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Diastasis Recti Abdominis

Just when you thought that there was enough to screen for during pregnancy, this article tells you how important it is to keep an eye on the diastasis recti abdominis or often just referred to as diastasis. It can affect a long list of secondary problems, more than just the appearance and general tone of a post-natal mom’s tummy.

What is Diastasis Recti Abdominis?

Diastasis Recti Abdominis is a midline separation at the linea alba of the recti muscles of the abdominal wall. A palpable midline gap of more than 2.5 cm or any visible bulging on exertion is considered as a diastasis. Diastasis Recti Abdominis commonly occurs around the umbilicus but can occur anywhere between the xiphoid process and pubic bone. It is a result of abdominal musculature stretch weakness from maternal hormonal changes and increased tension by the growing uterus. Diastasis Recti Abdominis can occur in varying degrees during pregnancy and may not resolve spontaneously in the postpartum period.

Symptoms of Rectus Abdominis Diastasis

Diastasis Recti Abdominis looks like a ridge, which runs down the middle of the belly area. It stretches from the bottom of the xiphoid process to the umbilicus and pubic bone and increases with muscle straining.

Diastasis Recti Abdominis is commonly seen in women who have multiple pregnancies causing repeated stretching of the muscles. Extra skin and soft tissue in the front of the abdominal wall may be the only signs of this condition in early pregnancy. Diastasis Recti Abdominis usually appears in the second trimester. Its incidence peaks in the third trimester and remains high in the immediate postpartum period. In the later part of pregnancy, the top of the pregnant uterus is often seen bulging out of the abdominal wall. An outline of parts of the unborn baby may be seen in some severe cases. This phenomenon is more common in multi-parous mothers, as the linea alba is repeatedly stretched. The occurrence and size of Diastasis Recti Abdominis are much greater in non-exercising pregnant women than in exercising pregnant women.

Diastasis Recti Abdominis

This separation of the rectus abdominis muscle can cause an array of problems. Without the dynamic stabilisation that the abdominal muscles normally provide, weakness in the abdominal wall can jeopardise trunk stability and mobility; contribute to back pain, compromising posture, pelvic floor dysfunctions, hernia, cosmetic defects and vaginal delivery. Back and/or pelvic pains are the most common manifestation of a Diastasis Recti Abdominis. A retrospective study done in 2007 by Spitznagle et al examined the prevalence of diastasis recti abdominis in a urogynecological patient population found 66% of all patients with Diastasis Recti Abdominis had support-related pelvic floor dysfunction (SPFD) diagnoses of stress urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapsed.

Diagnosing Abdominal Separation

Ultrasonography (real-time ultrasound imaging) is an accurate method to measure rectus diastasis above the umbilicus and at the umbilical level. However, a health provider can conduct a quick palpation test to assess for Diastasis Recti Abdominis. Diastasis is difficult to find on a relaxed abdomen. A slight head lift in crook lying will require a rectus abdominis contraction and will allow for assessment of the Diastasis Recti Abdominis. A small separation of the midline at the abdominals, approximately one to two fingers’ width, is common after most pregnancies and is not a problem. But if the gap at the midline is:

  • more than 2 1/2 finger-widths
  • does not shrink as the patient tighten her abdominals or
  • a small mound protruding at her midline

then she probably has Diastasis Recti Abdominis and needs to take a few special precautions during exercise and other activities.

Diastasis is present if you can fit two or more fingers (width-wise) into the space superior to the umbilicus. On further abdominal contraction, the gap should close. However, if there is still a gap larger than 1 finger wide, it is a positive Diastasis Recti Abdominis. Such a test is typically administered in postpartum women to check the integrity of the recti abdominis, though it must be emphasised that this test may be conducted in post-caesarean women only after their incision had healed, about 6-10 weeks after the operation.

Conservative Management of The Separation

Conservative management, such as specific therapeutic exercises directed by a physiotherapist, or health care professional well-acquainted with Diastasis Recti Abdominis, is usually the first line of intervention. Such exercises are aimed at strengthening the deep core muscles, such as the transverses abdominis and pelvic floor muscles. Poorly executed abdominal exercises can cause an increase in intra-abdominal pressure, this force may cause further recti separation and the accompanying bulge/hernia to worsen.

Hence, it is important to monitor Diastasis Recti Abdominis (and the hernia if any) before prescribing any abdominal exercises. Unsuitable abdominal exercises include sit-ups, straight leg raises, Pilates movements i.e. “the 100s” and especially trunk rotation activities, such as criss-cross sit-ups which target the obliques, can strain the abdominals excessively. Weakness in the core muscles contributes to insufficient force closure of the sacroiliac joint leading to pelvic instability, which can eventually lead to low-back and hip pain. In the worst-case scenario, this recti separation can result in a hernia. Hence, once a diastasis is identified, the female patient is asked to book an initial appointment with the physiotherapist between 2 to 3 weeks after delivery. Follow up visits are made at 2, 3 or 4-week intervals depending on: i) the condition of the patient’s abdominal musculature, ii) the ability of the patient to comprehend the exercise program, and iii) the compliance of the patient to follow through.

At the initial visit, the patient is given instructions on i) correct body mechanics, ii) proper posture, iii) appropriate diastasis recti exercises to activate the abdominal musculature, and iv) appropriate exercises to re-approximate the recti bellies without increasing intra-abdominal pressure.

At each subsequent visit, the patient is taught i) to retrain the concentric and eccentric control of the abdominal musculature and ii) to simulate the functional role of the abdominal musculature in trunk stabilisation.

Recommendations on physical activities and sports at home and community are also given at subsequent visits. Assistive abdominal supports/ splints may be recommended. The patient is discharged when the diastasis is closed or bridged together.

Prognosis

The patient usually does very well. In most cases, recti diastasis usually heals on its own over a postpartum period of 6 weeks to 3 months. However, Diastasis Recti Abdominis may also persists long after the woman delivered. Further intervention may be required if the recovery of Diastasis Recti Abdominis does not occur. Specific therapeutic exercise may help improve the condition. Umbilical hernia may occur in some cases. If pain is present, surgery may be needed. In general, complications only result when a hernia develops.

Women with Diastasis Recti Abdominis were more likely to be older and of higher parity, have had twins, bigger babies, and birth by caesarean section. Studies suggested that earlier recovery may be associated with lower parity, singleton births, weight gain under 35 pounds, birth weight of baby <3.7 kg, increased activity levels before, during and after pregnancy. Clinically, good compliance with the treatment program and early initiation of treatment may also enhance recovery. Therefore, prophylactic measures, such as routine screening/identification of diastasis and subsequent diastasis management to all mothers during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period may be beneficial in the long run.

5 Reasons Your Diastasis Recti Is NOT Healing

In many bodies, diastasis recti heals incredibly well. In some bodies, it does not.

It’s commonly thought that most, if not all, pregnant bodies will experience some degree of abdominal separation.

When people hear the term ‘diastasis recti’, it’s usually thought about in terms of the abdominal muscles having a gap between them down the midline of the belly. This is true, but not at all the whole story.

This means as you think about healing your diastasis post-pregnancy, you understand that the main goal isn’t simply to bring your abdominal muscles back together. There is no definitive number of milimetres the gap between your abdominal muscles needs to be in order to determine whether or not it is healed.

We want to re-gain optimal function back to the entire core canister system. Your healing process will include attention on how the diaphragm, the glutes, the deep abdominal muscles, and the pelvic floor are all working together as a team.

YOUR BODY IS SMART.

To grow a baby in your body, your abdominal wall needs to stretch. A lot. Luckily, your body can make that happen.

It’s incredible, although, not always the most comfortable.

Your belly makes this happen through the abdominal muscles and tissues stretching and lengthening. The linea alba is connective tissue that runs from your sternum to your pubic bone, and connects the two sides of your “six pack” muscles, or rectus abdominis muscles, and becomes stretched.

The linea alba becomes stretched, allowing your baby to have the room that it needs to grow. When this happens, the abdominal muscles can now have a gap, to varying degrees, between them.

To put it super simply, that connective tissue that runs down the midline of your belly, becomes more like a pair of yoga pants you can see-through when you bend over.

You know that stretch and thinning of the fabric in your most well worn yoga pants when it’s pulled taut? Imagine that is what the linea alba is doing.

DON’T FREAK OUT!

It’s going to be fine. Seriously.

Your body is smart and your abdominal wall stretches for a reason. The reason being to allow your body to grow a baby to full term (or thereabouts).

As I said above, in most bodies, diastasis recti is going to heal just fine, especially with some attention to detail and understanding what it needs to truly heal well.

5 Reasons Your Diastasis Recti Is NOT Healing (…Yet!)

By “not healing”, I mean that these things might be happening in your body:

• You are more than 6 weeks postpartum and your linea alba is feeling verrrrry squishy, weak, and is not generating tension when you are attempting to make it do so.

• You can push way down deep into your belly along the linea alba when you are trying to create tension through the abdominal wall.

I do not mean that your abdominals or belly feels squishy. That is extremely normal post-pregnancy (or literally WHENEVER).

1). You’ve been carrying your body and your baby in non-optimal alignment, especially under load.

We want to give our bodies the best shot at creating a good working relationship between the core and the pelvic floor.

Your aim to help the core and floor work well together? Stack your body with your ribcage over the pelvis.

Or, are you’re rib thrusting’ all day long and in exercise?

Or, maybe you’re tucking your bum and tailbone under often throughout the day in standing, loaded, or seated positions.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you live in ‘perfect’ alignment with the ribs over hips all day long. No way! You want to move through many, variable positions throughout your daily life.

That being said, for now, I would encourage you to be as close to this alignment when you’re loaded though, for example when carrying kids, lifting weights, exercising, running, and during pregnancy.

2). Your breathing needs tweaking.

Maybe you’re a breath holder, maybe you only breathe into your upper chest and shoulders, or maybe you send all your breath to your belly.

Instead, what you will want to strive for is breathing into your whole trunk.


When you take an inhale breath you want to feel the air move into the chest, the ribcage, and the belly.

In most life and exercise scenarios we want to breathe into the chest, the ribcage and the belly. All to some degree. No to only one spot or another.

That being said, what can be helpful for many people is think about breathing into the sides of the ribcage as they might be less comfortable breathing into the ribs and more comfortable breathing more so into the chest or belly, only.

In this photo, I’m demoing how to feel the breath go into the ribcage on the inhale, and then out of the ribcage on the exhale by holding a resistance band around your mid-back area. You will feel the resistance band expand on your inhale breath from the front, sides, and back.

*IMPORTANT! Take notice to see if you are holding your belly in or sucking your belly in tight throughout the day. You want to allow your belly to relax and be soft in most of your daily life unless you are actively lifting, carrying, twisting, and exerting your body.

3). Your digestion isn’t easy and you’re often bloated.

If you’re feeling chronic discomfort in your stomach it can definitely affect how the core and pelvic floor muscles are functioning and thus, how your diastasis is or isn’t healing.

Are you holding your breath and trying to hold your belly in tight most of the day? Are you having difficulty with bowel movements? Are you straining or pushing hard to poop? Do you have the urge to go and nothing happens?

If you’re experiencing frequent bloating, it’s worth sorting out what the root cause of that is. Is it food related? Stress induced? From holding your belly in tight constantly? Not being able to have regular, easy bowel movements?

4). Your diastasis became quite large and weak throughout pregnancy.

You might be someone who has a small frame and grows big, healthy, beautiful babies. This could leave the gap between the abdominal muscles wide and the connective tissue weaker than normal.

If this is your situation it could require some additional care to ensure that you’re using engaging through the core and pelvic floor properly, that you understand what optimal alignment in lifting feels like, that you are using your breath well, etc.

A trained, experienced fitness coach who specializes in postnatal exercise realm, or a pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you heal your diastasis if you’re unsure of what to do next.

5). Your Body Isn’t Loving The Exercises You’re Doing

This is a biggie. Many fitness professionals who specialize in postnatal exercise are currently making the claim that it’s not the specific exercise or movement that will affect your body’s function, but how you DO it.

I agree with parts of this idea, but not fully.

The core is a canister. I call the core, “a top, a bottom, and stuff around it.” #science.

We need to ensure that the core is handling that pressure effectively from the top, the bottom, the front and the back, in the exercises we’re doing during workout time.

Perhaps you’ve been doing a lot of double leg raises where you’re belly is bulging out with every rep.

Or, maybe you’re doing front plank holds and holding your breath throughout the set.

We need to make some adjustments in these circumstances. Perhaps simply with your form or technique, or perhaps with the exercises entirely.

Jess

Flattening The ‘Mummy Tummy’ With 1 Exercise, 10 Minutes A Day

Women work on strengthening their core abdominal muscles in Leah Keller’s exercise class for new moms, inside a San Francisco clothing store called Monkei Miles. Talia Herman for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Talia Herman for NPR

Women work on strengthening their core abdominal muscles in Leah Keller’s exercise class for new moms, inside a San Francisco clothing store called Monkei Miles.

Talia Herman for NPR

I admit it. I have a “mummy tummy,” also known as “mommy pooch.” You know, that soft jelly belly you retain after having a baby — it makes you look a few months pregnant.

I’ve tried to convince myself that the pooch is a valiant badge of motherhood, but who am I kidding? The pooch bothers me. And it turns out it has been causing back pain.

So when I hear that a fitness coach and doctor have come up with a technique that can flatten the pooch quickly and easily, I think, “Why not?”

A few weeks later, I’m rolling out a yoga mat with a dozen other moms and pregnant women in San Francisco.

“We will see a dramatic change,” says Leah Keller, who leads the class.

“You can easily expect to see 2 inches off your waist in three weeks of time,” Keller says. “That’s not an unrealistic expectation.”

Decked out in purple yoga pants and leather cowboy boots, Keller is a personal trainer from New York City. She has developed an exercise that allegedly shrinks the mommy pooch.

There is science to back up the method, she says.

“A doctor at Weill Cornell and I did a study on the exact same program we’re going to do,” Keller says. “And we found 100 percent of women achieved full resolution.”

Keller measures the separation in a student’s abdominal muscles using her fingers as a guide. Talia Herman for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Talia Herman for NPR

Keller measures the separation in a student’s abdominal muscles using her fingers as a guide.

Talia Herman for NPR

OK! Wait a second. Two inches off my belly in three weeks? That sounds too good to be true. I decide to do a little digging into the science of mummy tummy and Keller’s claim.

Putting the six-pack back together

It turns out the jelly belly actually has a medical name: diastasis recti, which refers to a separation of the abdominal muscles.

And it’s quite common. Last year, a study from Norway reported about a third of moms end up with diastasis recti a year after giving birth.

“This is such a ubiquitous issue,” says Dr. Geeta Sharma, an OB-GYN at Weill Cornell Medical Center-New York Presbyterian Hospital.

And it’s not just a cosmetic problem. Diastasis recti can cause another problem for new moms: lower back pain.

“People can start feeling some back pain because the core is weakened,” Sharma says.

The Diastasis Recti

During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles responsible for a “six pack” stretch apart (left) to accommodate a growing fetus. After birth, the muscles don’t always bounce back, leaving a gap known as the mommy pooch.

Source: Nick Sousanis/Courtesy of Sustainable Fitness Incorporated

How To Test For Diastasis Recti

There’s a simple way to see whether you have diastasis recti:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Put your fingers right above your belly button and press down gently.
  3. Then lift up your head about an inch while keeping your shoulders on the ground.
  4. If you have diastasis recti, you will feel a gap between the muscles that is wider than an inch.

In rare occasions, the tissue in the abdomen isn’t just stretched, but it is also torn a bit. This can cause a hernia, Sharma says.

“If there’s a defect in a layer of tissue called the linea alba, then the bowel can poke through,” Sharma says. “That’s going to be more dangerous.”

A hernia may require surgery. “So I will refer patients to a general surgeon to have a CT scan if there’s really a true concern about a hernia,” Sharma says.

Diastasis recti arises during pregnancy because the growing fetus pushes the abdominal muscles apart — specifically the rectus abdominal muscles.

“These are the muscles that give you a ‘six pack,’ ” says Dr. Linda Brubaker, an OB-GYN at the University of California, San Diego. “People think these muscles go horizontal across the belly. But they actually go vertical from head to toe.”

The rectus abdominal muscles should be right next to each other, on either side of the belly button, Brubaker says. “There shouldn’t be much of gap between them.”

But during pregnancy, a gap opens up between the muscles, right around the belly button. Sometimes that gap closes on its own, but other times, it stays open.

That leaves a spot in the belly where there is very little muscle to hold in your stomach and other organs, a spot that can be 1 to 2 inches wide. That lets the organs and overlying tissue bulge out — and cause mommy pooch.

To flatten the area, women have to get those abdominal muscles to realign. And that is where the exercises come into play.

If you search online for ways to fix diastasis recti, you’ll turn up a deluge of exercise routines, all claiming to help coax the abdominal muscles back together.

But the quality of much of that information isn’t good, Brubaker says. “Some of it is actually potentially harmful.”

Even some exercises aimed at strengthening the abdomen can exacerbate diastasis recti, says Keller, including simple crunches.

“You have to be very careful,” she says. “For example, please don’t ever again in your life do crossover crunches or bicycle crunches. They splay your abs apart in so many ways.”

That said, there are a few exercise programs for diastasis recti that many doctors and physical therapists support. These include the Tupler Technique, Keller’s Dia Method and the MuTu System in the U.K.

Most such courses, taught once a week for an hour in New York, San Francisco and at least a few other places, tend to run about four to 12 weeks and cost around $100 to $300. Some places offer online classes and videos, which are much less expensive.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends abdominal exercises for the perinatal period. But the organization’s guidelines don’t provide details — such as which exercises work best or how often women should do them and for how long.

Plus, ACOG focuses more on preventing diastasis than on fixing the problem; it recommends strengthening the abdomen before and during pregnancy.

Keller (right) checks a student’s progress after the the final class. The fitness coach worked with an OB-GYN from Weill Cornell Medicine to standardize and evaluate her exercise program, which primarily targets abdominal muscles. Talia Herman for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Talia Herman for NPR

“The best way is prevention,” says Dr. Raul Artal, an OB-GYN at St. Louis University, who helped ACOG write its exercise guidelines for the perinatal period. “The best way to do that is to exercise during pregnancy.”

But, as Sharma, the Cornell OB-GYN, points out, no one has really vigorously studied these various exercises to see whether they actually fix diastasis recti.

“There’s a general knowledge that exercise is going to help,” Sharma says. “But no one has really tested them in a standardized way.”

In fact, the few studies that have been done haven’t been high enough quality to draw conclusions, researchers in Australia said a few years ago.

Sharma hopes to change that. A few years ago, she teamed up with Keller to start to gather some evidence on her technique.

“We did a pilot study to see if the method is helpful for women,” Sharma says.

The study was small — just 63 women. But the results were quite promising. After 12 weeks of doing Keller’s exercise — 10 minutes a day — all the women had fixed their diastasis recti, Sharma and Keller reported at ACOG’s annual meeting few years ago.

“We had patients that were even one year out from giving birth, and they still had such great benefit from the exercises,” Sharma says. “We love to see that there is something we can do to help women.”

The key exercise is typically performed while sitting crossed-legged, standing up or on all fours. But during Keller’s four-week class, she teaches many versions of the exercises. Tania Higham (left) and Maeve Clancy do a version laying on their backs. Talia Herman for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Talia Herman for NPR

The key exercise is typically performed while sitting crossed-legged, standing up or on all fours. But during Keller’s four-week class, she teaches many versions of the exercises. Tania Higham (left) and Maeve Clancy do a version laying on their backs.

Talia Herman for NPR

Now Sharma says she is working to put together a larger study to really nail down when the exercise works and how well.

Tight and tighter

Back at the class in San Francisco, Keller is taking us moms through the key exercise. It’s surprisingly simple to do.

Sitting on the floor cross-legged, with our hands on our bellies, we all take a big breath. “Let the belly fully expand,” Keller says.

And then as we exhale, we suck in our belly muscles — as far back as they’ll go, toward the spine. “Now we’re going to stay here near the spine. Hold this position,” she says.

Then we take tiny breaths. With each exhale, we push our stomachs back further and further.

“Tight, tighter,” Keller chants, rhythmically.

You can do the exercise in several different positions, Keller says: sitting crossed-legged, sitting on your knees, standing with knees slightly bent, on all fours or laying on your side in the fetal position.

The key is to be sure your back is flat, and that you do the exercise 10 minutes each day, changing positions every two minutes or so. For the rest of the time, your belly is pulled all the way back into the spine.

“The fingertips on the bellybutton are really important for this reason,” she says. “So you know that you’re squeezing tight, tighter with the belly, and you’re never bulging the bellybutton forward.”

This is our fourth week of class, and we’ve been doing this same exercise on our own every day for at least 10 minutes. So it’s judgment day. Time to see whether we’ve flattened our bellies and resolved the diastasis recti.

Keller pulls out a measuring tape and starts wrapping it around women’s middles. She also has us lie down on the floor, so she can measure the separation in our abdominal muscles.

One by one, there is success after success. Several moms completely closed up their abdominal separations. Many lost inches from their bellies.

One woman had amazing results. “Oh my goodness, you lost nearly four inches from your belly circumference,” Keller exclaims. “That’s amazing!”

How did I fare? Well, after three weeks, I didn’t completely close up the abdominal separation. My separation decreased from 1.2 inches to 0.8 inches.* But I did drop more than an inch from my belly circumference.

And I am quite happy with the results. My abs are definitely firmer. And regularly doing this exercise brought a bonus benefit: My lower back pain has almost completely gone away.

*I continued to do the exercises after the class had finished. I checked with in Keller three weeks later to have her measure my diastasis recti. At that point, the separation had dropped down to 0.6 inches, which meant technically I no longer have diastasis recti.

The Best Abdominal Exercises After Pregnancy

Your abdominal muscles are weakened and stretched after birth. Some of the best types of exercises to tone and tighten your postpartum abs are those that work your transversus abdominis, or lower belly muscles. The transverse abs do not play a part in torso movement but rather are responsible for forced expiration, compression of abdominal contents and act as a girdle for your lower belly. Get the go-ahead from your doctor before performing abdominal exercises.

Forearm Plank

Plank pose, in all of its variations, is a type of isometric exercise in that it is held for a period of time while contracting your ab muscles. Breathe deeply throughout this exercise. Come down onto all fours on an exercise mat or rug. Lower your forearms, shoulder-width apart onto the mat. Stretch your legs back, one by one, until your body is supported on your forearms and toes only. Lift up through your torso as you hold this variation of the plank pose for 10 seconds. Work your way up to holding the position for 30 seconds. Repeat up to five times.

Leg Lifts

Start with single leg lifts after pregnancy to get your lower belly muscle used to the action. Lie on your back on the floor. Extend your arms behind your head. On an exhalation, lift your right leg and left arm off the floor. Attempt to touch your left hand to your right foot; but touching anywhere along the lower leg is acceptable at first. Inhale and lower your arm and leg. Repeat with the left leg and right arm. Work your way up to 15 per side over time.

For double leg lifts, lie on your back on the floor. Slide your hands, palms down, under your sacrum. On an exhalation, lift both legs at once until they are perpendicular to the floor. Inhale and lower your legs. Do up to 10. Later on, when your transversus is stronger, don’t lower your feet all the way to the floor on the descent. Let them hover a few inches off the floor before you lift your legs up again.

Pelvic Tilts

Lower back pain can be relieved at the same time you are strengthening your abs with the pelvic tilt. From a supine position on the floor, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor close to your buttocks. Contract your ab and butt muscles. Flatten your lower back toward the floor as you tilt your pelvis up. Hold for three seconds to begin, working your way up to 10 seconds over time. Release and repeat the maneuver up to 10 times.

Crunch Variation

Lie on your back on an exercise mat or rug. Lift your feet off the floor and bend your knees toward your chest. Link your hands behind your head and lift your shoulders off the floor. All together, straighten your legs to about a 45 degree angle to the floor and extend your arms overhead. Quickly criss-cross your feet, over and under each other up to eight times. Lower back down and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat.

Abs Exercises That Can Help Heal Diastasis Recti

Photo: / Antoniya More

During pregnancy, your body goes through a lot of changes. And despite what celebrity tabloids may have you believe, for new mamas, giving birth doesn’t exactly mean everything snaps right back to normal. (It also isn’t realistic to bounce right back to your pre-pregnancy weight, as fitness influencer Emily Skye proves in this two-second transformation.)

In fact, research suggests anywhere from one- to two-thirds of women suffer from a common post-pregnancy condition called diastasis recti, in which your left and right abdominal muscles separate.

“The rectus muscles are the ‘strap’ muscles that extend down from the ribcage to the pubic bone,” explains Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University. “They help keep us upright and hold our bellies in.”

Unfortunately, with pregnancy, these muscles have to stretch quite a bit. “In some women, they stretch more than others and a gap is created. The abdominal contents can ‘poof out’ between the muscles, much like a hernia,” she says.

The good news is that unlike a hernia, where your bowel can come out into the hernia sac and get stuck, that doesn’t happen with a diastasis, Dr. Minkin explains. And a diastasis is not usually painful (though you might feel low back pain if your ab muscles are stretched and not working the way they normally would). Still, but if you’re suffering, you might appear pregnant even months after having your baby, which can clearly be a confidence killer for new moms.

This is exactly what happened to Kristin McGee, a New York–based yoga and Pilates instructor, after giving birth to twin boys. “A few months after giving birth, I had lost a majority of the weight I gained, but I still had a pouch above my belly button and looked pregnant, especially toward the end of the day.”

Dr. Minkin notes that women who carry twins can be at an increased risk for diastasis recti, as the muscles can get stretched even more.

How to Heal

The good news? No matter your situation, there are certain steps you can take-both pre- and post-baby to help avoid (or deal with) a diastasis.

For one, to keep stretching to a minimum, try to stay as close to your ideal body weight as possible before your pregnancy and try to stay within the weight gain range that your doc recommends for you during your pregnancy, suggests Dr. Minkin.

If you’re still suffering from a diastasis after a year, Dr. Minkin notes that you can also think about having surgery to stitch the muscles back together-though, she notes this isn’t 100 percent necessary. “It’s not a health hazard, so there isn’t significant harm in ignoring it. It really comes down to how bothered you are by it.”

Fitness can also help. Many ab exercises (before, during, and after pregnancy) work to strengthen the rectus muscles, fighting against potential stretching. With the right arsenal of exercises, McGee says that she was able to heal her diastasis without surgery.

You just have to be careful to focus on moves that will help strengthen and heal you in a safe way. “While you’re healing your diastasis, you want to avoid any exercises that put too much strain on the abdominals and can cause the belly to cone or dome,” says McGee. “Crunches and planks should be avoided until you can keep your abs held and avoid any pooching out.” You also want to avoid backbends or anything that can cause the abdomen to stretch any further, she notes.

And if you have a diastasis, concentrate on drawing your abs together even during daily activities (and be careful if you notice that certain movements bother you), says McGee. But after getting the green light from your ob-gyn (usually around four to six weeks post-baby), most women can start doing gentle hip bridges and these moves from McGee that are aimed at firming up the midsection and healing a diastasis in an easy, effective way.

TVA Breaths

Image zoom Photo: Kristin McGee

How to do it: Sit or lie down and inhale through nose into back body and sides of waist. On the exhale, open mouth and exhale the sound “ha” over and over again while concentrating on ribs drawing toward each other and waistline narrowing.

Why it works: “This is extremely important because breath is so connected to the core, and after having a baby, your ribs splay open to create room,” says McGee. (Re-)learning how to breathe with the diaphragm allows the area to start to come back together, she notes.

Bridges

Image zoom Photo: Kristin McGee

How to do it: Lie faceup with knees bent, hip-width apart, feet flexed (pull toes up toward shins and off the floor), and arms by sides. Brace abs in and press down through heels to lift hips up (avoid overarching back), squeezing glutes. Place a ball between thighs and squeeze in to increase difficulty.

Why it works: “In bridges, it’s very easy to draw the belly button to the spine and find the neutral pelvis,” says McGee. This move also strengthens the hips and glutes, which can help support our entire core region.

TheraBand Arm Pull

Image zoom Photo: Kristin McGee

How to do it: Hold a TheraBand out in front of body at shoulder height and pull the band apart while scooping abdominals in and up and drawing ribs together. Bring band overhead then return to shoulder level and repeat.

Why it works: “Using the band helps us really engage and feel our abdominals,” notes McGee.

Toe Taps

Image zoom Photo: Kristin McGee

How to do it: Lying on back, lift legs to tabletop position with a 90-degree bend at knees. Tap toes to the ground, alternating legs.

Why it works: “Often times we lift our legs from our hip flexors or quads,” says McGee. “This move helps us engage the deep core to feel that connection so that we stay strong in our core as we move our limbs.”

Heel Slides

Image zoom Photo: Kristin McGee

How to do it: Lying on back with legs bent, slowly lengthen one leg forward on the mat, hovering it above the floor, while keeping the hips still and the abdominals drawing in and up. Bend the leg back in and repeat on the other side.

Why it works: “When we do these, we start to feel the length of our limbs while staying connected to our core,” says McGee.

Clams

Image zoom Photo: Kristin McGee

How to do it: Lie on side with hips and knees bent at 45 degrees, legs stacked. Keeping feet in contact with each other, raise upper knee as high as possible without moving pelvis. Don’t allow lower leg to move off the floor. Pause, then return to the starting position. Repeat. Place a band around both legs just below knees to increase difficulty.

Why it works: “Side-lying work like clams uses the obliques and strengthens the outer hips and thighs,” says McGee.

Diastasis Recti Exercises: Do’s and Don’ts for Your Postpartum Pooch

Syda Productions/

If you want to flatten out a rounded postpartum belly, it stands to reason that you should hit the gym for a relentless regimen of crunches, right? Wrong! An abdominal condition called diastasis recti could be the cause of that rounded—even still pregnant-looking—abdomen months or years after giving birth. And crunches will not only fail to improve it, but can actually make it worse.

Before you even think about doing an abdominal exercise, perform a simple self-test to determine whether you do have diastasis recti, a gap in between your right and left abdominal wall muscles that can result in a protruding pooch-like shape. If so, keep reading to find out which exercises you should skip—and which ones can help heal that abdominal separation.

  • Related: Watch and learn how to check for diastasis recti

Diastasis Recti Exercise “Don’ts”

Skip any movement or exercise that places strain on the midline or causes the belly to bulge outward, like sit-ups and planks. “When this action is repeated forcefully, and frequently, the degree of separation can actually worsen,” says Kevin Brenner, M.D., F.A.C.S., a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon based in Beverly Hills.

Also, avoid heavy lifting, and any exercises that involve twisting the spine or work the abdominal wall against the force of gravity, says Helene Byrne, a prenatal and postpartum health and fitness expert and founder of BeFit-Mom. These no-no exercises include most traditional ab work such as crunches, oblique curls, reverse curls, and roll-ups.

Backbends and other spinal extension movements are also out, because they increase stress on the abdominal tissues, says Ben Butts, P.T., director of rehabilitation services and Performance Therapy at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “Traditional exercises to get a six-pack are not going to give you the benefit you are looking for,” he says.

  • Related: Exercise tips for new moms

Good Exercises for Diastasis Recti

So what exercises should a new mom with diastasis recti do? Byrne suggests abdominal compressions, pelvic tilts, toe taps, heel slides, single-leg stretches, and bridges with belly scooping. Always keep the belly pulled in, rather than doing any movement that pushes it out (and causes the telltale bulge on the midline).

Ilaria Cavagna, a New York-based pilates instructor, suggests starting with the oblique muscles as a means of bringing together the separated muscles. “Only working the oblique muscles will bring the two abdominal walls back together,” she says. “Think of your abs as a corset that goes from the hip bones up the ribs, and think of the action that you would do to tighten the corset: Both hands pull towards the center from the sides, like the obliques do.”

It’s also important to know the correct breathing techniques. “To avoid creating a compression in the abdominal cavity, it is fundamental to exhale during moments of effort,” Cavagna says.

  • Related: 10 Ways to Get Active as a Family

Methods and Approaches

Several at-home exercise programs, like the Mutu System, Tupler Technique, and The Dia Method, which are specifically designed to help (and not hurt) moms with diastasis recti, can help ensure you’re doing the proper exercises.

Some approaches to healing diastasis recti can be more controversial. Some suggest that wearing a split, or abdominal binder, can flatten the stomach. And it may—but only temporarily. Most experts say it’s not a sustainable solution.

“Simply doing basic ab exercises with the midline splinted closed is not effective. Neither is wearing any kind of external support device for long periods,” says Byrne. “Both of these common, yet less effective, methods do not teach the transverse abdominis to do its job—stabilization—properly. Wearing an external support device for long periods can inhibit proper functioning.”

When Can I Start?

As with all postpartum decisions about your body, consult with your doctor about when your body may be ready for an exercise regime. Butts says the general recommendation is to wait about six weeks post-pregnancy.

When your doctor clears you and you feel ready, get right to work. “For some patients with mild diastasis, regular exercise in the form of a core abdominal work out can improve the integrity of the muscles and reduce the amount of separation,” says Dr. Brenner. “I have found this to be most effective during the first six to 12 months following delivery.”

  • By Alesandra Dubin

Let’s review the previous article regarding Diastasis Rectus Abdominis (DRA). DRA is the separation between the two bellies of the rectus abdominis at the linea alba and this condition may occur with more than half of all pregnancies.

How to know if you have Diastasis Recti?
To check to see if you have DRA first lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then place your fingers with the palm facing you on your belly button. Lift your head and neck just slightly off of the floor like you are doing a crunch while you press down with your fingers. If there is a gap this would mean you have a diastasis. You should conduct the test just above your belly button and just below the button since the gap can measure differently in these places. Talk to your doctor to confirm your findings and to make sure you are doing it correctly.

Once you know that you have DRA you need to know how to treat it. There are exercises that can help to decrease the size of the diastasis and there are exercises that may not help but that may also make the condition worse.

The exercises that you should avoid include the following: Traditional abdominal curl or sit up, incline sit-ups, intense abdominal exercise machines, oblique sit-ups/machine, exercise ball sit-ups/ball leg raises, bicycle legs, double leg raise, hanging knee raise, pilates table top or “The Hundred” and intense core plank or hover exercises. This is not a comprehensive list but these are the types of exercises that should be avoided since performing these exercises can stretch the abdominals and make the condition worse. These activities can increase strain on the upper abdominal muscles which will cause them to separate rather than heal. You should avoid any intense abdominal or core exercises. You need to start with low level abdominal contraction exercises and avoid anything that puts too much stress on the abdominal wall.

Related: PostPartum Exercise Recommendations: How, When & Why

Exercises for diastasis recti
Exercises that are safe to perform include exercises that will draw the abdominal muscles closer together and decrease the size of the DRA. You will need to understand how to correctly contract the transverse abdominis muscle in order to perform the exercises correctly. This is the deepest of the three muscles in the side body wall. In order to engage the entire muscle and to perform the contraction correctly, the ribs should be flushed with the body wall and the spine and pelvis should be in neutral meaning that when lying down on your back your pubis and pelvic bones are even. Think about trying to pull your belly button back to your spine. It may help to perform the contraction on the exhale phase of a breath. Make sure you keep your pelvis level during each contraction.

Exercise One
The first exercise is activating the deep abdominal muscles in a side lying position. Start by lying on your side and then use your fingers to feel your abdominal wall just inside your pelvic bone. Activate your lower abdominal wall by gently drawing inward the lower abdominal muscles. Maintain this abdominal activation or contraction for up to 10 seconds. You can start with a 5 second hold and then progress to 10 seconds as tolerated. Make sure you breathe normally throughout the exercise and then relax your abdominal wall back to a resting position in between repetitions. Your upper abdomen should remain relaxed throughout the exercise. To progress this exercise extend the duration of this hold for up to 10 seconds at a time as long as you are correctly able to activate the lower abdominal muscles.

Exercise Two
The second exercise is to activate the deep abdominal muscles when lying flat. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat. Keep the normal curve of your lower back throughout. Place your fingers on your lower abdominal wall just inside your pelvic bones. Gently activate your deep abdominal muscles (the same technique as exercise 1). Maintain this abdominal activation/contraction for up to 10 seconds and continue to breathe normally throughout the exercise and then relax your abdominal wall back to resting. Just like the previous exercise your upper abdomen should remain relaxed throughout the exercise. Make sure you learn to correctly activate your deep abdominal muscles before extending the duration of this hold for up to 10 seconds at a time.

Exercise Three
The third exercise is bent knee fall outs. This is a progression of the first two exercises. You want to start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat while again keeping the normal curve in your lower back. Activate your abdominal muscles like in exercises 1 and 2 and then gently lower one leg out the side while keeping the other leg bent and pointing upwards towards the ceiling. Keep your pelvis stable throughout this exercise and try to avoid trunk rotation. Return your leg to the starting position as soon as you feel you compensate with trunk movement. Relax your deep abdominal muscles and then repeat 2-3 repetitions on each side and progress to increased reps as tolerated. Increase the challenge by increasing the number of repetitions without releasing your abdominal contraction.

Exercise Four
The fourth exercise is heel slides. This will also further progress the challenge for your core muscles. Start in the same position as the last exercise. Place your fingers to feel your abdominal muscles just inside your pelvis. Gently activate your deep abdominal muscles as you extend your right leg (sliding your foot until your knee is straight). When you feel your low back begin to arch bring your leg back to the starting position by bending your knee. Relax your deep abdominal muscles. Repeat 2-3 repetitions on each side when just staring out and you can progress by doing a number of repeated exercises in a row without releasing the abdominal contraction.

These are the first four basic exercises to start out with and then you can continue to progress to more challenging exercises including straight leg raise with an abdominal contraction and seated heel slides with abdominal contraction. Further progressions are available but just remember to avoid intense core exercises.

Before enacting any exercises, self diagnosis or treatment plan, always talk to your personal health care provider who has all of your health care information.

L. Augustyn, Physical Therapist

This post isn’t my norm, and is probably of no interest to some of you. In that case, let me direct you to the recipe index for some fun dessert browsing or the Five Fact Friday archives to look at Milo and Sophie.

I mentioned a while back that I had diastasis recti with Milo’s pregnancy and a few of you have asked me about it. I’m not an expert or a doctor, but here’s a little bit about my story. And by a little bit, I mean kind of a lot.

The background.

For starters, I’m 5’2″ and fairly petite with a short torso. At just over 7 pounds at birth, Sophie felt like a big baby for my first full-term pregnancy. And actually, upon Sophie’s delivery, as my doctor stitched up the tearing her superfast delivery had caused, my doctor (whom I LOVE) said with a pained voice, “oh, honey, I’m sorry. This is a big baby for you. I hope this is your biggest baby.” Other than the super painful tearing, my recovery from Sophie’s birth went remarkably well. I felt really lucky and hoped that would always be the case for me.

So, naturally, Milo decided to one-up his sister. For the duration of Milo’s pregnancy, I was horribly sick. He was positioned pretty low for almost my entire pregnancy (Sophie had been VERY high). I also gained more weight with Milo, though I ate healthfully and exercised regularly, just as I had with Sophie.

I was so wildly uncomfortable all the time because he was so low. My back pain was so bad that I actually slept on the floor for the last 5 months of the pregnancy because that was the only way to get the tiniest bit of relief. Desperately, I asked my doctor if he was measuring big, and she assured me that he seemed to be right at 50th percentile (just like Sophie).

I felt like such a baby for being in such agony, but it was nearly unbearable. Even two days before he was delivered, my OB said she thought he *miiiiight* barely weigh seven pounds and would be shocked if it were much more than that. I told her dejectedly that I was sure he had to be bigger than that.

He was.

At 8lbs 8oz and delivered after only a couple of hours’ labor, my doctor gasped and she said simply “he’s so big.” As they called out his weight, we all sort of gasped in shock then stared laughing. “I KNEW IT!” I said! Also, the anesthesiologist who we worked with pointed out that because of the way I was carrying Milo, he had literally warped my spine a bit (like a sort of pregnancy scoliosis), which would explain all the agony and pain over the last many months.

Recovery from this delivery was much less smooth. My body was a completely different landscape than it had been before. Everything was soft and my stomach was completely different.

(side note: I know that smaller girls have delivered larger babies without medication and walked home afterward. I know my situation wasn’t the worst, but it sure was uncomfortable!)

Dealing with Diastasis

While some separation of the rectus abdominis (6-pack) muscles is the norm during pregnancy to make way for an expanding belly, the separation often closes back up as you heal from delivery. It’s also totally normal to have 1-2 fingers’ width separation even after healing. This is not generally considered enough separation to cause concern.

I had a 4-finger diastasis recti, or separation of the rectus abdominis (6-pack) muscles after Milo’s birth, and after six months, I still had a 3 1/2 finger gap. Want to test for it yourself? Find out how to check it here.

Diastasis recti can be addressed in a lot of ways, from girdles & bands to certain exercises to surgery, and often reconstructive surgery is the only way to really fully close that gap back up (because, as I said, it’s normal and ok to have 1-2 fingers of separation even after healing).

What worked for me

1. Addressing Baby Weight

First, losing as much of the baby weight as possible helped me to really identify what was happening under that soft layer of extra. This is part of the healing process anyway, so I hadn’t lost all my baby weight before starting to address diastasis recti.

I never went on a major diet. Instead, I kept track of my calories through the free MyFitnessPal app and continued to gently exercise with walks (and playing Just Dance with Michael to combat the stress of Sophie’s autism diagnosis, if I’m honest) and tracking it with a fitness tracker. At the time, I had a Nike Fuelband, though after it died, I bought a Fitbit Flex, which I’ve been using ever since.

When I was a health and wellness coach, MyFitnessPal was the tool I always recommended to my clients. I think it’s fairly straightforward to use and helps you be mindful of your calorie intake and output throughout the day. You can even import recipes from the internet (like my blog!) to see what the nutrition facts are. You can also sync it with a fitness tracker (like the FitBit) to include any calories you’ve burned through exercise.

2. Choosing exercise carefully.

Like I said, I started gently. Diastasis recti makes for a rough recovery. If you’ve had a C-section AND have diastasis recti, this is even more important. If you’re nursing, you need to be careful not to affect your milk supply. I first asked my doctor what she recommended, and she said to avoid traditional ab exercises until I was certain I knew how to properly engage my core. There are certain exercises you should avoid at first that can actually worsen the separation (things like twisting exercises or crunches).

3. Learn about proper core work

It’s really (REALLY) important to learn how to properly engage your stomach muscles. Lindsay Brin is one of the best resources out there, in my opinion. She’s got videos and exercises that walk you through things really well.

My number one recommendation is to learn how to engage your transversis abdominis, which is a deep core muscle that wraps around your belly like a belt. It pulls your stomach muscles in. Properly engaging your transversis abdominis during a crunch will lead to a flattening of the stomach rather than a little mountain in the middle when you’re crunching.

While I was confident doing this before pregnancy, I used these exercises to practice doing that properly with diastasis recti. They seem overly simple, but if you don’t properly engage your transversis, you will not make much progress in any of your other exercises.

Doing core exercises while properly supporting my transversis abdominis closed my gap significantly and allowed me to get back to traditional core exercises, though even after 2 1/2 years, I’m still very careful about which exercises I choose. Planks are my go-to ab exercise. Plank all the day long (with proper core engagement). It will do wonders for you. And do be sure you’re doing crunches correctly if you decide to go that route.

Where I am today

Today, I have a 1 finger diastasis recti opening. I do lots of planks and plank variations, along with some careful crunches (engaging those muscles correctly!). I still have saggy skin and my belly button looks like a nightmare. If I ever want to take care of the remaining opening and saggy-ness, my doctors have told me the only remaining option is surgery. At this point, I’m just sticking with midriff-covering swimming suits and calling it good.

A few helpful links:

  • This is the Lindsay Brin DVD I own, though I did find a lot of information on her YouTube channel. I’m ordering a few of her other DVDs (her new 30 Day Core and Pretty Fierce, which are supposed to help with strength and toning) for my birthday.
  • This is my favorite fitness app, which is what I use most often for a quick workout these days.
  • These are some Cute Covers for a Fitbit FLEX if you don’t like the basic one they come with. You can also get something like these.
  • I know many people have found success using the MuTu (Mummy Tummy) girdle and exercise system. I didn’t have the time, money, or energy for that when I was healing (that was right when Sophie was being diagnosed with autism), so I opted for exercise as my “treatment” plan. If I ever get pregnant again, I’ll probably look into this for my recovery.

This blog inspired an entire series called The Unclosed Core. The information and encouragement you will find here is timeless and we trust you will find hope as we continue this journey together.

Most of Us Are Turtles

Remember Aesop’s fable about the tortoise beating the hare? The majority of the fitness world screams at us to be rabbits, but most of us are turtles who feel like quitting when we’re told we have to be like the rabbits, and go fast or go home. Workout fast or don’t workout at all. Heal fast or give up on healing. No room for slowness. No room for reality. All lies.

Consistency always beats intensity, especially in fitness and especially because the rabbit wore himself out and needed a nap while the turtle kept putting one foot in front of the other and won!

Fact: Most people quit their fitness program after just 3-5 weeks because they’re tired and not seeing results yet.

However, the visible results start to show around 6 weeks if you’re being consistent, and the deeper results like fascial reconstruction, muscular remodeling, better posture can take 6 months to a year! You’ve got to stick with it! Yes, life gets busy. But everyone’s life is busy. You are worth being consistent. You are worth the investment of time. You are worth a spot in your own schedule to do the exercises that make you stronger for the rest of your schedule.

A Safe Place to Share

“Ladies, Be encouraged! Remember when you were a kid and you had no idea that you were growing until one day you put your pants on & they were too short?? Healing is the same way, you may not see the results you want at first and then bam! You are growing (figuratively spreaking – haha) a little every day, whether you know it or not! Hang in there!” –Jennifer G.

That was posted by a member of Fit2B Studio in our private, drama-free facebook forum. Yeah, I know you might not believe me because FB groups are typically prone to heated discussions and nasty debates. Not ours. Encouragement, help, hope, ideas, lovely ladies all around. Jennifer went on to say:

“So last time I checked I had a little bigger than a 4 finger separation & very weak pelvic floor muscles (after baby 4). I went to the Dr. today & was telling him about it & he said that the only way to fix diastasis is surgery. Well he checked & said, “actually yours isn’t that bad, only about a 1-2, most women I see come in with a large ridge at the top of their stomach & you don’t have that at all” I told him that i did have that ridge, it stuck out pretty far, that’s how i knew my belly wasn’t healing the way it had with the last 3 babies! I shared with him the the tummy safe exercises I have been doing, mostly just breathing & staying engaged when I move! He said to keep doing what I’m doing, he would not recommend surgery (not that I would have done it any way, but if i had not already done the research i may have taken the doctors word that surgery was the only way) Be encouraged!! By the way, “baby” number 4 is almost 4 years old… It’s never too late!”

Credit: Juliana Fisher who is a member of Fit2B. She read this blog, copied what I wrote with my permission, and made it pretty. Thanks Juliana!!!! -BL

For whatever reason, after Jennifer posted that day, several other awesome testimonies came in right after hers as if women around the world were having a breakthrough together after a long winter of darkness and struggle. Another member shared her story…

“I learned about fit2b one random night browsing blogs a year and a half ago. My middle never felt the same after #3. With all I learned here I wasn’t surprised to learn my DR was a 2-3-2. We moved before I could work on it much and when I finally checked again I had gone up a finger width. It was a long process to retrain myself. A miscarriage and then soon after another pregnancy. I met Beth around 6 weeks pregnant and she confirmed I was a 3. I was scared to check the rest of my pregnancy and just kept doing my best. Fast toward. I had a planned c section. I knew going into it how weak the middle is after. I knew I’d be sore if I just managed like before (slouching!!!) or if I kept myself in check with alignment. It wasn’t easy to keep on it, but keeping proper alignment really made a huge difference. I checked at 5 weeks postpartum expecting maybe a 4… Would be thrilled with 3…. Nope. I was a 2! I felt my tummy feeling much tighter the other day and my belly button seemed different. Tighter, really shallow. I checked tonight and I’m at a 0-1-.5!! I am shocked. I still have plenty of weight to lose and muscle and skin to tone up but I’m so thankful to have learned what I did, and to have a happier, stronger tummy.” –Kara E.

A Safe Place to Learn

Of course, our forum isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are posts about frustrations and setbacks where members rally around a discouraged mama. During that same 24 hour period there were also a couple of members who were irritated by articles they found elsewhere touting falsehoods like this one offering alternative to crunches which were basically all advanced crunches … what? But it’s cool because we discuss them and elaborate on why they don’t work for those with diastasis recti.

This one from Desirae became my fave that day. It prompted me to tell her, “Today YOU are my WHY” which made her cry {sorry, sweetie} but it was all so beautiful, and I ended up sharing it on our fanpage wall where she could inspire a few more thousand souls:

. . . AND NOW I’VE TURNED THE CORNER . . .

“I am morbidly obese and 32 weeks pregnant with baby #7. I joined fit2B one month ago when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I have been following the diabetic diet they gave me (watching carb intake really) and exercising some through fit2B although I have skipped more than I’ve worked. I have also started walking to the school pushing the clumsy double stroller to pick up my older kids, and to the post office and trying to just “move” more. Anyway, yesterday at my doctor visit I stepped on the scale and I have lost 11 pounds! 11 pounds from my highest weight ever! AND, I’m 3 pounds less than I started this pregnancy! I’m going to stick with this for life! I have said through the last 4 pregnancies ‘I’ll work on myself after my body is done having babies and nursing and…’ whatever, and didn’t even realize how stupid that thinking was until this diagnosis and now I’ve turned the corner and see my kids making more healthy choices as well. I’m sad that I didn’t do this earlier but feel blessed by the changes I’m already seeing in my families health and attitude towards health!” –Desirae L.

Be still my proud and bursting heart. BUT THIS IS WHY. SHE IS OUR WHY.

Fit2B exists to change lives one tummy at a time. Let us help you where you’re at, starting today.

Join HERE

Read the other articles in “The Unclosed Core” series about how time, consistency, chemistry, and biomechanics all affect a narrowing diastasis recti! Next is “Hope for that diastasis recti that will not close.” After that comes “How your chemistry affects your diastasis recti” and then “How emotions affect your diastasis recti.“

9 Diastasis Recti Exercises for Postpartum Ab Separation

During pregnancy, your body does a lot of incredible things to accommodate your growing baby. One of them is the expansion of the muscles in your abdomen — the right and left sides of the abdominis rectus muscle separate as your linea alba (the tissue between that set of muscles) stretches to make room for baby.

Because of this, after pregnancy, many women will notice an indentation in the middle of their bellies, right down the center of the “six-pack” area. But for some moms, that gap is wide and needs help being repaired. A wider separation is called diastasis recti.

It might sound scary, but one in two women experience diastasis recti, a gap in your abdominal muscles that’s also commonly referred to as ab separation. Symptoms can include back pain and feeling abdominal weakness.

Separation is normal, but it is considered diastasis recti when the gap is significant. Ab separation often heals on its own, but targeted exercises may help close the gap more quickly.

How to Test for Diastasis Recti

You should always have a doctor, physical therapist or trained professional diagnose your diastasis recti, but you may be able to detect it yourself, too.

To test for diastasis recti, lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent. Curl your head up off the floor so your rectus or “six-pack” muscles are engaged, and feel along the indent down the center of your stomach. That’s the linea alba, the tissue that stretched when you were pregnant. Start at the belly button and feel just above and below in a vertical line. If your fingers can press down, you may have ab separation.

Again, a small gap is normal. It’s important to determine the width of the gap and push down gently to see if there is any tension or pushback, or if your fingers sink right down. You want to assess the width and, more importantly, the depth of the split. You can measure the width with your fingers. One- to two finger-widths is normal; three or more could be a sign of diastasis recti.

More on Diastasis Recti

Your Health Diastasis Recti: Why Ab Separation in Pregnancy Happens, and How to Treat It Your Health Diastasis Recti: Why Ab Separation in Pregnancy Happens, and How to Treat It

How to Fix Diastasis Recti

The key to healing diastasis recti is rebuilding your core from the inside out. You need to strengthen the transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle, which is the deepest abdominal muscle and can provide support for those muscles that have been stretched.

The simple and easy at-home exercises below can help rebuild your TVA muscle. But it is also very important to regain strength in your pelvic floor and diaphragm, which work in conjunction with your ab muscles. Remember to breathe and engage your pelvic floor when doing these exercises.

The more TVA strengthening you do, the more tension you will feel. Track your progress over time — when your gap feels fairly resilient, like a trampoline, you should be ready to add additional ab work.

Avoid any crunches and planking until you have regained strength in your abs and have started to close the gap, since doing exercises that are too difficult can actually make diastasis recti worse. Always listen to your body and pay attention to what is going on in your core.

9 Diastasis Recti Workouts

Ready to get started? The below workouts from Julia Neto, a trainer and regional manager at Body Conceptions studio in New York City, can help strengthen your abdominal muscles and heal diastasis recti over time.

Body Conceptions by Mahri

1) Umbrella Breathing with Kegel

  1. Start in a standing position with knees slightly bent, or sitting on a yoga ball or chair.

  2. Imagine that your ribcage is an umbrella opening 360 degrees as you inhale.

  3. Initiate your exhale with a kegel. Empty out your low belly, then middle and finally your chest, engaging your abdominal muscles up and in as you go.

  4. You can do 10 concentrated breaths standing, and then continue to use this breathing pattern for the rest of the exercises.

2) Pelvic Tilts on Hands and Knees

  1. Begin on hands and knees in a neutral spine.

  2. Take a big inhale into the sides of your ribcage, then exhale with a kegel, drawing your tailbone down and under into a curled spine.

  3. Inhale as you return to neutral. Be sure to relax your glutes and move from your lower abs. Cow position (arching upwards) is not advised for severe diastasis recti.

  4. Perform 10 tilts, moving slowly and consciously.

3) Kneeling Leg and Arm Extension with Knee Tap

  1. On hands and knees, begin by exhaling and drawing the core up towards the spine.

  2. Maintain your core contraction as you inhale and reach your right arm ahead and left leg straight behind you.

  3. Exhale and tap your right elbow towards your left knee, inhale both limbs long and return to neutral.

  4. Alternate sides for 10 reps on each side.

4) Toe Taps Lying on Back

  1. Lying flat on your back, bring legs to a tabletop position, with knees directly over your hips. Be sure you aren’t arching your back or tucking your pelvis.

  2. Inhale into your ribcage and exhale as you tap your right foot down to the floor, drawing in your core and maintaining pelvic alignment.

  3. Inhale as you return to neutral.

  4. Perform 10 reps on each side.

5) Single Leg Reach Lying on Back

  1. Beginning in tabletop position and keeping your pelvis still, reach your right leg long on a high diagonal on your exhale.

  2. Inhale as you return to neutral.

  3. Perform 10 reps on each side.

6) Leg Extension with Weights

  1. Try this exercise without weights until you feel stable, then add one- to two-pound weights.

  2. Beginning flat on your back with feet planted hips-width apart, inhale and draw your right knee to tabletop with arms framing your knee.

  3. As you exhale, reach your leg on a high diagonal with arms just slightly overhead, without letting your back arch.

  4. Inhale and return to tabletop.

  5. Perform 10 reps on each side.

7) Double Leg Extension

Once you feel strong in a single leg extension, try this move. Again, use no weights at first, then add weights if you feel ready.

  1. Starting with both legs in tabletop, inhale as your arms frame your knees, and exhale as you reach legs on a high diagonal with arms slightly overhead, keeping your back flat and pelvis still.

  2. Return to neutral on the inhale.

  3. Perform 10 reps.

8) C-Curving

  1. Begin sitting high on your sit bones, feet wide and hands behind your knees.

  2. Gently rock back without sinking your chest in.

  3. Staying back, exhale as you pulse backwards, hollowing out your low belly.

  4. Go for 20-30 pulses.

9) Side Plank

Side plank is a good alternative for high plank if you’re in a workout class and the instructor asks everyone to plank. Side plank can be done throughout your postpartum journey, while high plank and elbow plank should not be done until you have nearly healed your diastasis recti and have a strong TVA.

  1. Place your elbow directly underneath your shoulder and stack your top leg in front of your back leg, so both feet are touching the floor.

  2. Make sure your shoulders and hips are stacked so they are in line with your head and feet.

  3. Keep breathing and drawing in your core as you hold this pose. Don’t hold for longer than 15-20 seconds to start.

28 Day Diastasis Recti Workout Challenge

I have been getting so many questions from mommies regarding Diastasis Recti and how to treat it. I wrote a HUGE nice long post on DA which you can read here, but now I am back to bring you a Diastasis Recti Workout Challenge to keep you motivated to healing those separated muscles.

If you are unfamiliar with this condition, basically it is when your abdominal muscles split in two. Your abs will naturally stretch apart somewhat during pregnancy to make way for baby. However, a normal pregnancy should result in the abdominal muscles eventually closing back up together with no gaps (which can take up to 12 weeks or longer sometimes).

However, when your abs stretch too much, something’s gotta give. Think of a stretchy hair tie. You overuse it or stretch it too much and it won’t go back to being tight and useful. It does not hold your hair in place right? You try to put your hair up with it and your hair falls out in buldges everywhere.

The same holds true with your abs and DA. Your abs stretch so much that you cause gapping in between your two abdominal halves that cannot be naturally retracted. Instead, you are left with a 2in+ finger gap and a nice little (or huge) bulge at your belly otherwise known as the “mommy tummy.”

Unfortunately 1 in 2 women will develop DA during pregnancy whether it be from natural causes such as the size of your baby, being overweight, or having twins but you can also get DA by doing the WRONG exercises!

Some exercises to avoid during pregnancy are:

  • planks
  • crunches
  • sit ups
  • rotating moves

Basically avoid anything that makes your belly “cone” and puts extra, unnessary pressure on that already protruding tummy. I NEVER worked my abs during pregnancy and thus I have never gotten DA! Sometimes, you cannot help it. But most of the time, you can try.

This simple self-test will help you determine if you have diastasis recti:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent upward, as if you are in the starting position for a crunch exercise.
  2. Place your fingers right above your belly button.
  3. Raise your head and shoulders off floor as if you are performing a crunch exercise.
  4. If you can feel a gap or see a buldging, then you could have a diastasis.

For the next 28 days, you will be doing the following 4 moves to help you heal and to strengthen your core:

  • Bird Dogs
  • Marching
  • Abdominal Vaccum
  • Cat/Cow Pose

For a complete video of each move along with an example of the DA self test and 3 moves to avoid, watch the clip below and be sure to follow me on Instagram!

⭐️ HOW TO SELF-TEST FOR DIASTASIS RECTI + 4 MOVES TO HEAL DA & 3 MOVES TO AVOID ⭐️ Complete each move for 30 seconds; repeat 3 times. Outfit: @senita

A post shared by Sia Cooper (@diaryofafitmommyofficial) on Mar 25, 2017 at 9:46am PDT

BONUS MOVES ALSO INCLUDED IN CHALLENGE:

  • Heel Drops
  • Pelvic Tilts
  • Heel Taps

So, who’s ready? Let’s gooooooo!

Here is your pinnable chart. Feel free to hover your mouse over the image to save to Pinterest instantly!

Rules:

  • Take each move carefully and slowly.
  • Practice deep inhalation and breathing with each move.
  • No repeats! All you’ve got to do is what the day says to do.
  • Stop if you feel any excess pressure or any pain.
  • Always consult a doctor prior to beginning any exercise regimine.

I have been asked if women with Diastasis Recti can become one of my Strong Body Guide girls-YES, you can! As long as your DA isn’t too severe and you’ve gotten your doctor’s approval, we would love for you to join us. With thousands of women in our private online support group (free with purchase of the Strong Body Guide), we have quite a few ladies with DA whom you can talk to about modying some of the moves and dealing with repairement!

To check out my Strong Body Guide,

Your trainer and friend,

10 Best Diastasis Recti Exercises You Can Do At Home To Strengthen Your Core Charushila Biswas Hyderabd040-395603080 January 14, 2020

Motherhood is a blessing. It is also a time when a woman’s body readjusts itself to give the baby enough space to grow. And that may cause the muscles in the midsection of your abdomen to get pulled apart. This condition is called diastasis recti (diastasis – separation; recti – Rectus abdominis), and it may lead to herniation of abdominal viscera, cause difficulty in vaginal birthing, breathing, and moving, and make you look pregnant long after childbirth (1), (2).

To treat diastasis recti, you must exercise targeting the deep abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles. Do these 10 best diastasis recti exercises at home daily to see a visible change and feel better. Read on to know about the symptoms, causes, and exercises to treat diastasis recti. Swipe up!

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis recti is caused due to the pulling apart of the abdominal muscle, rectus abdominis. Rectus abdominis is the muscle that we commonly call the “six pack”. The two parallel muscles run vertically down on each side of the abdomen and are separated by a band of connective tissue known as the linea alba.

When the baby starts growing, your body readjusts itself as the pregnancy hormones help relax the muscles. This may cause the rectus abdominis to get separated, leading to diastasis recti.

The rectus abdominis also helps hold the internal organs in place. But due to diastasis recti, the internal organs – like the bowels, uterus, etc. – are only held by a band of connective tissue, which causes the organs to bulge out. Mostly, the diastasis recti heals itself after childbirth. But in many cases, it doesn’t heal and may need exercise therapy. In fact, diastasis recti can occur in newborn babies and men (due to incorrect exercise technique). Before we start with the exercises, here are the main symptoms of diastasis recti.

Symptoms Of Diastasis Recti

  • Poor posture
  • Bloating
  • Low back pain
  • Bulging out of internal organs in the standing position
  • Disappearance of the bulge in the lying position
  • More than a two-finger-width gap between the muscles in your navel area
  • Constipation

Now that you are aware of the symptoms, let’s quickly see if you really have diastasis recti. Here’s how you can tell.

Diastasis Recti Test

  • Lie down on your back with your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your head slightly and place two (or three) fingers on your belly button.
  • Press your fingers lightly and see if there’s a gap.
  • If there is a gap, you have diastasis recti.

NOTE: Consult your doctor before concluding that you have diastasis recti or doing any of the following exercises.

If you have diastasis recti, and your doctor gives you the green light to go ahead and do some core strengthening exercises, the following exercises are for you.

10 Best Exercises For Treating Diastasis Recti

1. Pelvic Tilt

Target – Core stabilizers and pelvic floor muscles

How To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat with your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and rotate your hip up toward your face.
  2. Engage your core by tilting your pelvis up so that your entire back, till your tailbone, is against the floor.
  3. Hold this pose for a second and then relax.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 30 seconds between each rep

2. Heel Slide

Target – Core, glutes, and pelvic muscles

  1. Lie down on a mat. Keep your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and toes pointing up. This is the starting position.
  2. Slide your right heel and straighten your right leg.
  3. Hold the pose for a moment and then slide your heel back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Do the same exercise with your left leg.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 30 seconds between each rep

3. Heel Slide Circles

Target – Core, glutes, and pelvic muscles

  1. Lie down on a mat with your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and your spine in a neutral position. This is the starting position.
  2. Slide your right heel and straighten your right leg.
  3. Make a “scooping” motion with your leg by lifting your heel off the floor, flexing your knee, and then placing your foot back in the starting position.
  4. Repeat the move 10 times before switching legs.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 30 seconds between each rep

4. Bent Knee Raise

Target – Core, glutes, and pelvic muscles

  1. Lie down on a mat and keep your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and your spine in the neutral position. This is the starting position.
  2. Keeping your knees flexed, lift your right leg off the floor and then bring it back to the starting position.
  3. Do this 10 times before switching legs.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

5. Pelvic Pillow Squeeze

Target – Core, pelvic muscles, and abductor

  1. Lie down on your back. Keep your knees flexed, feet flat on the floor, hands by your side, and palms facing up.
  2. Place a pillow between your legs, and keep your spine in the neutral position.
  3. Press your knees together and squeeze the pillow. Hold this pose for 3 seconds. Relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

6. Slightly Hyperextended Bridge

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push your pelvis down so that your lower back is against the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Lift your core a little higher than the regular bridge exercise.
  4. Hold this pose for 3 seconds and then slowly lower your back to the floor.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 5 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each rep

7. Lying Overhead Reach

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push your pelvis down so that your lower back is against the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Keeping your arms extended, lift them off the floor, above your head, and bring them almost all the way to the ground.
  4. Pause for a second and bring your arms back down slowly to the starting position.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

8. Knee To Chest

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstring

  1. Lie down on your back. Flex your knees, and keep your feet and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push your pelvis down so that your lower back is against the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Lift your right leg off the floor and bring your right knee close to your chest.
  4. Bring it back to the starting position slowly.
  5. Lift your left leg off the floor and bring your left knee close to your chest.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

9. Abduction With Core Activation

Target – Core, abductor, pelvic floor, glutes, and quads

  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet flat on the mat.
  2. Take a resistance band and place it just above your knees. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale, engage your core, pull your knees apart, and then bring them back to the starting position. Inhale as you bring your knees back.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between sets

10. Alternating Leg Circles

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

  1. Lie down on a mat, keep your legs together, palms flat on the floor, and look up at the ceiling.
  2. Lift both your legs and flex your knees. This is your starting position.
  3. Straighten your right leg and draw two small imaginary circles with it.
  4. Flex your right knee and bring it back to the starting position.
  5. Do the same with your left leg.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 5 reps on each leg

Rest – 30 seconds between reps, and 60 seconds between sets

These 10 exercises will help strengthen your core and get your ab muscles back to normal again. You should also know which exercises you should avoid. These exercises will weaken and worsen your condition. Here’s the list – take a look.

Diastasis Recti Exercises To Avoid

  • Crunches
  • Plank
  • Sit-ups
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Leg up crunches
  • Russian twist
  • Jackknife
  • Oblique curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Roll-ups
  • Full push-ups

This means that you should avoid traditional core-strengthening exercises.

But apart from doing the right exercises and avoiding the regular core strengthening exercises, here are a few other things you can do to improve your condition.

Other Things To Do

  • Practice good posture.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.
  • Flex your knees and roll out of bed.
  • Place a pillow to support your back while sitting.

These extra precautions will protect you from the following complications.

Diastasis Recti Complications

  • Low back pain
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Bad posture
  • Weak trunk mobility and stability
  • A hernia

Conclusion

Diastasis recti can be treated and cured if you start exercising at the right time. Maintaining good posture, taking precautions, and getting regular check-ups done are key.

Do not rush your recovery. Take your time to build strength, and you will get rid of the “mommy pooch” faster than you think. So, talk to your doctor today and get to work. Take care!

  1. “Diastasis recti abdominis – a review of treatment methods.”, Ginekologia polska, US National Library of Medicine
  2. “Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain.”, Manual Therapy, US National Library of Medicine

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Charushila Biswas

Charushila Biswas is a Senior Content Writer and an ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist. She is an alumni of VIT University, Vellore and has worked on transgenic wheat as a part of her Masters dissertation from NRCPB (IARI), New Delhi. After completing her Masters, she developed a passion for nutrition and fitness, which are closely related to human psychology. And that prompted her to author a review article in 2015. She has written over 200 articles on Fitness and Nutrition. In her leisure time, Charushila loves to cook and enjoys mobile photography.

12 Weeks of Workouts to Rebuild After Diastasis Recti

Click Here to Download a PDF of the Entire 12-Week Cycle

Diastasis recti is a thinning of the tissue that connects the two sides of the rectus abdominis. This tissue is called the linea alba.

When pressure builds, as inevitably happens during pregnancy, the connective tissues weaken and become thinner. This also increases the load in other parts of your body, which can affect posture and cause back pain. Pregnancy is a common cause of diastasis recti, but it can also be caused by rapid weight gain, intense abdominal exercise, and even heavy lifting.

If you have diastasis recti, you will need to adjust your training. I’ve designed a twelve-week diastasis recti recovery cycle of workouts to help you get through the healing process without missing your time in the gym.

Signs of Diastasis Recti

The typical way to test for diastasis recti is to lie flat on your back and lift your head off the ground while palpating along the entire linea alba. Here is a helpful video demonstration of a test:

If you have diastasis recti, you might also notice an abdominal protrusion when you do crunches, or you might have a stubborn pregnancy pooch. Research suggests you can have an abdominal protrusion without a diastasis and vice versa. If you observe an abdominal protrusion while doing crunches or any other time, discuss it with your doctor or a physical therapist so you can determine the exact cause.

“If you have diastasis recti, diet and regular exercise can help, but skip the hundreds of GHD sit ups until your diastasis is completely healed. Now more than ever, your training needs to be smart.”

Although diastasis recti is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscles, studies indicate the transversus abdominis also plays a critical role in the prevention and treatment of diastasis recti. When I worked on closing my diastasis recti after the birth of my second child, I found it helpful to focus on engaging the transversus abdominis while standing and sitting.

If you have diastasis recti, diet and regular exercise can help, but you’ll also need to skip the hundreds of GHD sit ups until your diastasis is completely healed.

A Twelve-Week Cycle of Free Workouts

The diastasis recti recovery workout program is ideal for women who have received the green light to exercise after delivery and are looking for a gentle and effective way to rebuild core strength and stability. However, pregnancy is not the only cause of diastasis recti, so you certainly don’t have to be a mom to do the workouts.

The cycle includes three four-week phases:

  • Phase one focuses on stabilizing the core muscles and restoring abdominal strength and low back support through bodyweight workouts, daily walking, and restorative core exercises.
  • Phase two continues the exercises from phase one, but with kettlebell workouts added in twice a week to build strength. The strength exercises in phase two have a higher volume and lower load than in phase three.
  • Phase three adds in one day of high-intenstiy cardiovascular exercise while increasing the load and turning down the volume for your strength work.

The goal of these workouts is safely lose baby weight while also strengthening the core musculature. There are no traditional core exercises in this series. Until your diastasis has completely healed, avoid these exercises, which can aggravate the condition. Even after your diastasis has closed, you may choose to avoid them and opt for movements that place less load on the abdominal wall.

“The basic goal of these workouts is to strengthen the core musculature while avoiding typical core isolation exercises, which can aggravate diastasis recti. For this reason, there are no traditional core exercises in this series.”

Although the recommendation to avoid direct ab work is pretty well known in the fitness community, your clients might not know how detrimental it can be to the postpartum body. I can’t tell you how many moms I see doing “500 Crunches a Day” challenges to get six-pack abs shortly after delivery.

But studies have repeatedly shown isolated abdominal work may not be the most effective way to build core strength. For example, a 2013 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared the following isolation core exercises and integrative core exercises:

Isolation Exercises

  • Crunch
  • Oblique Crunch
  • Extensions

Integrative Exercises

  • Mountain Climber Plank
  • Hover With Lateral Reach
  • Side Hover
  • Pointer With Resistance Bands

Mountain Climber Plank

Hover With Lateral Reach

Side Hover

Pointer With Resistance Bands

After testing all these exercises and measuring muscle activation, the researchers came to the following conclusion:

Overall, our results demonstrated that the activation of the abdominal and lumbar muscles was greatest during the integration exercises that required activation of deltoid and gluteal muscles.

For example, the rectus abdominis was 27% more active during the hover with lateral reach exercise than it was during the traditional crunch.

Diastasis Recti-Safe Exercises

Here are a few of my favorite exercises for diastasis recti recovery. Like the exercises used in the study, they are not direct ab exercises but will still help close the gap.

Strength Exercises

  • Glute bridge
  • Side plank
  • Australian pull up
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Bodyweight squats/wall sit

These exercises utilize many muscle groups to support and strengthen the core musculature. The strength exercises used in my twelve-week program were chosen to avoid increased pressure on the abdominal wall while also building all-around strength.

Natural Movements

  • Crawling
  • Hanging
  • Walking

Restorative Poses

  • Legs up wall
  • Psoas release
  • Child’s pose

These natural movements and restorative poses work to engage the core musculature in a dynamic way, as opposed to in isolation. They also help alleviate issues that can be aggravated by diastasis recti, such as lower back pain. Do these movements every day.

DO THE WORKOUTS: Diastasis Recti Recovery, Week 1

Give It Time

This twelve-week workout cycle is similar to the methods I used to heal my own diastasis recti. After the birth of my second child and a long period of bedrest, I had a diastasis that was about four fingers wide. It was frustrating to feel held back by my own body when I felt ready to hit the gym. But with smart training, patience, and consistency, diastasis recti will usually resolve itself and does not necessarily require invasive methods like surgery.

I hope this program is helpful to you and you are able to reduce your diastasis recti.

Exercise for diastasis recti

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