Diastasis Recti is a separation is your abdominal wall, caused by pregnancy, weight gain, or too much stress on the rectus abdominis, like heavy lifting.
I’ll give you a quick overview to find out if you have it, and to what degree.
You need diastasis recti safe exercises to avoid, and which ones to do.
With diastasis recti, you need safe exercises so you can help heal the separation and not cause more damage.
I’ll show you a great total body workout, including warm up and stretch. All this can be done in 15-30 minutes.
CONSIDERATION: Please consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program, or if you experience pain or discomfort (stopping performing exercise immediately)
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Do you have diastasis recti?
How do you know if you have an abdominal separation? Chances are if you are reading this post, you already know. But let’s just make sure you do, and to determine the degree of separation.
I’m going to go through the steps with you.
Finger Width Gap
1 or less Finger Gap-
1 finger gap or less is considered a normal or a healed separation.
You have the green light to go harder, longer, faster in your workouts. You can introduce new workouts, including some of the ones you’ve been advise to avoid during the healing process, along with more cardio style exercises and plyometrics (jumps).
Please keep in mind, in order to KEEP your abdominal muscles healthy, you still want to practice proper warm ups and cool downs.
2 Finger Gap-
2 finger gap is almost there! This means you should still stay away from certain exercises like planks, straining, lifting too heavy. Also, those warm up and cool downs!
3+ Finger Gap-
3 finger gap or more is most common for women who are in second and third trimester, or postpartum aka fourth trimester (that’s until baby is three months old), and/or over-fat.
Being Mindful of Your Body Will Fix Your Diastasis Recti
When it comes to fixing DR in the beginning, it’s more about what you AVOID, so you’re keeping your abdominal muscles safe while healing.
What to avoid…
- Lifting too heavy or too soon after giving birth
- Straining when lifting
- Any plank position exercise like planks, standard floor push ups, some Yoga and Pilates positions
- Hyper-extension of the back, that causes the belly to push out
- Sit-ups and traditional crunches (modified crunches will be appropriate)
- Running/Jumping/Biking/Cycling before diastasis recti is healed to a 2 finger gap
- NOT keeping belly drawn in while sitting/standing; or pushing belly out
- NOT bracing abs when exercising or lifting
- NOT warming up and stretching before and after exercising
What to do…
- BE PATIENT! I really can’t stress this enough. Your body is a beautifully designed creation, that does an incredible job at healing postpartum. As long as you are mindful and take it easy while it’s in the process of healing
- Ask for help with the kids and tasks, while healing (or anytime you need it for that matter!)
- Focus on restoring the pelvic floor before anything else
- Modifications while exercising
- Always roll to your side and push up, to get up from a lying position
How I Figured Out I Had DR
I shared my favorite daily equipment with you in my last post, where I talked about my favorite small equipment. I seriously use this equipment all the time!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m the girl that loves heavy lifting, but when you have DR that’s just not smart.
When I was exactly 6 weeks postpartum with my fourth, Delaney, I jumped right into working out. I expected to pick up where I left off before giving birth, because I was feeling good!
I was lifting weights, cardio, picking up the baby and the toddler at the same time, because they both needed me.
It wasn’t long before I felt a sharp decline in my strength, specifically abs and pelvic floor. I started to wake with lower back pains. It was increasingly hard to stand upright with good posture, because my abs would throb making me slouch over. And the width of the gap in my abs was widening over time, not closing.
That affected my overall strength in my basic exercises like squats, lunges, upper body, basically everything.
Even as a personal trainer I didn’t take the cues of my body. Why? Because I wanted the pre baby body back as quick as possible. I wanted to feel normal in my body, and I wanted to have the strength and energy I know exercising gives you. I felt the internal pressure that “I should be able to do it all”.
My Turning Point
All this took its toll, which finally halted my workouts completely.
I can remember when I knew my body had enough. It was Thanksgiving weekend, and my sister-in-law invited me to go to indoor cycle with her.
Every.Single.Time I stood up on the bike during the class, I PEED a little on myself.
This had not happen postpartum with my other three kids. And hadn’t happen during the first three months of my fourth.
So why did it happen now!? Because I didn’t give myself proper time to heal. I waited the six weeks like we all do, and expected to be good to go.
But I wasn’t good to go. So, I stopped working out completely.
Instead of lifting my toddler and baby, I sat with them as much as possible. I also had to stop wearing my baby in her carrier.
I stopped all this for about a month or more.
Then I honed in on all my fitness trainer skills and started from ground zero.
I stopped using heavy weights and focused on body weight, bands and balls to gain strength and balance.
I never skip out on my warm up or my stretch. You shouldn’t either!
So, if you’re…
- postpartum (when you feel your ready, or after clearance if necessary)
- have diastasis recti and/or weak pelvic floor
- five or ten years after giving birth, with no special conditions
Let’s do this!
The Warm Up…
This pelvic floor exercise IS NOT KEGALS! We ARE NOT stopping the flow of pee! So lose all the you’ve heard before…please and thank you.
Clockwork | Pelvic Floor Exercise
- Lie flat on your back, on your mat with knees bent and feet flat. Inhale and relax everything.
- Close your eyes and visualize your pelvis as a clock. Pubic bone (front) is 12 o’clock, Tailbone (back) is 6 o’clock, Left ASIS (hip) is 9 o’clock, and Right ASIS (hip) is 3 o’clock.
- On your exhale, bring your pelvic floor muscles “up and in”, drawing 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock ( you are not squeezing, stopping the flow of pee).
- Inhale and relax.
- Next exhale, add in bringing together 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock. You should feel lower abs tighten and flatten.
- Now you will come standing. Roll your shoulders back and down for better posture, you should have a natural curve in your lower back and don’t tuck hips under you.
- Using the same breath as in the pelvic floor exercise; inhale, feel ribs expand and relax. Next, on the exhale draw your abs together, like you’re trying to knit them together and brace like someone is about to punch you in the stomach. You SHOULD NOT suck in belly button (hallowing belly).
- Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax and start over for a total of 10 reps.
*Before you jump into these exercises, you HAVE TO KEEP IN MIND THE ABOVE WARM UPS! You will incorporate both exercises into the exercises below. With each inhale, relax muscles. With each exhale, pelvic floor comes up and in and abs braces while the other muscles contract during the exercises.
You will perform this workout “Circuit” style, meaning do the first workout, then the second, then the third, and last the fourth. Then you will repeat that way 3 more times, for a total of 4 sets.
Squats with Band
- Step onto your band and get into a Wide Stance position, feet wider than hip width, with feet pointed out. Your knees should track over your feet as you squat down.
- The band will stretch as you spread your feet. You will hold the handle of the bands or the extra of the band (depending on the type of band) in both hands.
- From standing position inhale through nose while relaxing everything on the down position.
- At the bottom exhale pushing through spread toes, *ACTIVATING PELVIC FLOOR AND ABS FIRST, then butt (glutes), then legs (quads). At the top hold for 4 seconds.
- Inhale and relax, go back down to starting position. Repeat for 60 seconds.
One Arm Bent Over Row with Band
- Come into a staggered stance, one foot out in front with toes straight ahead, and knee soft. The other foot behind you with foot slightly turned out, and leg straight.
- You will step onto your band with the front foot. Grab the handle or slack of band with the opposite hand.
- Now, bend from your hips over the front leg. Make sure back is straight and chest is out. Don’t slouch. *ACTIVATE PELVIC FLOOR AND BRACE ABS. Breathing will be shallow because abs need to stay braced.
- Next, your arm will hang straight down towards the ground in starting position, with handle in hand.
- Exhaling, bend the elbow pulling up and around your ribs. You want to focus in your upper back muscles while pulling.
- Inhale when coming back into position. Repeat for 60 seconds each side.
Wall Push Ups
- Step to a wall that has enough room to place your hands slightly wider than chest apart, fingers spread.
- Walk your feet slightly behind you to put you at an angle.
- *ACTIVATE PELVIC FLOOR AND BRACE ABS. Again, breathing will be shallow to keep braced abs, not full breathes.
- Bend elbows, don’t let them flare too much, keep them “tight” to you. While bending elbows lower your upper body to the wall until your nose touches, or close.
- Next, push evenly through your hands to push your body back into the up position. Repeat for 60 seconds, taking short pauses when needed.
Hamstring Curl on Ball
- Come back down to your mat with your exercise ball. Keep the ball close while you lie flat on your back, then put the ball under the balls of your feet about hip width or less apart.
- Next, pressing the balls of your feet into the top of the ball, lift your hips and stabilize yourself, so you don’t fall over.
- Now, exhaling out *ACTIVATE PELVIC FLOOR AND BRACE ABS first, then squeeze your butt while pulling your legs towards you.
- Pause in this position 4 seconds. Repeat for 60 seconds.
AH, you’re all done! Now, there are so many stretches you can do, but I really like this one if your short on time and can only do one.
- Flip over on your mat with hands under shoulders and knees and hips.
- Now, sit your butt back to your heels or as far as you can. Arms stretch out in front of you.
- This is all about relaxing, not more bracing and squeezing. Every breath releases you more…Stay here as long as you want.
What equipment you will need
What do I do now?
If you don’t have another workout routine, just do this throughout the week 3-4 times.
I mentioned a few times to work on your pelvic floor, so you can also incorporate these exercises into your routine daily.
The pelvic floor is connected to your abs, so learning to work them together is best.
So what do you think? Leave a comment below!
How do you help heal your diastasis recti? How has it held your back from where you want to be?