4 Exercises To Heal Diastasis Recti

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 RectiDiastasis Recti: Why Ab Separation in Pregnancy Happens, and How to Treat It
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. 

    Source : https://www.whattoexpect.com/first-year/your-health/diastasis-recti-exercises/

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