Abdominal Stretches And Why You Should Do Them
Without thinking about it, most of us do abdominal stretches first thing in the morning when getting out of bed. We usually do one stretch anyway, flexing our shoulders and arching our back, then stretching fully as we stand up. While this is more of an overall stretch, and not just an abdominal stretch, the core muscles are still being worked and still benefit. Watch a dog or a cat when arising from a long nap or a night's sleep. There are usually two stretches involved, one leaning forwards and one leaning backwards, a back stretch followed by an abdominal stretch. We can learn from our pets sometimes.
Why Abdominal Stretches? - Just what do abdominal stretches do for us, besides making us feel a little better once we've done some? Stretching lengthens and tones the muscles. Stretching in itself is not a rapid muscle builder, but makes muscle building exercises easier, safer, and less painful, whether we're talking about abdominal stretches or stretching exercises for other muscle groups.
Abdominal stretches improve our core flexibility and range of motion, allowing us to do more physically and do certain physical movements with greater ease. Exercising our core muscles in this way also help improve balance by improving posture and improving overall body strength. While stretching doesn't rapidly build muscles, it does strengthen them, which for many is sufficient.
No matter which abdominal stretches you may choose to do, it's important to do them slowly, in fact not only slowly, but s-l-o-w-l-y, with a capital hyphen for emphasis. By stretching slowly you can achieve a greater range of motion, and achieve that range of motion without injuring yourself in the process. Breathing is also very important, breathing and stretching are somewhat synergistic in that doing either one slowly helps do the other slowly, and both breathing slowly and stretching slowly are good for you.
Here are three very basic, but very effective abdominal stretches, which will help strengthen other muscles in your body as well, although the emphasis is on your core or abdominal muscles:
A Feel Good Stretch - A good stretch, when done slowly (with capital hyphens) is to stand up straight, raise your hands over your head, and bend backwards while reaching for the ceiling at the same time. Hold this for 10 seconds, taking one or at most two full breaths, and release slowly.
Good For The Abdominal Muscles And Lower Back - A great yoga abdominal stretch is called the bow pose where, while lying on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor, you raise your knees back towards you chest, using your arms to help by grasping your knees or ankles, and then raising your chest and head towards your knees. This places you in a bow-like position, which you hold for a half dozen slow breathes, and then slowly release.
Easy, Yet Powerful Side Stretches - The third stretching exercise is done while again in a standing position. With feet spread about hip-width apart, raise you hands over your head, then very slowly lean sideways, first to one side then the other. Exhale while bending sideways and inhale while straightening up. Do at least a half dozen of these. Your side abdominal muscles, as well as your shoulders and legs, will benefit, as will both your flexibility and balance. For a variation, which allows the muscles to be stretched somewhat differently, do some side stretches with palms facing together, and some with the backs of your hands facing together.
In doing these exercises, remember to always breath in through your nose. When you breathe out, it can either be through your nose or your mouth, preferably with pursed lips if the latter. The important thing is to always use your nose when breathing in.