Whether you just want to include more stretches into your warm-up routine, or your abdominal exercises are insanely difficult, leaving you with sore stomach muscles, stretches for this part of the body are essential. The stretches don’t have to be complicated or leave you looking like a pretzel, but they can reduce any soreness caused by exercising.
The stomach or abdominal muscles can become stressed and tight for several reasons. For those with desk jobs, the muscles in the front of the body become tighter and inflexible if you are in a sitting position for the better part of the day. Loosening them up is not only better for your posture, but better for your back. Keeping the stomach muscles flexible will keep your spine strong and can even relieve back pain associated with your job or exercises you perform. Stretching major muscle groups in general improves your flexibility, improves circulation and also improves joint range of motion. According to the Mayo Clinic, additional benefits associated with stretching are improved athletic performance and a decrease in the risk of activity-based injuries.
Types of Stretching
There are several types of stretching, but for the abdominals it’s best to include static, passive or dynamic stretching. Static stretching is when you hold a position that is stretching the stomach muscle for approximately 30 seconds. Passive stretching is similar to static stretching, but someone else is holding the stretch position for you for 30 seconds. If you’re incorporating stomach stretches during a warm-up, you may consider dynamic stretching. This is a controlled stretch that involves moving your abdominal and adjacent areas in different directions and in a repetitive fashion. This can improve blood flow and is important when trying to mimic the action of the stomach muscles during an activity or event.
A basic stretch for the abdominal area is called the stomach stretch. Lie on your stomach. Push yourself up onto your elbows. Gently and slowly lift your head and shoulders. Look up toward the ceiling and hold for 15 seconds. Release and go back to the start position and repeat two more times. Another great stretch for your stomach and back muscles is the exercise ball back-bending stomach stretch. Sit on the exercise ball and slowly roll the ball forward as you lean your body back. Allow your shoulders and back to rest on the ball and your arms to hang to each side. You can intensify this stretch by raising your arms over your head and straightening the knees to arch over the ball. Move the ball to the midspine and focus on touching the hands to the floor. Hold either position for 10 seconds, then slowly ease yourself back to the seated starting position. Repeat three times.
Increasing your flexibility should be your first goal before you even start a new fitness program, according to Military.com. The website recommends stretching and increasing your flexibility for up to a week before even starting a new exercise program. Once you’ve started a new program, you should consider stretching one to two times per day on the days you work out. This should go on for the first two weeks when incorporating a new routine. If you’re simply stretching to decrease sore muscles or want to include it alongside your current exercise routine, consider stretching after every workout, following a cooldown period. For those who have less time to stretch, the Mayo Clinic advises stretching at least two to three times per week to receive the optimal benefits.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.