The Best Ab Stretches: Six Exercises For A Healthy Core

A-woman-performing-the-cobra-abdominal-stretchStretching our ab muscles, indeed any muscles that form our ‘core’ (anywhere from your glutes to your low back, obliques and abdominals), are important for overall core health. This is particularly important after an intense exercise session where you’ve focused on working these muscles as they’ll be crying out for some relief!

This article focuses on some of the best ab stretches you can do to help prevent soreness and stiffness the following day, and play a part in ensuring your core remains strong and healthy.

A Quick Look At The Abdominal Muscles – Why Are They So Important?

The abdominals help support your ‘trunk’, allowing you to move and help keep your internal organs in place. These muscles, together with those in your back and glutes, help make up your core muscles to keep your body stable and balanced as well as protecting your spine. In turn, having a strong core makes daily activities such as walking, running and even sitting easier.

There are four main muscle groups that make up your abdominals that include:

A-diagram-of-the-body's-core-musclesTransversus Abdominis

Rectus Abdominis

External Obliques

Internal Obliques

Our core is under constant stress, not just providing stability and balance but protecting our vital organs and connecting movement between the upper and lower body. When we stretch these muscles after an intense ab training session, we’re activating the release of hormones and biochemicals that affect our metabolism which, in turn, positively impact on our strength gains and our bodies’ recovery process.

So a strong and flexible set of abdominal muscles is about a lot more than aesthetics. Also, if you tend to spend much of your day sitting down as part of your job then stretching can help to straighten out your upper body after a day of sitting hunched at a desk.

The Best Ab Stretches To Target Your Entire Core

These six stretches can easily be incorporated into your exercise program either to help you cool down after an intense ab session, or to help lengthen and stretch out the tissues that typically become tight and compressed when sitting at a desk for long periods of time.

The Kneeling Spinal Wave

Where it targets: Rectus abdominis, hip flexors, diaphragm, and surrounding tissues

How to perform it: Begin in ‘child’s pose’ on the floor. In a rolling, wave-like motion, slowly round your lower and then middle back and then shoulders, moving forward until your shoulders are above your hands. Squeeze your glutes, move your head upwards and open up your chest to stretch your lower abdomen. Hold in this position for around five seconds before slowly returning to your start position and then repeat for another three to five repetitions.

 

The Cat/Cow

Where it targets: The abdominals and improves spine flexibility

How to perform it: This move provides both flexion (cat) and extension (cow) to tone and stretch the abs and can often relieve back pain. Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your hands and knees directly underneath your hips. Time your movement so that when you inhale, you arch your back all the way from your tailbone to your neck. On your exhale, drop your head as you round your back and try to pull your naval inwards. Repeat for three to five repetitions, moving slowly between each position.

 

The Side Stretch

Where it targets: The obliques and improves rib cage mobility

How to perform it: Whilst standing upright, raise your left arm upwards towards the sky and grab your left wrist with your other hand. Slowly bend over to your right side to create a C shape. Come back up and repeat on your left side with your right arm held upwards. Repeat for three to five repetitions, moving slowly between each position.

 

The Twisting Shoulder Bridge

Where it targets: The abdominals via a decompression-based stretch

How to perform it: Get onto the floor into a hip bridge position so your knees are bent and your hips are thrust upwards. With your right arm flat on the ground, reach towards your right foot. Next, roll over onto your right shoulder reaching your left arm back and over your head. Repeat on the opposite side performing three to five repetitions on both sides.

 

The Cobra

Where it targets: All core muscles, including the lower back

How to perform it: Lying face down with your hands directly underneath your shoulders, lift up through your chest and shoulders making sure your legs remain flat on the ground. For a slight added stretch, that will also benefit your neck muscles, try turning your head to one side and hold for a few seconds, and then the other side. Slowly lower yourself back down to the mat and then repeat for a total of three to five repetitions.

 

The Supine Stretch

Where it targets: A complete abdominal stretch.

How to perform it: Lying on your back with your legs straight and arms over your head, stretch your body in both directions as if you are trying to make your body as long as you possibly can, stretching through your toes and your fingertips. Hold this stretch for thirty seconds whilst breathing slowly.

Feel The Difference

By incorporating these stretches into your workout program, particularly after an abs session, you can help to build and maintain a strong, supple core that will have a positive knock-on effect with the rest of your training ensuring your body is properly supported and improving your overall balance and flexibility. You’ll also help in the recovery process preventing soreness the following day and minimising your risk of injury.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. These aren’t the only effective abs stretches you can do by any means, but they are some of my favourites. What ab stretches do you do to help recover and strengthen your core? Comment underneath, I’d love to know!

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