Gravity Boots: Hanging Your Way to Health?
Here’s another piece of equipment that used to be common but is seen much less often these days. Gravity boots are fitness gadgets that wrap around your ankles and enable you to hang upside down from a bar and stretch out the spine. In other words, they are used in inversion therapy to apply traction to your back with the goal of decompressing the vertebrae of your spine.
The story behind the inversion therapy
Those who advocate using this device point to the fact that our bodies are constantly being compressed by the force of gravity—the spine is compressed, the internal organs are pulled earthward. As a result, over a lifetime, most of us are an inch or two shorter at age sixty than at age twenty-five. Stretching out the spine by hanging upside down and taking the strain off the internal organs is supposed to help counteract this process. It also feels very relaxing.
However, hanging upside down has no direct effect on building up your body, so this remains an adjunct to training rather than a fundamental part of bodybuilding.
The benefits of inversion therapy
The benefits of inversion therapy have been known for years. You’re likely to be familiar with inversion therapy in the form of the inversion table or inversion chair. However, did you know that gravity boots are another versatile, useful and popular inversion tool?
The potential upsides of counteracting the effects of gravity are:
- Less spinal disc pain. The vertebral discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, keeping them separated and the spine flexible. These discs lose moisture over time due to the natural aging process, the stress of gravity and normal daily activity. Nonweight bearing activity, such as inversion, allows the discs time to re-hydrate by soaking up essential fluids and nutrients they need to remain plump and supple to maintain their cushioning effect.
- The spine is elongated (your own body-weight creates natural traction on the spine). Lengthening the spine relieves pressure and compression around the nerve roots and discs of the spine, and also increases the space around the vertebrae. Less pressure around nerve roots and discs alleviates back pain.
- Core training. The core muscles include the muscles of the abdominals, and the middle and lower back. These muscles, essential to functional movement, support the torso and help to maintain good posture, balance and strength. Some exercises, designed to strengthen this area of the body, can cause added pressure and possible injury to the lumbar area of the spine if performed incorrectly. Inversion boots allow you to perform specific core exercises in proper alignment without the risk of injury.
- Inversion therapy improves posture by realigning the spine to its natural “S” curve.
- Less joint pain;
- Less painful muscle spasms;
How to start using inversion boots?
If you use gravity boots, start out by hanging for only short periods—no more than a minute or so—until you get used to the unusual sensation of being upside down. Then gradually increase your suspension periods a little at a time as you feel necessary. Better, check out one of the bench-type gravity devices that let you keep your knees bent and take some of the strain off the lower back.
What are the main drawbacks related to inversion therapy?
- Blood pressure problems. Hanging upside down with the use of inversion boots for more than two or three minutes raises your both systolic and diastolic blood pressure to possibly dangerous levels.
- Eye problems. Inversion therapy increases the pressure within your eye. Eye pressure could easily be increased to levels associated with glaucoma.
- Other health problems. A variety of other health concerns are contraindicated for the use of inversion therapy. Any condition that is sensitive to pressure, such as bone fracture, hernia, eye infection or ear infection, osteoporosis, retinal detachment, may be worsened by the use of inversion boots or an inversion table. Furthermore, hanging upside down from a bar slows your heartbeat as it raises blood pressure and may result in further health issues for people with cardiovascular problems.
Inversion boots & inversion chairs
Inversion chairs allow you to place the head below the feet while in a seated position. Being seated has many upsides.
- More comfortable body position with less pressure on the leg joints;
- Safer transitions, better balance recovery and blood pressure equalizing;
- Better posture support and control for the lumbar spine and pelvis;
Furthermore, inversion chairs can be safely used alone. This is not what you can easy to achieve when using gravity boots. You will most likely need a second person to spot and assist. Although the chair does not go back all the way, this less intense inverted position of up to 70% still provides the same anti gravitational effect on the body as 100% inversion. The main reason why we recommend the inversion chair over the inversion boots and tables is straightforward. Being in a seated position provides better posture support and control for the lumbar spine and pelvis. Otherwise inversion can place too much arching, extension forces on the sensitive posterior column of the spine.
Inverted ab crunch exercise
Inverted ab crunch exercise is an excellent way to challenge your abdominal muscles and take your ab training to the next level. The inversion process causes gravity to work against you which provides extra intensity when performing crunches. While you’re inverted and performing this exercise, your hamstrings, quadriceps and calves are forced to support, stabilize and hold you in place in order to control the crunch movement. Another great benefit is that you can take things to an even higher level by holding weights during the abdominal crunch to intensify the exercise even more. However, this is recommended only for only more experienced athletes.
Closing thoughts about inversion therapy and gravity boots
Hanging completely upside down from the ankles strapped into anti-gravity boots is very aggressive. Furthermore, inversion therapy not only offers no long-term relief from back pain (only temporary relief and pleasure), but also presents dangers to your health under certain conditions. You should therefore be very careful and check with your healthcare provider before beginning this or any other new exercise or therapy. Being 100% inverted in gravity boots is definitely not for everybody. Better, check out one of the bench-type gravity devices that let you keep your knees bent and take some of the strain off the lower back (inversion chairs). Also, reinforce your core muscles using standard core exercises.