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5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making with Ab Stretches

Something as innocuous as a stretch can cause injury if it's not done properly. With all the focus around abs, we asked Andrea Fornarola Hunsberger, founder of Elements Fitness, to highlight the mistakes you might be making when stretching your abs.

oblique-side-stretchcourtesy Elements Fitness

Oblique side stretch

Right: Kneeling on mat, lengthen your left leg straight behind you and your left arm up to the sky long. Squeeze the navel into the spine, and extend your arm into the air, holding for 30 seconds. Then release and repeat on your right side.

Wrong: Sitting back into the glutes and sticking your seat out. You won’t stretch the abs properly because your weight is back into the hips and glutes. Make sure to press the weight forward.

Keep in mind, stretching isn’t just for after your workout—it’s great before bed, too!

cobracourtesy Elements Fitness

Cobra

Right: Face down on a mat with your hands under your shoulders, lift your upper body, taking care to drop your shoulders. As you draw your shoulders down, squeeze your navel into the spine and feel the abdominals stretch and strengthen. You can really feel this stretch when doing it properly.

Wrong: Lifting the shoulders up and raising your hips too high off the mat. This can strain your lower back, neck, and shoulders.

cat-and-cowcourtesy Elements Fitness

Cat and cow

Right: Start on your hands and knees in table pose. Your hips should be directly over your knees and your shoulders, elbows, and wrists should be in line and perpendicular to the floor. Keep your back straight. Pull your naval into your spine as your head and tailbone bow down to the mat, making a cat back. Breath as you reverse the stretch, slowly raising your face up and tailbone up and sagging your spine.

Wrong: If your rear sags back and shoulders aren’t over your elbows. This makes the stretch ineffective as well as unsafe, because unaligned shoulders, wrists, and elbows can cause injury.

Here are a few more stretches to help you get a good night’s sleep.

squat-stretchcourtesy Elements Fitness

Squat stretch

Right: Stand with your feet wide apart, turning your hips out, feet facing the out. Stretching from the waistline, draw high towards the sky then up and over to the right. Repeat over to the left. This stretch is perfect for the lower back and obliques.

Wrong: leaning too far forward. When you press your weight forward, your hips and shoulders are not in alignment and they add stress and strain to the lower back and knees.

lateral-side-stretchcourtesy Elements Fitness

Lateral side stretch

Right: Placing a leg on a countertop or table, stand with the bottom leg slightly turned out. Stretch the opposite arm and reach towards the toes of the raised leg. (This can also be done on the floor.) This stretch is great for the total body, and is perfect following a cardio work out or run. (Remember, it’s important to stretch after a workout!)

Wrong: Using the arm on the same side as your leg and leaning too far forward. This is dangerous and infective because when you press the weight forward the hips and shoulders are not in alignment and put stress and strain on the low back and knees.

Sharon Feiereisen
Sharon Feiereisen is a freelance lifestyle writer based in New York City and Tel Aviv. Her work has been published in Time Out, Newsday, The Knot, Teen Vogue, Hamptons magazine, and Business Insider, and among many other print and online outlets.