Daily stress from work and family can make your torso stiffen like having a corset tighten around your waist. Stretching your oblique muscles, which run diagonally across the sides of your torso, can make your body feel as light and limber as a ballet dancer, allowing you to breathe and move better. There is no single best way to stretch your obliques. The stretching technique you use will depend on your goals and whether you're warming up or cooling down.
Static stretching is holding a muscle length for a period of time, usually between 20 to 30 seconds. Since the obliques assist in turning your body, twisting your torso in one direction and holding the position would be static stretching. Some poses in yoga that stretch your obliques include Angle pose, Standing Spinal Twist and Sitting Half Spinal Twist. As you stretch, take deep, slow breaths to enhance relaxation. Doing static stretching before a workout can reduce strength and performance, according to exercise physiologist Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico. Instead, do static stretching after your workout as part of your cool-down.
While static stretching involves no movement, dynamic stretching is moving your obliques in a rhythmic pattern repetitively in a way that resembles the sport or activity you are about to play. If you play softball or golf, you would stand and turn you torso to your left and right repetitively until you feel looser and warmed up. You can even take a static stretching exercise and turn it into a dynamic stretch by moving your body side to side. For example, in Angle pose, instead of holding the stretch by leaning your torso to one side with your hands overhead, lean your torso to your left and right at a steady rate, inhaling as you rise and exhaling as you lean to the side.
Functional stretching is a relatively new idea in athletics, which is based on the theory of movement specificity, says fitness professional Anoop Balachandran. This implies that your brain is very specific with learning and adapting to a specific movement pattern, whether you want to improve strength, balance or flexibility. Therefore, when you stretch your obliques in a certain body position, such as sitting on the floor, it doesn't always imply that you'll have the same range of motion in a standing position. If you are a dancer, gymnast or golfer, then stretch in a standing position. Likewise, if you are practicing floor gymnastics, ground-based martial arts or tumbling, then stretch your obliques by lying on the floor. Functional stretches are often dynamic since they also mimic the sport or activity you are playing.
Do not stretch if you feel pain in your obliques or back. Check with a qualified medical professional, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist, before stretching. Always breathe when you stretch to avoid muscle cramps in your obliques and to increase your range of motion.
- IDEA Fitness Journal: Stretching -- A Research Retrospective
- Exercise Biology: Types of stretching: Static, Active, Dynamic, PNF & Functional Stretching
- Pain-Free Program; Anthony Carey
- Art of Living: The Angle Pose (Konasana)
- Art of Living: Standing Spinal Twist (Katichakrasana)
- Art of Living: Sitting Half Spinal Twist
- Human Kinetics: Functional Anatomy of the Core: The Abdomen
- Getty Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images