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Best Ab Stretches

Ab stretches are a great way to warm up or cool down before or after a core workout. Stretching your abs can assist in increasing flexibility and core stabilisation, and decrease risk of injury. 

That's why we have put together an easy-to-follow list of the best ab stretches to ensure you can prevent injury and workout comfortably. Below, we have explained how to do 8 stretches that can be performed pre or post workout, all of which are accompanied by a helpful video so you know exactly how to execute each stretch properly.

Just before we begin, if you want to get started in the fitness industry, why not check out our level 3 in personal training course here. Alternatively, you can always download our free course prospectus here to browse through a plethora of fitness courses.

Don't forget that you can also download OriGym’s 16-week home strength training programme below!

9 Best Ab Stretches

#1 Ab Side Stretch

This is one of the best ab stretches that you can perform almost anywhere! All you need is yourself and some space. This might be one of the least strenuous stretches on our list but it’s still incredibly effective.

Starting Position: Find yourself some space and stand with your feet shoulder width apart with your arms by your side.

Execution:

  • Raise your right arm in the air, keeping your left arm by your side.
  • Slowly lean over to the left, sliding your left arm down your side.
  • In this position you should feel a stretch through your obliques.
  • Slowly return back to your original position and place both of your hands by your side.
  • Repeat the ab stretch, this time raising your left arm in the air.

Duration: 10 seconds per side.

Muscles targeted: Obliques, Abdominals, Serratus Anterior.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Over stretching: Overstretching during this abdominal stretch could increase risk of injury and even pull a muscle, most likely in the obliques. You want to stretch the muscle enough that you feel the stretch itself and nothing more, but you should stop as soon as you feel any pain.

Wide leg stance: For this stretch, it’s really important that you stand correctly. Having a wide leg stance could put strain on the legs and add unnecessary stress to the knees. The purpose of this stretch is to target your core, not your legs, so if you feel it anywhere other than your core muscles you should revisit our instructions and ensure that you are standing correctly. 

It’s not just core stretches you should focus on, don't forget to stretch your whole body before and after a workout, starting with the best arm stretches here.

#2 Supine Stretch 

This is a great ab stretch for the end of a workout, as you’re able to relax by lying down on a mat and it doesn't require energy to be standing up or using any weight.

Starting position: To feel as comfortable as possible during this stretch, ensure to grab a mat for your back. Then, lie down with your back on the mat and your arms stretched out above your head.

Execution:

  • Lie on your back in a supine position.
  • Then reach your arms above your head with your fingertips pointing away from your body.
  • Stretch through the spine and reach away from your head.

Duration: 10 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Abdominals, Pectorals, Latissimus Dorsi.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Over stretching: Over stretching during core stretches, this one included, could put unnecessary strain on the muscles in your back and could potentially cause injury. To avoid this, stretch enough to feel slight discomfort but not pain. If you do feel any pain, stop the stretch and check your form.

Over arching the back: If you’re after good ab stretches then this is one of the best, however, this is only the case when it is performed correctly. Over arching the back puts unnecessary stress on the muscles in your trunk, as well as your thighs and hamstrings.

Pointing the feet: A final common mistake with this particular ab stretch is pointing the toes horizontally rather than having them point towards the ceiling. Your feet should be flexed during this stretch to avoid strain on the back and legs. If you’re concerned about injuries while exercising, read our article on how to prevent ACL injuries here.

#3 Snake Stretch 

For abdominal stretches that require little flexibility, and are great for a cool down - the snake stretch is perfect.

Starting position: Be sure to grab a mat for extra comfort, then lie down on your front. Put your palms down onto the ground either side of your shoulders, with a 90 degree bend in your elbows.

Execution:

  • Lie down on your front and place both hands either side of your shoulders, palms down with a 90 degree angle bend in the elbows.
  • Ensure your feet are flat and toes are not bent.
  • Push up from your hands and raise the trunk until you feel a stretch in your abdominal muscles.
  • Be sure to keep your head back.

Duration: 10 seconds

Muscles targeted: Abdominals, Trapezius, Erector Spinae, Rear Deltoids.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overstretching: Over stretching your back could increase risk of injury and promote unwanted back pain if done persistently. You should stretch until a point of moderate discomfort, just enough to feel the stretch without risking strain.

Flexed feet: This is one of the best ab stretches to reap the advantages as long as you stick to the correct form and avoid risks of injury, such as pushing against your toes and flexing the feet which could potentially strain the flats of your feet. To avoid making this common mistake, allow your feet to feel free of pain with your soles facing upwards. 

If you are injured, or recovering and need a little more than core stretches, why not take advantage of a sports massage, which you can read about here.

#4 Slow Cyclone For Abs 

This is the perfect ab stretch for a warm up, it is a dynamic stretch that can get you feeling limber for the strenuous workout ahead!

Starting position: As this is a dynamic ab stretch, you’ll need to find some space. Then, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep a slight bend in your knees to keep them soft.

Execution:

  • Stand up right and raise both of your arms in the air.
  • Circle your upper body from the hips upwards so that your trunk moves in a circular motion.
  • As you do this, keep your arms in line with your trunk and perform the stretch in a continuous movement.

Duration: 15 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Abdominals, Obliques, Serratus Anterior.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Bending the knees too much: By over bending the knees, you will put unnecessary pressure on your legs, particularly your knees, which could cause aches and pains. Standing in this incorrect position could also make the stretch unnecessarily difficult, lowering the amount of time that you can endure it and as a result, making it less effective. 

Leaning too far over laterally: One mistake that is often made is leaning too far over during this abdominal stretch, which increases risk of injury by adding unnecessary strain to the obliques. Instead, move in a comfortable yet stretching circular motion.

For more stretching gides and helpful tips on exercises and flexibility, read our articles below:

#5 Locust Pose 

The locust ab stretch is a good pre-ab workout position that can actually get your heart rate up, preparing you for exercise. You can also increase and decrease the intensity of this stretch by adjusting the duration.

Starting position: To make this as comfortable as possible, be sure to use a mat for this abdominal stretch. Lower yourself down to the ground safely and lie on your front in a prone position.

Execution

  • Start by lying on your front with your arms either side of you, placed against the side of your legs.
  • Lift your chest and your legs forming a boat shape, you should have an inward curved back.
  • Release and come back down to the ground.

Duration: 10 seconds

Muscles targeted: Trapezius, Posterior Deltoids, Triceps, Latissimus Dorsi, Core, Glutes, Soleus, Biceps Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, and Erector Spinae. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Don’t put your arms in front of you: Putting your arms in front of you creates a new kind of stretch and will put too much pressure on your chest. Instead, keep your arms stuck by your side and palms facing upwards.

Don't flex your feet: One mistake that is often made with this ab stretch is flexed feet or having the toes pressed on the ground. Instead, keep the soles of your feet facing upwards to ensure you have a streamline resting position without any pressure on the feet

The locust is not only a great abdominal stretch, but it is also a popular yoga pose, read about the 24 types of yoga styles here.

#6 Leaning Lifting Crunch 

Compared to others on our list, this is one of the easy ab stretches as it requires little to no flexibility and can be done anywhere with no equipment! 

Starting position: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place your palms together in a prayer gesture. Then, raise your arms above your head.

Execution: 

  • Standing shoulder width apart, make a prayer gesture by holding your palms together.
  • Raise your arms above your head, mimicking the upper half of the tree pose.
  • Lean over to the left until you feel a stretch in your obliques.
  • Next, move your upper body by leaning to the right, this time kicking your right leg out to the side at the same time.
  • Repeat on the same side for 30 seconds then switch to the other side and repeat.

Duration: 30 seconds each side, rest inbetween.

Muscles targeted: External Obliques.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overstretching: If there’s one thing that you take from this article, it's that you should always avoid overstretching when learning how to stretch abs optimally. By leaning over too far, you could strain your core or obliques - instead you should lean over until you feel a stretch, not a strain.

Going too slow: This is one of the ab stretches that needs to be performed at a moderate speed. The crunching action should be a slow and controlled movement as moving too fast would put strain on your obliques.

#7 Chest opener on an Exercise Ball 

This is the perfect ab stretch for workouts in the gym, it's a great way to cool down and finish your workout as you can lay back and relax into the stretch.

Starting position: Lie down on your back over a bosu ball. Ensure your feet are firmly flat on the floor and spread out your arms to either side of you at shoulder height.

Execution: 

  • Lay down on your back with the exercise ball underneath you. Your shoulders and lower back should both be on the exercise ball.
  • Ensure that your knees are bent and the feet are planted firmly on the floor.
  • Rest your head back.
  • Open up the chest by reaching your arms out by your side.
  • Static ab stretches such as this require balance, so strike a balance and hold.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Pectorals

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Putting your head on the ball: This is one of the best stretches for before an ab workout or after a gym session, so it's important to get it right to take advantage of the versatility. You don't want to over extend the back and have your lower back on the ground as this could cause back ache and strain. Instead, ensure you have your shoulders and lower back lifted onto the ball for optimal support.

Pushing from the toes: Simple ab stretches such as this don’t need to be made difficult, any pressure should come from the heels to stabilise you on the ball. Pushing from the toes can be dangerous and induce strain on the legs and back.

Head over to our list of the best BOSU balls here to choose from only the top products on the market.

#8 Kneeling Spinal Wave

Typically people shy away from dynamic ab stretches after a workout, but this is a great option as it is performed on the ground and uses little energy. Infact, it is a relaxing motion and a great way to finish your session. 

Starting position: Grab a mat and lower yourself down onto your hands and knees to ensure your weight is balanced and you are comfortable. 

Execution:

  • Start on your hands and knees. Find your balance and get comfortable on a mat.
  • Push backwards so your arms are flat in front of you and your head is down.
  • In this position, you should be sitting on your knees with a flat back.
  • From this position, push upwards into a ‘cat’ position (all fours with a curved upward spine) before transitioning into a ‘cow’ position (all fours with an inward curved spine).
  • Then, push forward into a sphinx position, with your feet soles up, legs straight and your chest and upper body upright.
  • Push backwards back into a ‘cat’ position and repeat the process.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: Trapezius, Rear Deltoids, Erector Spinae, Abdominals, Latissimus Dorsi, Hip flexors, Glutes, Hamstrings.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Moving too quickly: People often rush through stretches, and we get it, you want to get on with your workout! However, this is a slow movement, and rushing won't allow you to feel the full benefits of ab workout stretches. So avoid rushing through this movement, take it slow and ensure that you actually feel the muscles stretching.

Overstretching: Some stretches for ab workouts like this require you to take care with the intensity of your stretch. Particularly during the cat - cow movements, don’t over stretch to prevent back strain, instead conduct the movement until you feel a stretch but no pain.

#9 Side Bend 

To finish off our list of the best stretches, we’ve included one of the most simplistic standing ab stretches that you can do anywhere, before or after your workout. 

Starting position: Find some space and stand shoulder width apart with your hands by your side.

Execution

  • Begin with your feet shoulder width apart and standing up straight.
  • Slide your right arm down your side as you lean over to the right.
  • Perform a side crunch movement slowly and come back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Duration: 30 seconds.

Muscles targeted: External Obliques - if you enjoy working your obliques and doing dynamic ab stretches, head over to our article on oblique crunches here.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overstretching: This is one of the best cool down stretches for ab training, so to do it properly, don't overstretch. Overstretching could strain your obliques, therefore you should lean over until there is a stretch, yet it is still endurable. 

Bending the knees: You should stand up with your knees straight when performing this ab stretch. Bending the knees will jeopardize the stretch and ultimately put unnecessary pressure on the legs and knees. 

FAQs

Should I Work My Abs Everyday

best ab stretches

Whether it be lower ab stretches or just an all round core exercise that works every inch of your trunk, working your abs is strenuous. Therefore, it's a good idea to avoid working them everyday, and give them time to rest. 

If you are somebody who wants to perform core stretches and ab workouts daily, remember that many compound workouts are working the core anyway. This means that even on a leg day, your squats will be working on improving your core strength, so they’re very rarely being totally neglected. 

What Should I Avoid Eating to Get Abs?

ab stretch

There is a well known saying that states that abs are made in the kitchen and it's true! 

It is vital that as well as doing your ab stretches after a workout, and targeted ab exercises, that you avoid eating a diet that makes all of your hard work a waste of time. The best foods to eat are high in antioxidants and low in calories. 

The food and drink you should avoid are:

  • Drinks high in sugar
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol 
  • Sugary snacks

If you need a little help on what to add to your diet for abs, read our article on the 33 foods that help burn fat or help speed up our metabolism here.

Before You Go…

Now that you have plenty of core stretches to see you through your workout and prevent DOMS as much as possible, you can start your journey to that six pack. 

Post workout ab stretches are the perfect way to cool down after a strenuous workout, so pick from our list and watch our easy to follow videos for a more in depth look at how they’re performed safely. 

One more thing, if you’re a fitness enthusiast who wants to kick start their career in the world of personal training, head over to our website to check out our personal training diploma to get industry ready. Or, you can simply download our course prospectus to discover plenty of fitness courses and further educational courses for already fitness professionals.

Written by Kimberley Mitchell

Editor

Having gained a B.A Hons degree in Media, Culture and Communications, Kimberley has gained experience in areas of web journalism, website production and marketing.

Alongside this, Kim expanded her knowledge and passion for fitness, by becoming a fully qualified fitness instructuor and personal trainer. Kim has also gained specialist qualifications in yoga, nutriton, spin and many more.

After working in the industry as a PT, Kimberley went on to study an MA in Digital Marketing and continues to expand her knowledge in the industry. Her main focus is to keep up with current trends and communications with a focus around health & fitness, writing and being creative.

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