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Ab Stretches: Their Benefits & 5 Of The Best Exercises In 2023
If you only want to lose weight, ab exercise alone isn’t the answer. Nutrient-dense foods then, can also help the cause).
But they can help carve the solid core that carries over into a range of other health and fitness benefits — including the exercises that facilitate weight loss. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a beginner just dipping your toes into the fitness world, abdominal stretches are in everyone’s workout.
5 Ab Stretches For Before And After Workouts
- Cobra Stretch.
- Cat-Cow Stretch.
- Standing Side Bend.
- Seated Spinal Twist.
- Hip Bridge.
5 Example Ab Stretches For You To Try
These are five of the best lower and upper ab stretches, with instructions on stretching your abs with each.
This yoga pose is excellent for stretching your abdominal muscles.
- Begin by lying face down on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders.
- Keeping your lower body and hips in contact with the ground, gradually lift your upper body by straightening your arms.
- Tilt your head back slightly to deepen the stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Start in a tabletop position, on your hands and knees.
- For the cat pose, exhale as you round your spine up towards the ceiling, like a cat stretching its back, and let your head drop down.
- For the cow pose, inhale as you lift your head and tailbone upwards, dropping your belly towards the floor.
- Continue to move slowly between these two poses, holding each for about 5-10 seconds.
Standing Side Bend
- Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
- Reach both your arms over your head and interlace your fingers, then stretch them up towards the ceiling.
- Gently bend from your waist to one side, hold for 10-15 seconds, then return to the center and repeat on the other side.
Seated Spinal Twist
- Sit upright on the floor, extending your legs straight before you.
- Bend your right knee and cross your right foot over your left leg, placing it on the floor outside your left knee.
- Turn your torso gently to the right, placing your right hand behind the floor for support and your left elbow outside your right knee.
- Hold for 15-20 seconds, then switch sides.
- Lie in a prone position on your back, your feet flat on the ground, and your knees bent. Your feet should be hip-width apart.
- Pushing through your heels, lift your hips off the ground while keeping your back straight.
- Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before slowly lowering your hips back to the ground.
This exercise will stretch your abs and strengthens the lower back, hip flexors, and glutes.
Always consult a fitness professional if you’re unsure about the correct form or have any health concerns.
Benefits Of Stretching Your Abs
Abdominal stretches bring a host of advantages to the table, extending far beyond simple muscle toning.
Flexibility is an often overlooked aspect of fitness, but it’s essential for maintaining a full range of motion in your muscles and joints. This helps you easily perform daily activities and reduces the risk of injuries.
Builds A Strong Core
A strong core — the result of regular abdominal stretches and exercises — supports almost every movement your body makes. That includes everything from picking up a grocery bag to swinging a tennis racket. Your balance and stability will improve, which can make it easier to develop other muscles.
Incorporating ab stretches into your routine can significantly improve your posture and prevent back pain and injury. Poor posture, often due to our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, can lead to many health problems, from headaches and tense shoulders to digestive issues.
Enhanced Athletic Efficiency
Stretches enhance your entire athletic efficiency. Strong abdominal muscles are crucial for runners, cyclists, swimmers, and athletes. They facilitate efficient oxygen flow to the muscles, boosting overall endurance and performance levels.
Mental Health Benefits
Lastly, an unexpected but welcome benefit of abdominal stretches is the positive impact on your mental health. Regular exercise, including stretching, has been shown to alleviate stress and anxiety. Stretching can promote a sense of mindfulness, helping you to tune into your body and providing a mental respite from the day’s worries.
When Should You Do Abdominal Stretches?
Deciding when to perform ab stretches can depend on several factors. This includes your fitness goals, overall workout plan, and individual body responses. However, here are a few general guidelines you can follow:
For many fitness enthusiasts, the best time to do abdominal stretches is after a workout as part of the cool-down phase. This is because your muscles are already warm from exercise, making them more pliable and receptive to stretching. Stretching post-workout can help prevent muscle stiffness, increase flexibility, and promote faster recovery.
In general, make sure to do all your muscle stretches when your body is already warmed up to avoid any injury or pain the next day.
In Their Own Dedicated Sessions
It’s also possible to dedicate separate sessions entirely to stretching. This is especially helpful if you want to improve your flexibility or recover from a muscle strain. These sessions can be done anytime during the day — if you warm up your body first to avoid injury.
In Your Morning Routine
Incorporating a few stretches into your morning routine can also be beneficial. Morning stretching can help wake up your body, increase circulation, and set a positive tone for the day. Being gentle during these sessions is important, as your muscles might be stiffer first thing in the morning.
Common Mistakes To Avoid
While abdominal stretches have many benefits, performing them incorrectly can lead to injury or discomfort. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when you stretch your abs or perform your routines:
Skipping The Warm-Up
Jumping straight into intense stretching without properly warming up your muscles can lead to strains and injuries. Always start with a light warm-up, such as a prone abdominal stretch or a kneeling backward abdominal stretch, to increase blood flow and prepare your ab muscles for stretching.
Your ab stretch should feel comfortable — it’s not about how far you can push your body. Overstretching can damage your muscles and lead to decreased muscle function. You want to strive for dynamic stretches that feel good, not painful.
Holding Your Breath
Proper breathing helps oxygenate your muscles and increases the effectiveness of your stretches. Inhale as you prepare for a stretch, and exhale as you move into it.
Rushing Through The Stretch
Take your time with each abdominal stretch. Holding a stretch for at least 15-30 seconds allows your muscles to fully relax and benefit from the stretch. Rushing can cause unnecessary strain and diminish the effectiveness of the exercise.
Some discomfort is normal when stretching, but pain is a sign something isn’t right. If you feel pain, ease off the stretch. Continuing to push through pain can lead to injuries.
Incorrect technique not only reduces the effectiveness of your stretch, but it can also lead to injuries. Make sure you’re performing each stretch as intended. If you’re uncertain about the proper form, seek advice from a fitness professional.
Not Stretching Regularly
For optimal results, stretching should be a regular part of your fitness routine. Sporadic stretching won’t offer as many benefits compared to doing it consistently.
Remember, everybody is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Always listen to your body and modify stretches to suit your fitness level and goals.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of eating whole foods to help your ab muscles recover. Nutrition and eating a healthy amount for your body type is going to get you long-lasting results — unlike fat burners.
The Bottom Line
However, ab stretches offer much more than a toned physique. They invest in your overall well-being, offering benefits far beyond the physical. You can improve your core, overall muscular strength, and reduce back pain. So, choose your favorite ones from above, embrace them enthusiastically, and here’s to a healthier, fitter, and more flexible you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Gentle stretching can help alleviate muscle soreness and reduce injury risk by increasing blood flow and promoting recovery.
While it’s possible to do ab workouts daily, it’s often more beneficial to allow your muscles time to rest and recover while working out only 2-3 times weekly.
2-3 times per week is optimal. They can be done after your workout as part of your cool down to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tension.
It’s possible to overstretch any muscle, including your abs. Overstretching can lead to muscle strains or other injuries.
+ 3 sources
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- Eun Young Kim and Lee, H.-Y. (2013). The Effects of Deep Abdominal Muscle Strengthening Exercises on Respiratory Function and Lumbar Stability. [online] 25(6), pp.663–665. doi:https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.25.663.
- Childs, E. and Harriet de Wit (2014). Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. [online] 5. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2014.00161.
- Aylett, E., Small, N. and Bower, P. (2018). Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice – a systematic review and meta-analysis. [online] 18(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-018-3313-5.