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15 Ab Stretches for Before & After Workouts | Build Your Core

The abs aren’t just for pretty social media pictures, they are the powerhouse of your whole body. 

Even though ab muscles are often seen as vanity muscles, having both strength and flexibility in your abs will go a long way towards achieving your health and wellness goals.

Here are some ab stretches you can do before or after workouts to build your core. 

Why Should You Stretch Your Abs?

stretching abs

Stretching your abs provides numerous benefits in both performance and lifestyle. Consider your abs as the front side of your spine, and since we identify the spine as a crucial component needing flexibility, you should treat the abs the same way.

With more flexible abs muscles, you are putting your body in the best possible position to perform better. 

Benefits of Stretching Abs

oblique twists to stretch abs on yoga mat

Stretching abs provides distinct benefits that can impact the way you feel. It would be advantageous for us to have our bodies feel free without constraint, and these benefits prove that stretching abs can do that. 

Increased Flexibility

Just like stretching biceps would, stretching abs can lead to increased flexibility.


Our abs should be able to flex, extend, and rotate, all without restriction. However, rigorous workouts that include crunches, and hours spent hunching at the desk or slouching on the desk can overstress our abs in flexion. 


If your abs are in a constant state of flexion, your extension can be negatively affected. With good ab stretches, you can counteract the constant over-flexed position and increase flexibility in your abs, and subsequently your spine.


With increased flexibility, your abs and spine will feel less restricted with movement, reducing the stiffness and tension we have all experienced way too often. 

Prevents Back Pain

Since the flexibility in your abs influences the health of your spine,  stretching your abs is known to help prevent back pain .


Over-flexed abs often result in an over-flexed spine. And when your back isn’t receiving the right inputs of movement through flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation, it is more likely to stiffen up and cause back pain. 


If you have more freedom in your midsection from ab stretching, your back has more capacity to move without restrictions. If there are movement restrictions, that can result in painful back issues, such as muscle strains, pinched nerves, and disc issues. Consequently, stretching your abs can be a great tool to prevent back pain.

Faster Recovery from Injury

Many injuries have a slow recovery process, as the body needs time to heal depending on the severity of the injury. But, since your abs help determine the functionality of both your lower body and upper body, ab stretching can help accelerate recovery on any injury to any body part. 


Furthermore, stretching can improve blood flow and increase circulation, which are crucial parts to the recovery process. The constant flushing out of lactic acid and giving new blood to your injury sites will reduce inflammation, help eliminate pain, and give you a faster recovery from injury. 

Reduced Risk of Injury

Flexibility is one of the two primary drivers of injury prevention (strength being the other). And the best way to increase flexibility is to stretch constantly, thereby reducing your risk of injury. 


In particular, your abs contribute to the functional performance of your hips and spine, so with ab stretching, you are increasing the capacity of your hips and spine to move freely. When all your key muscles and joints are loose and flexible, working together in harmony, your injury risk reduces dramatically. 

Increased Range of Motion

Have you ever been so uncomfortable holding a stretch that you have to pull away? With increased range of motion, you can stay comfortable in deep ranges without worry.


Injuries often occur at end ranges of motion, so stretching your abs to increase range of motion is a practical technique to include in your regimen. 


If you do not have the capacity to move one of your limbs across a range of motion, your ability to generate power is diminished. With ab stretching, you are growing your body’s threshold to withstand strain. 


Using numbers as an example, imagine if your current range of motion is at a moderate 6, but you are able to increase that number to an excellent 8 with ab stretching! Your body’s capabilities to move improves drastically, and increased flexibility and reduced risk of injury all become a byproduct of the increased range of motion. 

When Should You Stretch Abs? 

cat cow stretch for abs

Any time you feel tight is a good time to stretch your abs. If you ever sit for an extended period of time, stretching your abs every one hour or two can be beneficial to prevent stiffness. 


In addition, stretching abs both pre-workout and post-workout is a good idea. Most exercise formats, whether weightlifting, yoga, spinning, or pilates, demand your abs to work hard, so stretching your abs to increase range of motion and reduce risk of injury prior to workout should be an essential part of any workout program. 


For your post-workout routine, ab stretching can help cool you down, lower your heart rate, and calm your nervous system, while helping prevent delayed onset muscle soreness. 

How to Stretch Abs

Stretching your abs involves moving your midsection through extended ranges of motion. While some stretches may not “feel” as intense as others, stretching your abs properly is more about how the stretches improve the functionality of the muscle group. 

Best Ab Stretches Before and After Your Workout

Now that you understand the foundational reasoning for stretching your abs, here are the best ab stretches to incorporate into your routine. 

15. Cat Cow Stretch

Cat-Cow Pose is one of the best yoga exercises for ab flexibility, as well as the ideal warmup pose, since the combination of flexion and extension are good for your abs and spine.


Here are the steps:

  1. Come onto all fours with hands placed underneath shoulders and knees underneath the hips. 
  2. On an inhale, drop your belly towards the ground and arch your spine lifting your chin off your chest for cow pose. 
  3. On an exhale, push into your hands to round your back, spreading your shoulder blades wie and tucking your chin to your chest. 
  4. Repeat 5-10 breaths.

14. Cobra Pose

Continuing to open up the spine is a valuable technique for improving your ab flexibility. With Cobra pose, the ab and spinal extension can quickly increase range of motion.


Here are the steps:

  1. Lay prone on your stomach. 
  2. Next, place your forearms on the mat so elbows are directly underneath your shoulders. Lay hands face down onto the mat.
  3. After that, lift your chest and head up and pull your chest and chin forward and up. 
  4. Take 5 breaths.

13. Kneeling Backward Abdominal Stretch

The abs connect in the front of your body to your hip flexors, and the kneeling backward abdominal stretch emphasizes stretching both the abs and hip flexors. Because of the involvement of your hips flexors, you will also feel a stretch in your quadriceps.

Here are the steps: 

  1. Start in a tall kneeling position (on both knees), with your knees underneath your hips and toes on the ground.
  2. Then, squeeze to engage your glutes, and start to lean backwards, extending at the spine
  3. As you move backwards, reach back with your arms to grab the back of your feet.
  4. Breathe and hold for 5 seconds. Come back to the starting position and repeat. 

12. Lying Rotation Stretch

The benefits of the lying rotation stretch are inherent in its name - rotation. Mobilizing the abs and mid-back in rotation can provide a good stretch that will increase your flexibility.

Here are the steps:

  1. Start by lying on your left side.
  2. Next, place both hands together and rest them on the ground horizontally on your left side with your arms perpendicular to your body.
  3. Also, since you are side lying, your right leg should be on top of your left leg. 
  4. While side lying, bend both your knees so they are at a 90 degree angle.
  5. To initiate the stretch, raise and rotate your right arm and torso until your right arm and right hand are flat on the floor on the right side. 
  6. Breathe and hold.

11. Twisting Crocodile Stretch

Twisting crocodile stretch is another great rotational stretch, but utilizes the legs as a driver to initiate the rotation. This gives your hips more involvement.

  1. Begin on your back with your legs straight out
  2. Then, bring your right knee into your chest.
  3. Next, cross a bended right knee over your body to the left side of your body, making contact with the ground. Your right hip should now be stacked on top of your left hip.
  4. To increase the stretch, extend your right arm out horizontally to the right side of the floor. 
  5. Also, turn your head to the right, bringing your gaze to the right fingertips.

10. Bridge Pose

Staying with spinal extension to assist your ab flexibility, Bridge pose engages  your posterior hip muscles to target the stretch onto your anterior hip muscles and abs.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lay on your back and place your feet on the ground, shoulders distance apart, directly underneath your knees. 
  2. When in place, pull the belly button towards the spine and on an inhale, press into your feet to lift your hips up and off the mat, pulling your chest towards your chin.
  3. Hold for 5 breaths.

9. Prone Abdominal Stretch

Targeting the deep muscles of the core,  the rectus abdominis and iliopsoas, the prone abdominal stretch can be part of a yoga flow, as well as an individual stretch on its own. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie prone (face down) on the floor, 
  2. Then, bring your hands on the floor to the sides of your shoulders.
  3. On an inhale, press into your hands, engage your triceps, and straighten your arms to push your torso off the floor, while keeping your hips and legs on the floor.

8. Supine Stretch

The supine stretch is also performed on your back while targeting your hips. Since hip flexibility and ab flexibility are closely intertwined, stretching your hips is also helpful for building flexibility in your abs.

Here are the steps:

  1. Start by lying on your back
  2. Keeping your right leg straight on the floor, bend your left knee, keeping your foot flat on the floor and your left heel closer to your left butt.
  3. Interlace your fingers behind your left knee and raise your left knee off the ground and pull your knee towards your chest.

7. Snake Stretch

Snake stretch is another ab stretch that emphasizes the relationship between the abs and the hips. By stretching both at the same time, you can earn results rather quickly.


Here are the steps:

  1. Start by lying prone, face down with arms stretched out horizontally to each side. 
  2. While maintaining ground contact with your right side toes, thighs, and pelvis, start to lift your hip and leg off the ground. 
  3. Now, rotate your left leg over your right leg so it lands on the ground on the right side of your body, keeping pressure on the ground with your arms. 
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat. 

6. Locust Pose

Locust pose requires active mobility in the abs and back, which is effective for increasing range of motion. When performing active mobility stretches, your muscles engage dynamically to help improve flexibility. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Start in a prone position, face down, arms at your side. 
  2. To begin, squeeze your glutes and lift your feet off the ground and hover them in the air.
  3. While maintaining the foot hover, raise your head and sternum off the ground and hover
  4. Lastly, raise your arms off the ground and hover.
  5. Breathe and hold.

5. Chest Opener With Exercise Ball

One of the more relaxing stretches available, the exercise ball gives your chest, abs, and back a deep feel-good stretch. If you do not have an exercise ball, you can perform using a Yoga Strong Roller.

Here are the steps:

  1. With an exercise ball, start in a bridge position with your head and shoulders on the ball, and your back and hips off the ball
  2. Now, start to roll your head and shoulders off the ball. The ball should be moving towards your glutes, and you are holding no tension in your head and neck. 
  3. To increase the stretch, elongate your arms to further open up your abs and chest. Make sure you are staying relaxed in your muscles.

4. Side Bend

Many ab stretches we have recommended involve extension and rotation. But, improving lateral flexion is also a barrier to increasing ab flexibility and the side bend is perfect for that. 

Here are the steps:

  1. While standing upright with your arms at each side, start to reach your right hand down your side body towards the outside of your right foot. 
  2. At the same time, bump your hips to the left to increase the range of motion. Make sure you are bending to the side (laterally), and not forward or rotation. 
  3. Repeat on the opposite side. 

3. Rotating Stomach Stretch

The rotating stomach stretch takes the prone abdominal stretch and adds an extra layer to it. Adding the rotational component can increase the engagement of the deeper core muscles. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie prone (face down) on the floor, 
  2. Then, bring your hands on the floor to the sides of your shoulders.
  3. On an inhale, press into your hands and straighten your arms to push your torso off the floor, while keeping your hips and legs on the floor.
  4. To add the extra rotation layer, press into your left hand and start to turn your head, chest, and torso to the right.
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

2. Child’s Pose Against a Wall

Using a wall can intensify the relaxing nature of child’s pose. The wall can provide an anchor for stability, while also enhancing the extension of your abs and spine, and providing a good lat stretch.


Here are the steps:

  1. From all fours, place both hands on a wall in front of you and bring your knees slightly wider than hips, nearly mat distance apart. 
  2. Keeping big toes to touch, push your bum towards your feet. 
  3. Keeping your hips back, hold hand contact on the wall. 
  4. Then, drop your head and chest to increase the stretch. 
  5. Breathe and hold 

1. Oblique Twists

Oblique twists are a dynamic variation of rotational stretches. As a result, you can build your core while also increasing ab flexibility at the same time. 


Here are the steps:

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle and your heels on the ground, but midfoot and toes off the ground.
  2. Contracting your abs, clasp your hands together and extend both arms directly in front of you.
  3. Now, twist slowly from your torso to your right until you reach your limit. 
  4. With control, return to the starting position and twist your torso to the left. 
  5. If you want to make it more challenging, lift your heels off the ground.

How Often Should You Do Ab Stretches?

person doing ab stretches in studio

To earn the best results in improving ab flexibility, ab stretches should be performed at least 1x daily. We often find ourselves in prolonged flexed, sitting positions that encourage our muscles to stiffen and tighten up. By performing ab stretches at least 1x daily, you are stimulating your muscles to work in your favor instead of against you.

However, if you exercise frequently, or have a job that requires sitting at a desk for many hours straight, it is in your best interest to perform ab stretches 2x-3x daily to increase blood flow and promote circulation. By doing so, you will consequently feel better and perform better. 

FAQs

Should I Work On Abs Everyday?

While abs can be stretched everyday to counteract delayed onset muscle soreness, poor posture, or bad habits, it’s not recommended to work on building your abs everyday. 


Muscles need time to recover, as intense activity causes micro-tears in your muscles that need rest in order to re-build. This process is how you build muscle. Without enough time to recover, your body’s protein synthesis and replenishment of muscle glycogen cannot be performed adequately. 

What Should I Eat to Get Abs?

Even though the common refrain is to eat less to get abs, you actually want to eat more. What’s important is the kind of food you are putting in your body. 

Imagine your body as a luxury vehicle, you need to give it premium gas to achieve peak performance. Accordingly, you should be eating natural, nutrient dense foods that feed your muscles and energy levels. This can include lean proteins, whole grain carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.

It’s best to avoid processed foods and refined sugars like candy, cookies, chips, and soda. 

Can You Do Yoga For Abs?

Yoga is a fantastic way to build your core and improve ab flexibility. Many of the 15 aforementioned ab stretches are incorporated into vinyasa yoga flows that you’ll find in many yoga studios. 

Current research has shown that the old-school way of doing thousands of crunches and sit-ups isn’t the best way to get abs. Understanding that form, function, and technique all play a role in the look and performance of your abs is necessary to achieve your goals. 

Appropriately, yoga is distinguished for its ability to build strength and flexibility within the same workout. Yoga takes a mindful approach to exercise, so you will be sure to leave your session with a good workout, feeling loose, and feeling confident.