How to Stretch Abs to Keep Your Abs Supple and Strong

how-to-stretch-abs

When it comes to optimal fitness results, most people focus on contracting their muscles to promote growth and gain strength. 

However, doing the opposite – stretching your muscles strategically – can also offer numerous benefits.

To that end, let’s review how to stretch abs and why you should.

Table of Contents

Main Takeaways

  • The abs can be stretched with or without equipment.

  • Stretching your abs has many benefits, like reducing the risk of lower back pain.

  • Remember that dynamic stretching should be done before your workout, while static should be done after your workout.

Muscles Stretched

Primary Muscles Stretched 🙆‍♂️

  • Abs
  • Transverse Abs

Secondary Muscles Stretched 🙆‍♂️

  • Hips
  • Obliques
  • Erector Spinae (back muscle extending your trunk)

But First: A Quick Look at the Abs

The rectus abdominis, better known as the ‘abs,’ is a thin, superficial muscle that covers the stomach. It spans from the ribcage to the pelvis, and its primary role is to crunch the torso, bringing the chest closer to the thighs. The muscle also promotes torso stability when it contracts isometrically. (1)

Though most people don’t realize it, the abs are involved in many gym and everyday activities, and developing them well may reduce the risk of lower back pain.

Benefits of Stretching the Abs

  1. May Reduce the Risk of Lower Back Pain

Muscle tightness, particularly in the midsection, is often linked to spasms and nerve irritation, sometimes contributing to lower back pain or discomfort. By stretching the abs, you may reduce that risk.

  1. Quicker Muscle Recovery

Stretching muscles promotes blood flow, which means more oxygen and nutrients can get to the areas affected by exercise and help repair exercise-induced muscle damage. This holds true for the abs because they are a muscle like any other.

  1. Good Way to Prepare For Training

Light ab stretches before training help prepare the muscle group for working out. Such activities can promote blood flow to the muscle and warm it up, as well as prime it, allowing it to more effectively engage and keep your torso stable during intense exercise.

How to Stretch Abs For Best Results

To understand how to stretch abs (or any other muscle, for that matter), you must first consider the muscle’s anatomy and function.

In the case of the rectus abdominis, we discussed that the muscle’s primary function is to crunch the torso. 

So, the opposite movement to crunching would be torso extension, which means increasing the distance between your chest and hip by hyperextending your back. Let’s review some effective movements for doing that.

Ab Stretches You Can Do Almost Anywhere

1. Lie on An Exercise Ball

a) Carefully lie on an exercise ball with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor.

b) Raise your arms to your sides for balance.

c) Slowly arch your back and bring your head back as you open your chest. You should feel a stretch in your abs.

d) Hold for up to 20 seconds and take a break.

Lie on Exercise Ball

2. Cobra Pose

a) Lie face down on the floor.

b) Bend your arms and place your hands flat on the floor at your sides.

c) Inhale and push your upper body through your hands, opening your chest and stretching your abs.

d) Hold the position for a few seconds and relax.

e) Repeat for five to ten more reps.

Cobra Pose

3. Cat-Cow Pose

a) Get down on all fours with your knees directly underneath your hips and your shoulders, elbows, and wrists in a straight line.

b) Inhale and arch your back as much as possible, directing your gaze toward the ceiling. This position will lengthen your abs, so you should feel a stretch in your stomach.

c) Pause for several seconds and round your back as much as possible, exhaling powerfully.

d) Continue alternating between the two poses for 10-15 reps.

Cat Cow

When to Stretch Your Abs

You can stretch your abs at almost any time, such as before or after training and on days off the gym. For example, you can stretch the muscle before training to warm it up and promote activation or after a workout to cool down. 

One thing to remember is that static stretching can temporarily decrease power output (or, in the case of the abs, their ability to stabilize the upper body). So, if you stretch your abs before training, give yourself a few minutes before starting your heavy squats, deadlifts, and other compound lifts.

Ab Stretches for Lower Back & Core Health

Performing the ab stretches will only improve your core and overall back health. When you have healthy and supple muscles, it puts less tension on your joints. Yes, tight muscles create tension for your muscles.

Here is a good example. When I injured my lower back several years ago, my ortho told me one of the best things to do for lower back health is to consistently stretch my hamstrings.

Having supple and flexible hamstrings improves your lower back health. This is because when you have tight hamstrings, there is continuous pulling and tension on your lower back muscles.

Tips for a Healthy Core

And this goes for all muscle groups, which is why an abdominal stretch and core stretch will improve your overall core health. And having tight muscles in these areas creates tension over time, including your ab muscles.

Just make sure to never perform static stretches on cold muscles. So always make sure you do some cardio to warm your muscles and get your blood flowing, even if it’s only 3-5 minutes of cardio. It can be something as simple as jogging in place or doing jumping jacks.

Are your abs now warm but don’t know what to do for 6-pack abs? Try our calisthenics ab workout to get your abs popping. Pair your ab stretching with lower back stretching to improve lower back health and core strength.

Also, check our daily stretching routine to get your body as flexible and supple as you can. If you’re a beginner, check our stretching routine for beginners to get your body used to it.

Also, check out some of our other stretching routines:

Click to return to more stretching routines, and see our stretching videos.

Philip Stefanov

Philip Stefanov

Philip is a fitness writer, blogger, certified personal trainer, and the founder of ThinkingLifter.com. He trained at BioFit College, and has spent the last nine years writing fitness content and training men and women in the gym, as well as online. His passion is fitness and exercise, and helping others improve their fitness and wellness.

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References

1) Professional, C. C. M. (n.d.). Abdominal muscles. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21755-abdominal-muscles

Click to see our medical disclosure.