How to Stretch Your Abs and Why It Matters

How to Stretch Your Abs and Why It Matters

The first thing to understand is how your body works. You have three major muscles: your glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

All these muscles work together to move your legs up and down. When one muscle gets tight or weak it affects all the others. If one of them becomes too tight it can cause pain or even lead to injury if not addressed properly.

When you sit at a desk or chair, your gluteus maximus (the big butt muscle) contracts which puts pressure on your lower back. Tightening up this muscle will make sitting less comfortable and increase the risk of back problems such as low back pain, sciatica, and even spondylolisthesis (when a bone grows into the joint).

Lifting heavy objects like books or boxes with this hip flexor can also put strain on the hips.

Quadriceps are the other two large muscles in your thighs. They contract when you walk or run.

Tight quadricep tendons can lead to knee pain and even tendinitis (inflammation of the tendon). Tight hamstrings can cause back pain and even hamstring strains.

Finally, your oblique muscles attach from your shoulder blades to your arms. These muscles work together to bend and straighten your arm bones.

These muscles can also get painfully tight.

How to Stretch Your Abs and Why It Matters

Do not rush through your workout – you do not have to go at a breakneck pace to get fit fast! Instead, focus on quality over quantity.

By increasing the amount of time you hold a stretch or by adding more stretches into your routine, you can increase the flexibility of your muscles and improve the strength of your core.

However, if you do not take care when stretching, you face the risk of doing more harm than good. Before starting any new exercise routine, consult your physician and be sure to use proper form to prevent injuries.

Deep Breathing

Do you ever get that tight feeling in your chest when you are stressed out?

This is caused by a phenomenon known as shallow breathing. Your body naturally reacts to stressful situations by causing you to hold your breath or take quick, shallow breaths. It is the same reaction that occurs when someone jumps out and scares you. However, hyperventilation can also occur when you are overly excited or upset. Although it might feel like you are getting enough air, quick, shallow breaths are not as effective as slow, deep breaths at delivering oxygen to your bloodstream.

If this breathing pattern becomes habitual, it can lead to a number of health problems such as increased heart rate, dizziness, and lightheadedness. To prevent these issues, focus on taking slow, deep breaths to relax your body and mind.

Static Stretching

Static stretching involves holding a stretch for a minimum of 30 seconds to increase the elasticity of your muscles and tendons. Many people rush through their stretches, but if you hold a stretch for at least 30 seconds, many studies have shown that it can actually improve your flexibility longer term.

While you do not want to hold a stretch for so long that it actually begins to hurt, some discomfort is normal and will subside as your muscle and tendon become looser.

Top Stretches for Your Abdominals

Most people are familiar with the plank position in which you rest on your elbows and toes, but you can actually target different parts of your core by changing the placement of your arms and legs.

Arm Plank: If you lift your leg and rest it on your forearm, you place more emphasis on your hip flexors. Resting your toes on your other arm focuses on your abs.

Side Plank: By turning onto one side, you place all of your weight on one hip and your bottom arm. This has the effect of strengthening your entire core as you try to stay balanced.

Bird Dog: Also known as the quadruped plank, this exercise involves raising your heels, balancing on your hands and toes, and then extending your opposite arm and leg.

Abdominal Vacuum

Some experts believe that poor posture is partly to blame for many of the issues that plague us as we get older. Slouching not only makes you look tired or bored, it also forces your body to work harder to support all of your weight.

This leads to muscle fatigue and a whole host of other issues.

In fact, slouching so severely can affect your breathing by changing the way your chest cavity expands. This is one of the reasons why soldiers who spend years in military training often end up having serious posture problems later in life.

Fortunately, it is never too late to change your ways. The abdominal vacuum exercise is designed to strengthen your core while realigning your spine and other supporting structures.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the ground a few inches away from your bottom. Place your hands on your stomach to feel it expand fully as you breathe in.

Then, slowly contract your abs as you breathe out, but do not force it. Hold for a second or two and then repeat. You should feel your entire core engage as you hold the contraction. Breathe slowly and deeply from your stomach, not your chest.

This exercise can be done anywhere, but it is particularly useful in the morning to help you wake up or anytime you find yourself slouching. Since the muscle fatigue associated with this exercise can be a little intense for some, start with five repetitions every other day.

Work your way up to ten repetitions per day as your body adapts to the new routine.

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