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For a great many postpartum women, they simply don’t feel themselves. Adjusting to life as a new mum can be daunting.
You’ve spent many months carrying your newborns, your hormones are probably all over the place and when you look in the mirror you may not recognise that person looking back at you.
And that’s all perfectly normal and OK.
Recommended Reading – 6 Effective Anterior Pelvic Tilt Exercises To Fix Imbalances
For most new moms, their bodies go through many changes to allow for a growing baby and one of the most likely changes is diastasis recti.
But the good news is that with a few core exercises, you can help to improve this common condition to build your core strength and improve your confidence.
In this article, we’re going to look at this condition in more detail and suggest some abs exercises for diastasis recti.
What Is Diastatis Recti
Imagine the center of your abdomen is a busy highway where the lanes suddenly part ways, creating an unexpected gap.
This is essentially what happens in the case of diastasis recti, and this ab separation, while common, often flies under the radar.
Diastasis recti abdominis occurs when the rectus abdominis, more commonly known as your six-pack muscles, begin to separate along the midline of the belly.
This abdominal separation happens because the linea alba, which is connective tissue that holds the muscles together, becomes thin and stretches.
While it’s most common in postpartum and pregnant women and is often referred to as ‘mummy tummy’, it’s not exclusive to new mothers.
It can also affect men and women who’ve never given birth and is typically sparked by anything that puts excessive pressure on the ab muscles.
This pressure can stem from rapid weight gain, carrying multiples during pregnancy, or performing exercises that overstrain the abdominal area and deep core muscles.
But why should this matter to you?
Aside from impacting the aesthetic appearance of your abdomen, creating a bulge or “pooch,” diastasis recti can lead to other unwanted symptoms.
Not only can it weaken your core strength, but it can also contribute to lower back pain, leading to poor posture and movement.
The silver lining? Proper awareness and targeted exercises for ab separation can significantly bridge this gap, helping you to develop a strong core.
No matter how many months postpartum you are, taking the first step with our diastasis recti ab exercises will improve your core strength leading to a firmer and more supportive abdominal wall.
How Do You Know If You Have Diastasis Recti
We know that diastasis recti is characterized by the separation of the abdominal muscles, but it can sometimes be tricky to pinpoint, throwing up signs that could be easy to overlook or misinterpret.
So, how can you tell if you’re among those with this abdominal muscle separation?
First, let’s talk visuals. One of the more common and easy-to-spot signs is a noticeable bulge or “pooch” in your belly, which is even more noticeable when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles.
This could be most apparent when you try getting up from lying down, or when engaging in daily activities that put pressure on your midsection.
A good idea is to try out our simple self-test which you can perform at home to help you determine if you might have diastasis recti:
- Lie Down: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Feel for the Gap: Place one hand behind your head, and with your other hand, gently press your fingertips into the center line of your abdomen.
- Lift Your Head: Slowly lift your head (as if you’re doing a mini-crunch exercise), keeping your shoulders on the ground. This action contracts your rectus abdominis and should make it easier to feel for any gaps.
- Measure the Gap: Move your fingers along your midline, and above and below your belly button, while feeling for any separation or gap between your muscles. The gap is measured in finger widths.
A separation of about one to two finger widths is usually considered normal, but anything beyond two fingers (roughly 2.5cm or more) could be a sign that you have diastasis recti.
Beyond any physical signs, diastasis recti might also include symptoms like a general feeling of weakness in the core, low back pain, and difficulty when doing physical activity that requires core stability, such as heavy lifting.
If you think you have diastasis recti, always seek advice from a healthcare provider who can undertake a proper diagnosis and may consider treatment from a physical therapist.
What Happens If Diastasis Recti Goes Untreated
If you’re suffering from diastasis recti, leaving it untreated can lead to a host of unwanted side effects:
1. Weakened Core Strength
One of the most immediate effects of untreated diastasis recti is weakened core strength.
While this may not seem too significant, when you have a weak core, this can have a knock-on effect on your ability to generate power and stability when doing common daily movements that involve lifting, bending, and even maintaining good posture.
2. Increased Risk of Back Pain
As your core becomes weak and loses its stability and support, the burden of maintaining good posture and spinal alignment falls increasingly on the muscles of your lower back.
This can lead to overuse and strain of the back muscles, potentially resulting in chronic back pain and discomfort.
3. Altered Body Mechanics
Diastasis recti can disrupt the natural alignment and mechanics of your body, affecting how you move and function on a daily basis.
This alteration in body mechanics can contribute to imbalances in muscle strength and coordination, potentially increasing the risk of injury during physical activities.
4. Hernias and Organ Prolapse
While this is less common, in the most severe cases, untreated diastasis recti can lead to the development of hernias prolapse of internal organs.
The weakened abdominal wall may allow organs such as the intestines or bladder to protrude through any gaps between the muscles, resulting in pain, discomfort, and further complications that could require surgical intervention.
5. Reduced Confidence
Beyond the physical signs, untreated diastasis recti can also take a toll on your emotional well-being, especially during the postpartum period when hormones are typically all over the place.
A visible bulge to your abdomen can affect your self-esteem and body image, potentially making you feel self-consciousness and unhappy with your appearance.
7. Delayed Recovery Postpartum:
If you’re a few weeks postpartum, leaving diastasis recti untreated could prolong the recovery process after childbirth.
This delay in recovery could hinder your return to your pre-pregnancy fitness level and overall well-being, affecting you both physically and emotionally.
However, while the consequences of untreated diastasis recti may seem daunting at first, there is hope.
With diagnosis and targeted treatment, including a proper ab workout for diastasis recti you can help to strengthen your abdominal muscles and improve core stability, allowing you to regain strength, function, and confidence in your body.
Abs Exercises For Diastasis Recti
The below ab separation exercises are designed to effectively but gently strengthen your core helping to promote the healing of diastasis recti.
Feel free to incorporate your favorites into your exercise program and if you need any advice on proper form, it’s a good idea to get some advice from a personal trainer.
Heel slides are excellent for engaging your deep core muscles without putting pressure on any abdominal separation.
They recruit the transverse abdominis muscle, helping to pull the muscles together and reduce any gaps.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Slowly slide one heel away from your body, straightening your leg as much as you can.
- Engage your core muscles as you slide your heel back to the starting position.
- Switch legs, aiming for 10-15 repetitions on each side.
Pelvic tilts are a great way to help strengthen your pelvic muscles and lower abdominal muscles, which is crucial for supporting the healing process.
These particular muscles often become weak when suffering from diastasis recti.
- Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms down by your sides.
- Flatten your back against the floor by gently tilting your pelvis upward.
- Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
- Perform 10-20 repetitions.
Toe taps are super easy to do and yet effective for targeting the lower abdominal wall muscles with particular emphasis on the lower transverse abdominis without adding stress to your midline.
For best results, keep your lower back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise.
- Start off by lying on your back, and lift both feet off the ground, and bend your knees to 90 degrees.
- Keeping a bent knee, slowly lower one foot down to tap the floor, then lift it back up to the starting position.
- Alternate between legs, making sure you keep your core engaged with your lower back staying in contact with the floor.
- Aim for 10-15 taps per leg, maintaining control and not letting your back arch.
Single Leg Stretch
The single-leg stretch helps to focus on core stability and control, which is vital for repairing diastasis recti.
When done with good form, it teaches you to stabilize your core as you move your arms and legs.
- Lie on your back and bring both knees up to your chest.
- Slowly extend one leg out straight, but don’t allow it to touch the floor. Keep your other knee bent into your chest while you do this.
- Switch legs and perform each rep with a smooth fluid motion in the air.
- Perform 8-10 stretches on each leg, keeping your abdominal muscles drawn in.
Standing Pelvic Tilt
If you find doing the lying pelvic tilt uncomfortable, then this standing variation is a great option for you.
It’s a great exercise for engaging your core and pelvic floor muscles helping to gently increase strength to the hip flexors and improve your stability.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and place your hands on your hips.
- Gently arch your lower back and then tuck your pelvis under while engaging your core.
- Carefully move between these positions, focusing on the movement coming from your pelvis.
- Complete 10-15 repetitions.
Dead Bug Exercise
The Dead Bug is a fantastic exercise for improving your core strength and stability while minimizing pressure on any abdominal separation making it a great exercise for diastasis recti.
It specifically recruits the deep core muscles helping to improve coordination while maintaining stability to your lower back and pelvis.
- Lie on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling and directly over your shoulders. Keep your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees.
- Engage your core by drawing your belly button in towards your spine, ensuring your lower back stays pressed into the floor.
- Slowly extend and lower your right arm and left leg toward the floor, keeping your core engaged throughout. Stop just before touching the floor and return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your left arm and right leg. This counts as one repetition.
- Aim for 8-12 repetitions, focusing on slow and controlled movements while maintaining core engagement without arching your back.
The Glute Bridge not only strengthens the glutes but also engages the core and pelvic floor, which are vital for stabilizing and supporting the lower back and abdominal muscles.
When done properly it will help to strengthen your posterior chain (muscles down the back of your body) without putting too much stress on your abs.
By improving your pelvic stability and core strength this can encourage healing of diastasis recti.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms down by your sides.
- Press your feet into the floor, take a deep breath out, then lift your hip bones towards the ceiling by squeezing your glutes.
- Keep your core engaged and avoid overarching your back.
- Hold this bridge position for a couple of seconds, then slowly lower your hips back to the floor.
- Perform 10-15 repetitions, ensuring smooth, controlled movement throughout.
Can Diastasis Recti Get Better On Its Own
In some more mild instances of diastasis recti, the condition may indeed improve on its own, especially during the early postpartum period.
Your body takes time to recover from the stresses of pregnancy and giving birth but the connective tissue that helps support your abdominal muscles can naturally tighten helping to reduce the gap between the muscles.
However, it’s important to note that not all cases of diastasis recti will resolve without help.
This can depend on factors such as the severity of the separation, your individual anatomy, lifestyle habits, and the presence of other contributing factors that could impact your body’s ability to heal by itself.
For many people, targeted exercises, a course of physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications can help to support and speed up the healing process.
By performing exercises that strengthen your core muscles, improve posture, and promote pelvic stability, you can make a big difference in improving diastasis recti while minimizing the impact on your daily life.
If you are suffering from diastasis recti it’s important to get some advice from healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists or fitness experts who have expertise in diastasis recti, as they can provide a more personalized plan based on your own circumstances and abilities.
What Exercises Should You Avoid With Diastasis Recti
Now that we’ve considered some of the best exercises to help you improve diastatis recti, let’s go over some of the exercises that are best avoided so you don’t weaken and potentially worsen this condition.
1. Traditional Crunches and Sit-ups
While they might seem like an obvious way of improving your core strength, these classic core exercises will actually increase intra-abdominal pressure, forcing your abdominal muscles outward and potentially worsening the separation of your ab muscles.
By straining the midsection, traditional crunches and sit-ups can delay healing and should be avoided until your core is stronger and the separation has significantly reduced.
2. Planks and Push-ups
When looking to build a strong core, planks and push-ups are excellent exercises under normal circumstances, but they can be problematic if you’re suffering from diastasis recti.
These exercises also create a significant amount of pressure on the abdominal wall, risking further separation of the abdominal muscles meaning they should be avoided.
3. Certain Yoga Poses and Pilates Movements
Movements that involve deep forward flexion, backbends, or twisting can exacerbate the symptoms of diastasis recti.
Poses like the boat pose, backbends, and deep twists should be approached with caution or, at the very least, modified according to the advice of a fitness professional who’s knowledgeable about diastasis recti.
4. Heavy Lifting
Exercises that involve heavy lifting or any activity that strains the core can worsen diastasis recti.
This includes lifting heavy weights at the gym without proper core support from something like a weight-lifting belt.
Focus on increasing your core strength before introducing heavy resistance-based exercises.
5. Intense Cardiovascular Exercises
High-impact cardiovascular exercises, such as running or jumping, can put additional stress on your already weakened abdominal muscles.
Instead, it’s better to stick to low-impact cardio alternatives, like walking or swimming, that provide a heart-healthy workout without putting any added strain on your core.
As we wrap up our best diastasis recti exercises, it’s important to know that developing entire core strength can take some time.
From understanding more about the condition to identifying the best exercises and strategies for recovery, each step will get you on the way to making significant improvements.
We’ve considered a range of exercises to help target the core muscles, promote stability, and minimize stress on the abdominal separation.
From gentle movements like pelvic tilts and heel slides to more dynamic and traditional exercises like the Dead Bug and Glute Bridge, each movement can play an important part in increasing your core strength and improving pelvic stability.