A lot of people assume that abs are just there to look good for pictures on social media, but this could not be further from the truth! Your abs are the powerhouse that fuels the rest of your body, and because of this, it is in your best interest to keep them as fit and healthy as possible.
Because of the misconception that people think abs are nothing more than vanity muscles, a lot of people overlook working them out in favor of muscles that are seen to be more practical.
However, if you have both flexibility and strength in your abs, then you will be able to much more effectively reach your goals for your workout!
So, because of this, we have gathered some of our favorite ab stretches which you can do either before or after you work out to help further stimulate your abs!
So, if you are looking for a simple method on how to start working on your abs, then this guide will give you all of the information you need on how you can do this!
Why You Need To Stretch Your Abs
When it comes to the reasons why you should stretch your abs, there are plenty. But they mostly boil down to the fact that if you regularly stretch your abs you will get some great benefits not just in your performance but also in your lifestyle as well.
You need to think of your abs as the front of your spine.
We all understand and know that the spine is one of the most important components we need for our flexibility, and because the abs are just the other side of this, we should also think about them in the same way!
So, if you have abs that are more flexible, then you are allowing your body to perform better than it would otherwise!
The Reasons Why You Should Stretch Your Abs
Before getting into the specific stretches you can do to improve your abs, we should go over the main reasons why you should do them so you can understand what motivates you.
There are the benefits we just mentioned in how they can improve your lifestyle and help you achieve your exercise related goals more easily.
However, there are also more specific benefits you can get from working out your abs which we will break down here!
This is one we have already referenced a couple of times, but similarly to how you can stretch your biceps to improve your flexibility, the same can be said for stretching your abs as well!
We want our abs to be able to extend, to rotate, and of course, to flex, and we want abs to be able to do this with minimal restriction.
However, if you are doing more rigorous workouts which include activities like crunches or needing to spend extended time hunching, all of this can over stress the abs and their flexion.
So, if you have your abs in a constant state of being in flexion, you can actually negatively affect your extension. However, if you know what ab stretches to do, you will be able to work against constantly over flexing your position and this will increase your ab flexibility.
Also increasing the flexibility of your abs will also aid in increasing the flexibility of your spine which is arguably more important!
So, if you are more flexible than your abs and your spine too will be able to move with less restriction and the stiffness and the tension you might have previously experienced will be decreased!
Back Pain Prevention
This is related to the previous point, but since the increased flexibility in the abs will influence the health of your spine as well, then stretching your abs will also aid you in being able to stop back pain.
If you have abs that are over flexed, you will often have a spine that is over flexed as well. And, if your spine is not getting the right input of movement from flexion, lateral flexion, rotation, as well as extension, then you are more likely to eventually stiffen up, and this will lead to back pain.
So, if you are able to have more freedom in your midsection area, which you can achieve from ab stretching, then you will be giving your back more space to move with fewer restrictions.
If you are moving with restrictions then you could eventually suffer from more painful issues with your back. This could lead to muscle strain, disc issues, and pinched nerves.
Better Injury Recovery
If you have suffered from certain injuries before, then you know a lot of injuries will involve quite a slow recovery process, and because of this your body will need time to heal depending on how severe your injury is.
However, since your abs will determine how functional the lower part of your body, but also the upper part, the ab stretching will lead to an accelerated recovery when it comes to injury for most body parts.
It is also worth knowing that stretching will improve your blood flow as well and aids with circulation, both of which will help with recovering from injuries.
Improving your circulation will help with flushing out lactic acid and then getting new blood to your injury sites, and this helps with reducing your inflammation, and this then eliminates pain and you will recover from injuries faster as a result.
Better Range Of Motion
One thing that people often overlook when it comes to the benefits they can get from certain exercise is how they can aid in increasing the range of motion you have.
You might find it uncomfortable to hold certain stretches and it makes you pull away quicker, however, if you work on increasing your range of motion, then you are able to stay comfortable in a wider range of positions while experiencing less discomfort.
You can actually experience injuries quite often when you exceed your range of motion, so if you are able to improve this aspect then you will be able to add more practical techniques into your regimen.
However, if you do not have the ability to move a limb across the range of motion, then the ability to be able to generate power will be decreased. So, when ab stretching you are growing the threshold of your body to be able to work against strain.
Best Time To Stretch Your Abs
So, now you know why it is worth working on stretching your abs, then you should also know when you should be working on stretching your abs. The best time for you to do this is when you are feeling tight.
If you have sat for a certain amount of time and you are experiencing stiffness, then stretching your abs every hour or two will help you in not experiencing this stiffness as often.
On top of this, if you are stretching your abs before you are working out and after you are working out, then this will be beneficial as well!
No matter what type of exercise you are doing, if it is weight lifting, spinning, Pilates, or yoga, then stretching your abs after will specifically aid increasing your range of motion and reducing the chance of any injuries.
Ab stretches help with cool down and are good at safely reducing your heart rate and this calms your nervous system as well. This will help in stopping muscle soreness as well which is often delayed.
Our Favorite Ab Stretches
So, now all that is left is to go over our favorite ab stretches. Some of these will be more intense than others, but these will all be beneficial for working on your abs.
Make sure to properly assess all of these and think which will fit into your workout routine the best! Also, some of these may require extra equipment, so keep this in mind as well!
Cat Cow Stretch
This is one of the best yoga exercises that aids with ab flexibility and is something you should try. It is especially popular as a warm up pose, this is because it combines flexion with extension, and this is great for improving both your abs and spine.
You want to get on all fours with your hands placed so they are underneath your shoulders and that your knees are under your hips. Then on your inhale you want your belly to drop towards the ground and arch your spine and take your chin off your chest for a cow pose.
Then when you exhale push into the hands and round your back then spread the shoulder blades and tuck the chin into your chest for a cat pose, then repeat this for about 5 to 10 breaths.
This is a great technique for opening up your spine and is perfect for improving your ab flexibility as well. The cobra pose will increase both your ab and your spinal extension and this leads to a better range of motion.
You want to lay prone on the stomach and then place your forearms onto the mat, so your elbows are going to be directly under your shoulders.
Then lay your hands so they are face down on the mat. Then lift your chest and your head up and pull the chest and chin forward then up. Take 5 breaths!
Kneeling Backward Ab Stretch
Your abs connect in the front of your body to your hip flexors, so kneeling backward ab stretch will emphasize the stretching of both your ab and your hip flexors. Because you are involving your hip flexors, then you will feel the stretching in your quads.
You want to start in a tall kneeling position on both of your knees, and have your knees under your hips with your toes on the ground. Then you are going to squeeze to aid in engaging your glutes, and then lean back extending at your spine.
While you are moving back you want to reach back using your arms to grab your feet. Then you want to breathe and hold this for 5 seconds. Then return to your starting position and repeat the stretch!
Lying Rotation Stretch
You will find that the benefits of doing this stretch are obvious based on the name in how it will aid in your rotation. You will be mobilizing the abs as well as your mid-back in the rotation and this will aid in getting the best stretch which helps in making your flexibility better.
So, you start by lying on your left side, then you place both of your hands so they are together and rest them on your ground horizontally on the left side making sure to keep your arms perpendicular to your body.
While doing this since you are on your side, you want your right left to be on top of the left. So, while you are lying on your side you want to bend both knees so they are at a 90-degree angle.
If you want to initiate the stretch you then raise and rotate the right arm and the torso so your right arm and your right hand are flat on the floor on your right side, then all you need to do is breathe and hold the position.
Twisting Crocodile Stretch
One of the other best stretches to help with rotation is this one. However, this one uses the legs as a driver to aid in initiating the rotation. This is great in involving your hips more. You want to start on your back and have your legs straight out.
After this you want your right knee to be brought to your chest. After this you want to cross your right knee bent over your body’s left side and on top of the body while making contact with the ground. You want the right hip to be stacked on top of the left hip.
Then if you want to increase the stretch you want to extend the right arm out horizontally onto your right side of the floor. You also want to turn your head to the right and you bring your gaze to the right fingertips.
This stretch is best in aiding your spinal extension and this then aids in your ab flexibility as well. This pose is great in engaging your posterior hip muscles as well and this targets the stretch on your anterior hip muscles and your abs.
To do it you want to start by laying on your back and then placing your feet on the ground keeping your feet shoulder width apart and directly under the knees.
While you are in place you want your belly button to be pulled towards the spine when inhaling, and then press your feet to lift up the hips and off the mat, and then pull your chest to your chin, then hold this for 5 breaths.
Chest Opener (Exercise Ball Needed)
This is one of the more relaxing stretches here and we love using the exercise ball as it gives the chest and abs a better deep feel which makes it more comfortable. If you do not own an exercise ball you could use a yoga strong roller as well.
You want to start in a bridge position with your head and your shoulders on the ball but back and hips off of the ball. Then you want to roll your head and shoulders off the ball while it rolls to your glutes and hold no tension in your neck or head.
How Often To Stretch Your Abs?
If you are looking to get the best results with your ab flexibility, then you should try and do ab stretches at least once a day. This is because we tend to find ourselves in positions where we are prolonging a flex, like in a sitting position, and this will make our muscles stiffen and get tighter.
Because of this, we need to perform ab stretches daily, this will stimulate your muscles to work for you instead of against you.
It is also worth noting however, that if you are exercising too often, or if you have a job that requires you work in a sitting position frequently, then you should probably try and do ab stretches more often to help with increasing your blood flow and helping your circulation.
This will help you feel better, and will improve your performance as well!
Frequently Asked Questions
We do not recommend working on building your abs every day, however, we do recommend stretching them every day as this aids with combatting muscle soreness and posture.
But when it comes to building the muscle, your muscles will need more time to recover as intense activities cause micro tears in the muscles so they will need to build back up.
You will often hear that if you want to get good abs that you need to eat less, but instead you should actually eat more, and just be more aware of what you are eating.
You will want to go for more natural and nutrient dense foods that will aid in increasing your energy levels and feed your muscles. The best for this are whole grain carbs, lean protein, fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as seeds and nuts.
While you can enjoy processed foods and refined sugars, you should avoid eating them too often or in excess!
Yoga is one of the best activities to do to aid in building your core, and yoga directly helps in improving your flexibility. You will find that a lot of the stretches we have mentioned in this guide are actually used pretty often in vinyasa yoga especially.
Hopefully this guide has given you all the information you need when it comes to stretching your abs.
There are plenty of reasons why you should stretch your abs, and there are not many reasons why you should not, so finding a way to incorporate ab stretches into your daily routine is something you should definitely prioritize. If you focus on this, then you will start to feel the benefits quite quickly.
The increased range of motion and flexibility has far more benefits than a lot of people understand, and increasing your circulation and blood flow is also incredibly important for improving how your body performs!