Have you just finished a killer workout? Great, and I’m sure your abs are screaming for some relief, but your routine shouldn’t be done yet! One of the most overlooked parts of a great workout routine comes at the end and that’s when it’s time to stretch those swollen muscles. Even more important is taking the time to stretch yours abs and core – the most overlooked muscle group when it comes to stretching.
What Are the Core Muscles of the Body?
The core of the human is considered to be the most complex group of muscles in the body. Most people think of the core as yours abs – but in actuality the core extends far beyond these famous muscles. The major muscles of the human core are found in the area of the belly (front), the mid and lower back and the hips. For simplicity sake think of the core as all of your muscles outside of your arms and your legs.
The main muscles that make up your car are:
- Pelvic Floor Muscles - Multifidus
- Internal & External Obliques
- Abdominals (transverse & rectus) - Erector Spine
Your core is also made up of three secondary muscles:
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Gluteus Maximus
Why Your Core Is Important
The human core is so complex that it is involved in nearly every single movement in the human body. The core is the body’s primary stabilizer and force transfer center – a strong core makes any movement smoother and easier to perform.
A strong core allows for force to be evenly spread out throughout the body’s muscles and bones. The biggest benefit of a strong core is better force distribution which results in a much lower risk of injury. Those with strong, developed cores are much less likely to injure themselves than those with weak cores.
Stretching Your Core
Stretching your core muscles arguably the most important part of an intense workout. Those muscles must be worked and nurtured more so than any other group of muscles. The following stretches are TopStretch’s favorite routines for post workout stretching:
Foam Roller Hip Flexor Stretch
As the name suggests this stretch targets the hip flexors. A foam roller is required for this stretch and we recommend buying one as soon as possible as it is truly a great way to stretch and help heal damaged and strained muscles. This stretch will, overtime, help loosen hip flexors. In turn you will see an increase in your range of motion and help distribute friction over a larger variety of muscles.
The cobra pose is a basic yoga position that helps lengthen the shoulders, chest, abdomen and lungs. You can expect to feel some tension in your buttocks (this is good for toning!) and your lower back muscles and spine. Another bonus of this stretch is that it indirectly stimulates digestive organs.
Medicine Ball Spinal Stretch
This is a great stretch that gives almost instant relief after a vigorous workout. Because of the arch a medicine ball forces into your back you should expect to feel not only your spine stretching but also your abs, chest, shoulders and hip flexors.
Medicine Ball Plank
Another great core exercise that involves a medicine ball. Using the medicine ball will elevate your arms, shoulder, chest and head to a level above where they would be burying a normal plank. This allows you sufficient room to dip your hips down towards the floor stretching your abdominals and hip flexors.
When Should I Stretch My Core?
Core stretching should happen twice. Briefly at the beginning of a workout and a longer more intense stretch session after your workout – preferably immediately after your core workout. For best results we recommend stretching your core every day – even days that you take off from the gym. You will thank us later.
I’m Pregnant – Can I Still Stretch My Core?
In short, Yes! Not only should you but most doctors and professional recommend it! During pregnancy, and specifically during labor, the core is extremely important. Those women who continue to workout their core during pregnancy usually find the delivery process to be much faster, easier and less painful. Please consult your doctor and a professional trainer before attempting any form of physical activity while pregnant.
Core stretching is the easiest part of your workout to skip over. It does, after all, come at the very end when your tired and sweaty – ready to go home. But do yourself a favor and take the extra 10 minutes to properly stretch your core. Within a matter of days you will start seeing results.
Be sure to check our best foam roller reviews and our complete list of foam roller exercises.