Stretches for the Rectus Abdominis

Abdominals are often neglected during stretching routines.
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The rectus abdominis is the muscle of your stomach known for the desired six-pack appearance. This muscle is not commonly injured, but you can still experience muscle tightness after abdominal toning exercises, so a good stretching routine can reduce the discomfort of tight muscles. Even if this muscle is not tight, these abdominal stretches feel great any time of the day.

Basic Standing Stretch

The most basic rectus abdominis stretch is the standing abdominal stretch. Stand tall with your feet together and raise your arms over your head. Your fingers are extended so the palms of hands are facing the ceiling. Lift your chest up as you arch your back. Keep your arms extended toward the ceiling as you move your arms behind your head. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds before performing the stretch two more times.

Belly Down Stretch

This stretch is commonly known as the Cobra pose in yoga, which gives a full stretch to the midsection of your abdominals. To start this stretch, lie on your stomach with your legs extended behind you so the tops of your feet are in contact with the floor. Bend your elbows and place your palms close to your body and flat on the ground so they're even with your chest. While keeping the front of your pelvis in close contact with the floor, extend your elbows so your back arches and the front of your body raises from the floor. Pull your shoulders back as you push your chest up. Your head remains in a neutral position as your eyes directly face the wall in front of you. Your arms do the work of supporting your body, so be sure to keep your abdominals and back relaxed for the duration of the stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds before repeating the stretch twice.

Stability Ball Backbend

The stability ball abdominal stretch allows you to perform a backbend while offering body-weight support. For added stability, this stretch can be performed with the ball next to a wall. To perform this stretch, lie with your back over the stability ball so both your upper and lower back are touching the ball. The wider your legs are spread, the greater your level of balance will be during the stretch since this increases the size of your base. Stretch your arms behind you so your palms touch the floor and your fingers are facing the stability ball. Allow your body to fall deeper into the stretch by relaxing your abdominals and back as they take the shape of the ball. As with the other stretches, hold this stretch for 30 seconds and repeat it twice.


Before you start a new stretching routine, it's important to get your doctor's approval, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition or are recovering from an existing injury. Do not bounce while holding your stretches. Stretch your abdominals until you feel mild painless tension and then hold the stretch while breathing normally. After 10 seconds, try taking a deep breath to see if your abdominals naturally move deeper into the stretch without causing pain. Stretching should never be painful. If you feel pain, release some tension from the stretch.

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