As health and fitness professionals, Vincent Houston and Kathy Hagar-Friedman know the importance of stretching the hamstring muscles. Thanks to the Stretch Facilitator, such stretching – which used to be a two-person activity – can now be accomplished independently.

The Stretch Facilitator is the product of the combined efforts of Houston, Hagar-Friedman and the NASA-funded Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP).

Previously, in order to effectively stretch the hamstrings, one would have to lie on his or her back and instruct another individual to slowly lift each leg, one at a time, until resistance is felt, at which point the leg would be held in place. The Stretch Facilitator allows the stretcher to rest his or her leg on a motorized pad, which automatically elevates the leg and slowly stretches the muscle.

Houston hopes to market the device to athletic teams, personal trainers and physical therapists. “The Stretch Facilitator will allow therapists and trainers to focus on other exercises, allowing them to expand their services and free up more of their time,” explains Houston.

Houston met Hagar-Friedman while treating a patient. They decided to combine their creative visions in order to develop the hamstring-stretching machine. Once the design was patented, they looked into creating a prototype.
“Prior to taking this costly next step, I felt that we needed to have a professional verify our engineering calculations,” said Houston.

Houston attended the Westchester CitiBusiness Connects conference, where he saw a presentation by SATOP’s regional director, Larry Kalish. Houston submitted a Request for Technical Assistance on the spot, which was subsequently sent to Robert Avalone – a mechanical and senior project engineer at Design By Analysis (DBA) in New Britain, Connecticut. Avalone redesigned the configuration according to Houston’s specifications and selected what he perceived to be the most effective materials and building components. Houston is quite pleased with the result.

“I have members at my cardiac rehabilitation center using the Stretch Facilitator prototype now and they absolutely love it,” says Houston. “I hope to receive SATOP’s help with my future rehabilitation devices.”