Before you begin any kind of inversion therapy, the first, necessary step is to adjust the ankle locking system such that it fits firmly but comfortably around your ankles. Depending on the kind of table in use, and its particular ankle locking system, this process could be quick and easy, or a bit of a challenge. Note here that you do not necessarily have to have the most cutting edge, “patent pending” solution. Oftentimes, simpler is actually better.
The ankle locking system is the most important part of the inversion table. Unfortunately, there has yet to be a system invented that can provide 100% comfort. The longer the inversion lasts, the more likely it becomes that you will begin to feel some discomfort. This is understandable when you consider that sometimes the whole weight of your body might be held by just your ankles. The level of discomfort depends on many factors, such as the angle of your incline, your total body weight, the strength of your legs and ankles, how long you plan to remain inverted, and your individual tolerance for pain. One thing you can all but rely on is that if you intend to do inversted training sooner or later you will suffer ankle pains.
Every ankle bracing and locking system consists of the same basic parts. There’s a footrest, rear and front heel holders, and a locking system. Most of these components can be adjusted to snap snugly around your heels and ankles.
The footrest is, more often than not, simply flat steel. In some inversion tables, the footrest resembles a small platform. Certainly this platform design is more comfortable for bare feet than a simple bar design, but overall, this is a relatively minor consideration, since you’ll only be standing on it for just a moment, usually when making adjustments to the ankle-locking system, or releasing it to get off the table. Depending on the table, you may also find that some footrests can be adjusted so that the front heel holders snug your instep better.
If you’re dealing with a ‘bar-style’ footrest, these can usually be adjusted to some extent, and in these cases, you’ll find a few holes in the bar that will enable you to secure it either up or down. In these cases, the bar is usually held in place with hex bolts and nuts, so it’s not a quick or simple procedure. Odds are, you’ll adjust it to taste once, on first use, and never again after that.
Heel holders have a variety of names and solutions, depending on the manufacturer. They can consist of four foam rollers, four cups, or a combination of cups and rollers. If the foam used is of poor quality, you may need to get additional cushioning like a towel around your ankles, in order to complete an inversion. This is usually not a problem if the manufacturer has used high density foam.
A four roller system with high density foam, coupled with a good locking system provide a snug, comfortable fit that almost all users will appreciate. Although slightly less popular, cup-based heel holders will keep your ankles securely locked in place during fully inverted crunch exercises. High end manual inversion tables are usually fitted with either two pairs of heel cups, or a combination of front rollers and rear cups. This latter solution can be found on all Emer inversion tables, as well as some Teeter and Ironman tables. One final note here is that the cups have either a high density foam or a tough rubber padding which is far more durable than any foam rollers, and this translates into cup based systems lasting longer than roller based ones.
The adjusting locking system is not always adjustable to the same extent on every table. In simpler, lighter systems, the front heel holder is fitted to the T-frame, sliding into the adjustable height bar housing. This system is fitted with a short, spring-loaded ball (Body Champ IT8070), T-pin (Teeter Hang Ups EP-560), or scale (Ironman ATIS 1000) which serves as the locking mechanism.
When adjusting or releasing the system, you’ll need to bend down to reach the spring-loaded locking mechanism (whatever form it takes) with one hand and slide the T-frame with the front heel holders in or out with the other hand to find the most comfortable position for your ankles. Much better and easier adjustments can be made with a ratchet locking system. This system allows for easy and tight adjustment. It is fitted with sufficiently long handle (Ironman ATIS 4000) or even extended knee-height (Emer EE-INVE-08B) that you can operate with just one hand to properly adjust the “fit” of the ankle locking system.
I have yet to find the perfect ankle restraint system that suits everyone, so it’s hard to recommend a single solution. In general, I can suggest:
Don’t go in for flimsy foam rollers, as you will almost certainly need extra cushioning to wrap your ankles, unless you feel that the added discomfort and inconvenience is a worthy tradeoff for a lower price.
No matter what, a roller-based system (even one using high density foam) won’t last as long as rubber padded cups.
If acute back pain has brought you to consider using an Inversion table, don’t invest in a table that requires you to bend low to make ankle adjustments. Consider a model with a ratchet locking system with an extended handle instead.
Chances are that no matter what ankle locking system your inversion table has, sooner or later you are going to feel some discomfort, and the level of discomfort might prompt you to limit, or even put off doing your inversion therapy. In this case, consider the ultimate solution: nversion Boots.
Final note: It is worth remembering that the more advanced the ankle locking system is, the heavier it will ultimately be. This may cause problems in terms of storage and convenience. If you have only a very limited amount of storage space, you may need to partially dismantle the inversion table by taking off the height adjusting bar. Tahe table will be both bulky and awkward with this heavy system attached to it.