How to Do Stretching Exercises for the Abs and Stomach Muscles

How to Do Stretching Exercises for the Abs and Stomach Muscles

Stretches for major muscle groups like your chest, quads and hamstrings come pretty intuitively to most exercisers. But there's another muscle group that tends to fly under the radar: your abdominals. Just as they strengthen from training like other muscles, they also benefit from regular stretching: dynamic stretches before intense workouts, and static stretches after the workout or at least three times weekly.

How and When to Stretch
Aim for three sessions of static stretching every week -- either after or between your workouts. Ideally those sessions should last for up to 30 minutes, but only a couple of those minutes need to be dedicated exclusively to your abs. The American Council on Exercise recommends holding each stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeating the stretch two to four times.

Dynamic stretches should be incorporated into the five- to 10-minute warm-up you do before every workout. You only need to spend about 30 seconds at a time on any given dynamic stretch.

Dynamic Stretches
Start slowly with your pre-workout dynamic stretches, then work up to faster and larger movements as your muscles warm -- but never so fast or large that they're out of control. Two of the best dynamic stretches for your abs are trunk rotations and side bends or side bends. To do side bends, hold a long dowel across the back of your shoulders and lean first to one side, then the other. You can also do side reaches, discarding the dowel and reaching your right arm up and to the left, followed by the left arm up and to the right.

To perform trunk rotations, stand square with your knees slightly bent. Keep your belly button tight to support your spine as you rotate your torso from one side to the other. Think of moving not just your upper ribs, but your belly button side to side as well.

Static Ball Stretch
Static abdominal stretches are best done at the end of your workout, or between workouts for stress relief and loosening tight muscles. If you have an exercise ball or Bosu trainer at your disposal, the very easiest -- and best -- static abdominal stretch is simply draping yourself face up over the ball or round side of the trainer. The ball simultaneously supports your spine and positions you for the perfect stretch.

Static Floor Stretch
If you don't have access to an exercise ball, you can simulate the same static stretch by lying face down on the floor. Leave your hips in contact with the floor as you press yourself up on your forearms; straighten your arms for a more intense stretch. Take care to spread the backward curve evenly along your spine instead of focusing the extension only on your lower back.