The Best Stretch to Do After Every Abs Workout
It's all about balance.
Let's say you just crushed an abs workout. Maybe it was a short and sweet 4-minute routine, or maybe you put together some great no-equipment abs exercises to make your own abs blast. Either way, you did the damn thing, felt the burn, and now you're ready to get on with your day. But before you do, you might want to do a few glute bridges.
It sounds kind of random—why would you just tack on a butt move to the end of your abs routine? The answer: because it'll help relieve tension in your lower back that tends to build up during crunches or similar abs exercises that are done lying on your back. Kira Stokes, a NASM-certified celebrity trainer and creator of the Stoked Method, tells SELF that in the classes she teaches, she ends core work with a short series of bridges for that exact reason.
"It's both a release for the low back after the work you just did, and stabilizing and strengthening work for the low back and the pelvis," Stokes says. Bridges also help strengthen your glutes (as the name suggests).
By engaging all of the muscles on your backside immediately after doing an exercise like crunches, you're basically moving your spine in the opposite direction it was just in, giving your body a much-needed stretch and releasing the tension that built up from all the work you did on the front.
It's also great practice to add a posterior move like this to your regular routine, because a lot of people tend to overtrain certain parts of their bodies, which leads to muscle imbalances. Eraldo Maglara, C.S.C.S., NSCA-certified personal trainer, tells SELF that working opposing muscle groups to balance things out is important for getting stronger and avoiding injury. "The most effective way to build a strong muscle or strengthen the area is to work out both sides of the body. Training the front side of your abs only will certainly leave the backside weaker and prone to more injuries," Maglara says. "A balanced approach to exercise is the best approach for results."
Maglara adds that a lot of common exercise injuries are "directly related to an imbalance in muscle development" and can be remedied by implementing a well-balanced approach to exercise. The lower back, specifically, is often a pain point for many people. Stokes says that she sees "a lot of low back issues stem from fact that people are crunching their brains out but doing nothing for their lower back and glutes." If you're going to hit your abs hard, you have to show your backside some love, too. Maglara says that bridges can help strengthen this area and be beneficial for those with lower back issues.
Right after doing an abs workout that involves crunches or other moves that compress the spine, Stokes recommends doing 12 to 15 bridges, and on the last one hold at top and do 10 little pulses. Then, do five more full bridges.
Here's how to do them:
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms by your sides. Your feet should be about hip-distance apart with your heels a few inches away from your butt.
Push through your heels to lift your hips up while squeezing your glutes. Try to create one diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.
Pause for 1-2 seconds, then lower back down.
Be careful that you're not overextending your low back, Stokes says. "Think about tucking your tailbone, activating your glutes, and lifting 4 to 5 inches off the ground."
Slowly lower back down to the ground.