I had heard about diastasis recti before, but I was hoping to escape it during pregnancy. Well….I didn’t. Somewhere in my second trimester I discovered that when I sat up, my stomach formed a peak.
Diastasis recti is when the abdominal muscles separate. Between 35 and 62% of women have diastasis recti. It is very important to know if you have it and to take the steps to heal it, as this abdominal separation is closely linked with the pelvic floor muscles. If you get those muscles out of whack, you will potentially encounter other problems, such as incontinence or organ prolapse.
It is possible to close this gap, though, even if you have had it for years.
One might think that the best way to close this gap is to just work out your abdominal muscles. I thought sit-ups should be able to quickly close gap. It turns out, sit-ups can actually be detrimental. The key is to close the diastasis recti working the muscles from the inside out, not the outside in (which is what sit-ups do). If you focus on the outer abdominals, it is possible to actually make the diastasis separation worse.
Here is a great video that explains more about what diastasis recti is, how to see if you have it, and some great exercises for closing it. This is a great post with information and accompanying photos.
One of my favorite workouts has been Lindsay Brin’s postnatal boot camp. She also has a YouTube channel, Moms Into Fitness, with some great workout videos with some specifically tailored for those with diastasis.
Oh I am so glad you posted this, I have been struggling with this and trying to figure something out! THANK YOU!
I had no idea this was even an issue! Thanks for sharing!
Oh no, that’s thinking too simple! Yes, sit ups and crunches, and anything that causes your belly to bulge upon exertion can (POTENTIALLY, but NOT definitely) further injure your midline. Intra-abdominal pressure can occur from many forces, daily ones that don’t seem obvious. And YES, working the abdominals from the inside out (AKA, Transverse Abdominals) will improve the gap. With that said, simply targeting and contacting those muscles is such a tiny piece of the puzzle it’s practically insufficient. A) there’s more to it and B) muscles need RESISTANCE. Simply sitting or standing and tensing those muscles is a static exercise, and there is only a little benefit.
Most individuals with DR actually had it prior to pregnancy, but the separation was so insignificant at the time, that the person was simply unaware. This is because DR is a whole body issue starting with alignment, thus needing a WHOLE BODY FIX. Think about the midline as a hose. If you’re body is unaligned, the hose gets a kink and cannot function optimally. The “TRICK” to healing DR is a complete lifestyle change. I fully closed my DR from a 3-4 finger gap… When people tell you it takes just a few weeks or you just need to do a few DR-safe ab exercises, they are attacking the symptoms and not the cause! Katysays.com is a really good place to start studying alignment and alignment VS posture. There is also a facebook Diastasis Support Group that is AWESOME.
Diet is a close second to alignment. Without correcting diet and getting proper amounts of nutrients, your body cannot heal. Protein improves collagen for example, and is a tremendously important one to get enough of, as the midline is primarily made of collagen! Healthy fats, the right carbs, enough water, enough fiber, lots of veggies and fruits… NO, process foods, NO refined sugar, and NO white flour.
Exercise is a piece of the puzzle. But honestly, it’s the more lax one out of them all. Yoga, martial arts, weight training, whatever… The KEY here is to slowly build strength in your glutes, thighs, calves, back, and shoulders. What a lot of people don’t realize, is along with alignment issues, DR is a result of too tight and too weak of muscles, forcing you to lean your weight forward, tuck your pelvis, and round your shoulders. It’s very important that you start letting your core heal while slowly incorporating more and more challenging movements as you CONDITION YOUR WHOLE BODY and strengthen. Form is absolutely essential and ties in with alignment.
REST is right up there with everything else. Don’t make the mistake of motivating yourself enough that you start exercising every day. I am a very active person myself, and I’ll randomly do a few reps of squats or lunges or wall sits, or whatever, throughout the day even on rest days. I learned by experience, not giving your body sufficient time off from comfort-zone movements only creates hurtles and exercising just a few times a week is PLENTY.
All of these things make or break the process and you will not succeed until you understand how “deep” this issue really goes. Good luck. Just remember to think “whole body fix” and give less credit to the gap itself.
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