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Hang Time: Why Athletes Use Inversion Therapy

Inversion Therapy

Inversion therapy has gained traction for its gravity-defying approach to back pain relief and spin health, but what other benefits do they provide to athletes? Why are so many adding inversion therapy to their recovery and workout routines? 


Advocates argue that hanging upside down can relieve pressure on the spine, enhance body alignment, blood flow, and core muscles. Despite limited research, inversion therapy appears to offer potential benefits for both professional athletes and recreational sports enthusiasts wanting to support overall physical well-being. In this article, we will examine the benefits of inversion therapy for athletes, provide tips on getting started, and how to push yourself further. Buckle up, because we’re about to delve into the topsy-turvy world with inversion. 




What is Inversion Therapy?

Inversion therapy involves hanging fully or partially upside down to take pressure off the spine. This spinal traction creates space between the vertebrae, decompressing the nerves, disks, and joints.


Inversion therapy can be done using inversion tables, inversion chairs, gravity boots, or even inverted yoga poses.


By inverting the body, the spine experiences a natural form of traction that alleviates pressure on discs, promoting better spinal health.


Inversion therapy’s impact on spinal health can be summarized as follows:


  • Decompression of the Spine: By using gravity to your advantage, the spine decompresses, helping to relieve the pressure that contributes to back pain.
  • Improvement of Disc Health: Reduced pressure on discs allows for better absorption of nutrients, promoting healing and recovery.
  • Alignment Correction: Regular inversion therapy sessions can help correct minor misalignments caused by activities like heavy lifting, running, or prolonged sitting.

Why Do Athletes Use Inversion Therapy? What’s the Benefit?

It turns out that hanging upside down can benefit athletes, too.  When we hit the gym or engage in any physical activity, our bodies take a serious beating. Whether it’s running, lifting, or jumping, we’re putting intense pressure on our vertebrae, back muscles and joints. 

Inversion therapy helps alleviate that burden in multiple ways:


  • Releasing Muscle Tension – Inversion helps relax tight muscles throughout the body, releasing built up tension. This prevents muscles from pulling bones and joints out of alignment.
  • Injury Prevention – Spinal traction keeps joints mobile and muscles flexible, protecting against strains or tears. This is especially important for athletes prone to overuse injuries.
  • Core Strength – Engaging your core to stay balanced upside down enhances abdominal strength. Stronger core muscles also improve stability, balance, and power output.
  • Flexibility – Stretching while inverted increases range of motion critical for many sports. Greater flexibility reduces injury risk while optimizing movement.
  • Circulation – Reversing blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to muscles for quicker recovery. Improved circulation helps clear metabolic waste from muscle tissues.
  • Joint Pain Relief – Decompressing the joints while inverted can reduce inflammation and swelling, improving joint health. This allows athletes to continue training through minor joint injuries or arthritis.
  • Lymphatic Drainage – Since the lymphatic system lacks a pump, it relies on gravity and muscle contractions to circulate lymph fluid. Hanging upside down can help clear accumulated lymph waste.
  • Relaxation and Dealing with Stress – Being inverted can relax the body and mind. This helps athletes de-stress and reset after intense training.

Is Inversion Therapy Safe?

Look, hanging upside down seems fun, but let’s keep it safe, folks. Inversion therapy is generally safe for most people, but take precautions based on your method. Gentle yoga poses generally carry less risk than inversion tables or old-school gravity boots.

Talk to your doc first if you’ve got any health issues, especially if you have:


  • Heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Glaucoma or eye problems
  • Stroke history
  • Neck injuries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Herniated discs
  • Blood clots
  • Obesity
  • Pregnant
  • Take blood thinners

Also make sure your equipment is solid. Invest in quality gear with adjustable angles and good ankle support. Trying to MacGyver some inversion contraption in your garage spells trouble. You’ll also want a spotter buddy nearby in case you need assistance getting right-side up.





Tips for Inversion Beginners

We’re not all built like Batman, so let’s ease into inversion slowly and carefully. Transitioning into inversion therapy as a beginner requires careful application of expert advice to ensure safety and effectiveness. Proper form and prep will save you trouble down the road. So be patient, start gradual, and don’t skip these beginner tips for gong 180:


  • Use supervision and support. Yep, we mentioned this above under safety, too. But it’s especially important for beginners. Have a spotter nearby or use equipment with adjustable angles and ankle straps.
  • Start slowly. Ease into it slowly like a cautious sloth. Start at a mild 20-30 degree angle for just 1-2 minutes. See how you feel and gradually work up to more inversion time as your body adjusts.
  • Listen to your body. Stop immediately if you feel any discomfort. Avoid forcing an uncomfortable position.
  • Engage your core. Actively contracting your abdominal muscles helps stabilize the spine. The muscles also help protect your back from injuries and prepares you for going next level in your inversion exercises.
  • Breathe deeply. Inhale and exhale fully to relax muscles and increase circulation.
  • Hydrate well. Drink plenty of water before and after inversion therapy to avoid dehydration and dizziness. Proper hydration also helps with the other benefits related to inversion.
  • Invert consciously. Many report mental benefits from meditating while inverted.

Taking Your Inversion Practice to the Next Level

Once you’ve built a solid foundation with inversion therapy, look for ways to bring your practice to the next level. Like any sport or workout, customizing and personalizing your approach to inversion therapy is a great way to keep the flame alive and find your limits.

Here are some ways to keep challenging yourself:


  • Increase the angle: Gradually intensify the inversion to spur new adaptation. Carefully extend your comfort zone.
  • Extend duration: Increase hang time to boost circulation gains and lymphatic drainage. But avoid pushing past what feels right.
  • Add functional exercises: Incorporate movements like inverted crunches, back extensions, or yoga poses to target particular goals like building functional core strength or increasing flexibility.
  • Explore sequencing: Design inversion sequences with warm-ups and counterposes for a complete routine. Be your own trainer.
  • Use breathing techniques: Experiment with different breathing patterns to help relax or invigorate. For example, ujjayi breathing creates heat.
  • Monitor impact: Assess how adaptations in your routine translate to performance gains. Adjust based on what delivers results.

Alternative Ways to Use Inversion in Workouts

While inversion tables and poses provide the most direct spinal traction, there are many alternative exercise methods that also incorporate inversion benefits:


  • Suspension training and TRX: Yes, there is a TRX move for that. Use straps to safely control the degree of inversion. Both TRX and gymnastics rings are also portable enough to head to the playground.
  • Aerial yoga: Special hammocks allow for safe inversions like backbends and splits to improve flexibility. Another great way to do recovery yoga
  • Rope Yoga: Also known as Yoga Kurunta uses ropes to go inverted on a yoga wall.
  • Pilates inversions: Reformers and other Pilates equipment like the Ladder Barrel, trapeze, or aerial hoops can help you get upside down. 
  • Calisthenics: Get inverted on stall bars or Olympic rings. Progress in calisthenics and work up to full inversions like the headstand or handstand, or head to the monkey bars for a knee hang.
  • Acrobatics: Make it pretty. Suspended aerial silks and lyra hoops allow for creative inverted choreography.

Final Thoughts on Getting Inverted

Inversion therapy is a great way to hit the reset button. It provides a multitude of benefits, especially for spinal health and recovery processes. It alleviates pressure on crucial body parts, enhances blood flow, and aids in muscle relaxation.


While traditional training focuses on building strength through resistance, inversion leverages the natural power of gravity through spinal traction and decompression. This unique approach helps alleviate pain, reduce injury risk, and optimize flexibility and circulation. By literally turning training upside down, inversion therapy allows athletes to continue reaching new heights. While proper precautions are needed, this innovative practice proves we must be willing to flip the script in order to revolutionize how our bodies and minds function. When we change our relationship with gravity and leverage its natural power, we open up a world of possibility for realizing our athletic potential.

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