although they are tough, the best inversion tables still remain those made from quality metal frames.
Inversion table capacity Just like the frame, inversion capacity is pretty important. Make sure you take note of the weight capacity of the table, and that it’s just enough to hold your weight. Otherwise it could deform after repetitive use and stop being reliable along the way. Additionally, be sure to check the sturdiness of the ankle clamps. They should feel solid, and unmoving. If they don’t, you might feel might feel uncomfortable while trying to go all the way due to an apparent lack of stability.
Compactness Another attribute that’s important but not crucial, compactness is the amount of storage space it’s going to take up. If you’re lucky enough to have a large dedicated area for the inversion table, this isn’t much of a problem, but since the lucky are the minority in this situation, it’s important to find an inversion table that’s going to fit right into your home without having to sacrifice otherwise useful space. Like most gym equipment, inversion tables are quite bulky and having to move them time and again could get very tiring, very fast. For that reason, try and get one with as small a footprint as possible, making sure it can fold up easily for storage. If that’s not good enough for you, you can opt for a foldable model that you can simply place in the corner when you’re not using it. Additionally, If you fall into this category, don’t forget to check the table’s measurements before placing an order.
Price and warranty This point should go across without saying, but don’t forget to factor in your budget when getting a new inversion table. Inversion tables vary from $250 models to $1000 models, which depend on various factors including additional features, brand and sophistication. If you only intend to have one for recreational use, one in the $250 range should suffice, and this is especially so if you’re new to the equipment. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can upgrade to $300 to $500+ models. Warranty is another additional feature whose existence is often an indicator of a manufacturer’s confidence in the product. Most brands offer at least a year’s worth in warranty, while other brands even offer up to 5-year warranties.
Safety Lastly, and perhaps most importantly is the safety factor involved when using an inversion table. New users will usually feel like they are falling, and hence unsafe, which is perfectly natural. For that reason, you’re going to want a product that you can get into as soon as possible. Safety is a factor that you should really take your time to consider when it comes to each product you decide to buy. If you’re buying in person, the best way to determine if it’s going to be sage is to check the components and parts that make up the device for loose nuts, bolts and screws, or if it’s otherwise compromised in some way – including cracks and loose parts. Additionally, check the specified weight limitations on all other parts on the machine, such as the safety straps and the locking pins. You need to be absolutely certain that the inversion table is going to hold your weight without giving in to the potential stress it will suffer.