A little soreness after you've exercised is normal, especially if you're new to the activity. Post-exercise soreness, known as or delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is usually worst 24 to 48 hours after you work the muscles. You may even get sore abs from non-specific ab exercises, such as running a marathon, a heavy squat session or an intense game of handball. Your abs are intrinsic to much of the activity you do — that's why core workouts are so important.
Soreness that interferes with daily activity and that's experienced for several days post workout means you probably worked too hard. Do fewer sets with less weight, if you used them, the next time you work out your abs, and build up to more intense variations gradually. Your sore abs could also be an indication that you need to do a focused core workout that includes moves such as planks, wood chops and bird dogs regularly.
Rest your abs until the soreness disappears before you work them out again, and take other steps to alleviate immediate discomfort.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and the major ingredient in epsom salts. Your skin soaks up the magnesium from topical application better even than if you took an oral supplement. Pour a hefty 2 cups into a warm bath and soak for 12 minutes or longer. Alternatively, make a compress by soaking a washcloth in a solution that includes 2 tablespoons of epsom salts for every cup of water. Apply the washcloth directly to places of soreness.
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen, can provide quick relief. If you're on any medication, check with your doctor before taking over-the-counter meds and follow dosing on the package. Don't rely on these medications long-term, however, or use them to get through another workout. They are a temporary way to deal with acute soreness.
Add a Little Heat
In addition to the warm epsom salt bath, consider applying a heating pad or heat pack, available in most drug stores, to the sore area of your abs. Never directly apply a heating pad to your skin, especially as the skin on your abs can be less tough than say the bottoms of your feet or palms.
Stretch Your Abs Out
Stretching sore muscles increases blood flow to start the healing process. Note that if a stretch causes a sharp pain, stop immediately.
Lie on your stomach on a mat or towel.
Slide your hands underneath the creases of your armpits, palms flat in the mat and elbows pointed to the ceiling. Extent your legs behind you, toenail side of the feet down.
Gently extend your elbows to lift your head, neck and front of the shoulders off the mat. Only extend your elbows until you feel the front of your abdominals stretch comfortably.
Hold for three or four breaths and release slowly. Repeat several more times.
Standing Side Bends
Stand tall with your feet about hip-distance apart. Reach your arms up by your ears.
Press your palms together and lean to the right side, rooting firmly with your left foot. Fell the entire left side of your torso, including the abs, stretch out. Hold for several breaths.
Return to center and repeat on the other side. Do as many repetitions as you'd like.
Reclined Bridge Pose
Lie on your back. Bend your knees and plant your feet right in front of their respective sits bones. Arms rest alongside your hips.
Gently lift your hips up into the air, creating a slope from your knees to your shoulders. Hold several breaths.
Release slowly to the ground and repeat two or three more times.
If the pain you experience after ab workouts is chronic, sudden or long-lasting, consult with your doctor. It's possible you've pulled a muscle and need medical attention.