If you’re working your core muscles, just like any other muscle group, you need to include abdominal stretches. Core training is important to prevent injury, improve performance, better posture, and gain strength and lean body mass. This is why they’re included for most fitness goals. However, it’s common to forget to include abdominal stretches. A good time to stretch your core muscles is on your rest days. Performing status stretches, especially abdominal stretches, on a recovery day is a great way for clients to enjoy recovering while still feeling connected to their workout and goals.
There are many rest protocols you can recommend from pool workouts and dynamic stretching circuits to yoga, Barre, and gentle cardio. However, if you’re looking for something that’s as easy as it is beneficial, work in these 10 abdominal stretches.
Some muscles are not pleasant to stretch but not the rectus abdominis and oblique muscles. Stretching these feels good and makes sense. We often stretch them without noticing.
Build the following 10 abdominal stretches into your clients’ rest protocols.
Keep Reading: How to Get Perfect Abs: What the Science Says
THE SWISS BALL (EXERCISE BALL) STRETCH
This image doesn’t include the exercise ball, because you don’t need one. Any object placed in the middle of the spine that allows for backward extension will stretch the abdominals and improve thoracic mobility. You can use a foam roller or even a step to stretch out on.
Remind clients to hang out in the bottom position and breathe deeply (engaging the diaphragm and transverse abdominis in breathing) to get the full extension and benefit of the stretch.
The Kettlebell Windmill
Disclaimer: This does a lot more than it seems. It’s not just a movement and activator for the obliques, but a lower and upper body opener that unlocks mobility and vitality. Clients will feel the stretch in the hamstrings, upper back, and obliques. In addition, they'll also build stability in the shoulder joint.
Point both feet in the opposite direction of the loaded hand. Slide the unloaded hand straight down the lower leg as you maintain a straight arm. Reach until your torso is parallel with the ground.
Note that clients can do this with any type of weight, or no weight at all, rather than a kettlebell.
The psoas is a deep hip flexor and abdominal muscle. Here, the opposite arm of the forward leg is raised while the same side arm of the forward leg reaches downward as the spine goes into lateral flexion. The result is an intense stretch in the lateral oblique and hip flexor muscle (psoas) on the opposite side, which feels great. And, for people with chronic lower back pain from an anterior pelvic tilt, this stretch can help.
Rectus Abdominis Stretch
This is also known as the ‘cobra’ stretch, and is simple and effective. If your clients do yoga, they may be familiar with this movement. Lie prone on the floor, hands placed below the shoulders. Pushing up, lift the torso tall while keeping the hips on the floor.
The camel stretch feels great and is an effective abdominal stretch. In a tall kneeling position, push the hips forward and bend the spine backward while the hands make contact on top of or underneath the ankles.
Note, some clients will not be able to touch the ankles behind so be sure to practice this one ahead of time so they know their limits. If pushing too hard, they risk injury and lower back pain, rather than benefiting from the movement.
Wall Child pose
In the traditional child pose, the arms extend and lie flat on the ground along with the head. With the wall child pose, the arms make contact with the wall. This allows this abdominal stretch to not only reach the rectus abdominis, but by pressing into the wall and lowering the head, it stretches the upper back as well.
Glute Bridge With Backward Reach
This stretch improves thoracic mobility and stretches the spine while forcing hip extension. Get into the bridge position and reach one arm as far backward as possible. This is an advanced abdominal stretch and should only be used with clients who can comfortably get into the bridge position. Be aware of who can actually benefit from this stretch and who might hurt themselves.
The chair stretch is perfect for older populations and desk bound workers. Have clients position their body in the middle to front part of the chair, press hard on the quadriceps and move the torso backward. This simple abdominal stretch can be used with nearly any client, making it ideal for every rest protocol you create.
This simple lateral stretch is easy. The client should start with their feet hip-width apart, stranding with their back straight and arms at their sides. After raising one arm, they’ll bend to the opposite side, dropping the other arm and leaning into the stretch. The deeper your client can pull the arm at their side down, the deeper the stretch will be. In addition, they can deepen the stretch by elongating their top arm and narrowing the base of support.
This abdominal stretch can also be a challenging movement for some clients, so keep this in mind when adding it into rest day protocols. Clients who feel comfortable and strong enough will lie prone and raise their arms and legs upward. Once in the air, the client’s goal is to stretch the limbs in opposite directions, pushing forward with their arms and backward with their legs.
Bring Some Variety to Your Clients’ Abdominal Stretches
The right abdominal stretches will help your clients recover and get the most from every workout. Use these key movements, being careful to program the right ones for the right clients. Some advanced stretches may be too much and cause more pain than relief. In the end, your clients will love learning new stretches they can easily do any time, any where.
Are you interested in learning more about injury prevention and how to program stretches effectively? This is corrective exercise, and one of the disciplines you’ll learn with a degree from Lionel University.
With an exercise degree program, you’ll learn ALL the factors that impact a client’s ability to move and be fit. It’s a holistic approach you can only get with these types of degrees. And, while having a personal training certification can help you get a job, an exercise science degree is even more impressive. This allows you to work with more client types, charge more per session, and provide additional service beyond traditional fitness training.
Regardless of whether you’re pursuing an associates degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree, at Lionel you earn multiple certifications and specializations along the way. This means you can start working as a fitness and nutrition professional even before graduation day! And, with the help of financial aid, earning your exercise science degree is even more of a possibility.
Check out our programs and contact Lionel today!