At the beginning of July, we started a brand new 12 Minute Athlete Get Bendy 6-Week Flexibility Challenge.
If you missed the introduction post where we talked about the importance of flexibility and how to incorporate stretching exercises into your workout routine, make sure to check it out here.
Throughout the flexibility challenge, we’ll be focusing on one or two muscle groups each week. We’ll talk about why these areas of your body get tight in the first place, why you should be working on loosening them up, and also show you some of the best stretches that help you to increase your flexibility and get bendy.
We’re about to start Week 5, but if you’re joining us just now, don’t forget to check out the previous weeks: Week 1: stretching hamstrings and calves, Week 2: quadriceps and hips, Week 3: lower back, and Week 4: upper back and shoulders.
Why You Should Stretch Your Abs and Obliques
Sure, you probably spend a lot of time (maybe too much) focusing on them in your workouts, but I’m guessing that your abs and obliques (the muscles on the side part of your belly) are probably not the first muscles that come to your mind when you think about stretching.
But not only does stretching these areas improve blood circulation and release tension in the body, it’s a particularly good idea after a strong core workout to help alleviate muscle soreness. And not only is stretching these areas important for improving flexibility, it also helps to strengthen the muscles.
Stretches for Abs and Obliques
Below are the four stretches that we’ll be working on during this week of the flexibility challenge.
The difficulty of these stretches varies: Level 1 designates the easiest stretches and the Level 5 the most difficult stretches. If you can’t do the Level 5 stretches, don’t worry—work on the easier ones for now, and as your flexibility improves, move on to more advanced ones.
Hold each stretch for about 30-45 seconds, 2-3 rounds.
Standing Oblique Stretch
Difficulty level: 1
This is a really simple stretch for your obliques, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it! The standing oblique stretch should be one of your go-to stretches and first movement that you do in the morning after getting out of bed–it wakes you up.
How to do it: Stand tall with your back straight and hands above your head. Grab your left wrist with your right hand and lean to the right side until you feel stretch in the side of your torso. Hold for 5 seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side.
Basic Abdominal Stretch
Difficulty level: 3
This stretch is my favorite one to do after a strong core workout like one that included a lot of V ups, leg raises, or L-sits.
How to do it: Lie down on your stomach, legs extended behind you and toes pointed. Place your hands under your shoulders, fingers pointing forward. Bring your elbows close to the sides of your body, then push your arms straight, lifting your chest off the floor.
Difficulty level: 3
The core twist stretches your oblique muscles as well as the muscles around your spine. If you have spinal disk problems, however, you should skip all twisting movements.
How to do it: Lie on your back, legs extended. Lift your left leg up, bend it and cross it over the right so that the left knee touches the ground. Bring both arms to the left and hold for 30-45 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Advanced Stretch: Ab Stretch on Exercise Ball
This is by far my favorite exercise for stretching the abs and obliques. Don’t be intimidated if you feel like you’re going fall off from the ball! Finding your balance may take some practice, but stick with it.
How to do it: Lie down on the exercise ball. Extend your legs and arms to feel the stretch in the abdominal area. Balancing may be hard at first, but once you’ve found it and feel safer, you can gently move yourself on the ball from side to side, which will give your sides more of a stretch.
Flexibility Challenge Week 5 Homework
Here is your homework for Week 5 of the Flexibility Challenge! We will build on the previous week’s homework each week, so you’ll be doing all the stretches from the last few weeks as well. We promise that you’ll be way bendier by the end of the challenge!
3-6 days a week:
Remember, you don’t have to do every single stretch every single time—try and spend 10-15 minutes most days of the week on the ones that seem the most helpful for you.
Make sure to post all your stretching photos and videos in the 12 Minute Athlete Facebook group to get feedback and support from us and your fellow athletes.