How to reverse diastasis recti – using nothing but exercise

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How to reverse diastasis recti – using nothing but exercise

Uh-huh – you can, and you will!

It’s 1:37 am, and the baby is crying. You *want* to get out of bed quickly and feed bubs, but you just can’t – and it’s not because you’re exhausted. You just literally cannot sit up straight. 

When you try, it feels like your abs are out to lunch. Vanished. Gone, girl. 

So, while you roll to your side and then push yourself up (a great plan, by the way –we’ll tell you why in a minute), we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about why your abs have quit their job and moved to Bali. And, you’ll know, how to get them back.

Do you have diastasis recti?

Your rectus abdominis muscles are what most people think of when they think of “abs”. They’re your six pack. And yes, you have them – technically, everyone’s got a six pack, somewhere in there – but pregnancy can stretch and weaken them. 

And, in some cases, pregnancy can separate the two sides from one another. That’s diastasis recti: the separation of the two sides of your rectus abdominis that occurs when the connective tissue between them is stretched too far. 

Here’s how to know if your abs are just weak from pregnancy or if you’ve got the more serious diastasis recti:

  1. Do you have “doming”, or a bulge running down the middle of your belly?
  2. Is there pain down the middle of your belly?
  3. Is it absurdly hard to do even the smallest sit-up movement, like when you get out of bed?
  4. Does your low back ache like you’re 80,000 years old?

If this describes you right now, you might have diastasis rectus abdominis – an abdominal separation – that needs some TLC. 

Stop doing these things right now

First things first, beautiful.

As with any injury, you can actually make diastasis recti worse if you don’t change your habits until it’s healed. 

Here are the big baddies – make sure you quit these immediately:

  • Sit-ups. They are not your friend. Actually, they’re your nemesis for now. Don’t do anything resembling them, whether you’re exercising or just living your life. That’s why rolling to your side before you get out of bed or off the couch is critical: take every opportunity to lessen the strain on the front of your abdomen. 
  • Have your partner carry the big kids. Just for now, limit your kid-lifting to the baby only. Heavy lifting both requires a strong core and can injure a weakened one. If there’s any time to choose your health over giving in to your sweet kiddo yelling, “Up! Up!”, it’s now. 
  • Ease off the intensity. Planks, burpees, and crunches: put them all on pause for now while you focus on healing your ab separation. These motions draw the superficial abdominal muscles apart, which you already know to avoid like an ex-boyfriend. You might feel like everything else is getting stronger, but if exercise injures you further, those “gains” won’t help you where it matters.

Activate your healing now with these core principles

See what we did there? 😉

Now that you’ve stopped accidentally re-injuring yourself, it’s time to start the healing process. Use these principles to guide your movements, exercises, and choices while the separation closes. 

  • Check in while on your hands and knees. Really tune in to your deep abs and see if you can exhale and gently draw your pelvic floor up and draw your lower belly gently toward the spine? Maintaining a solid, stable core in this position is the basis for regaining your strength.
  • Pilates is your friend. Just like crunches are your nemesis, Pilates is your hero magician, come to rescue you from an ab-less life. Pilates begins with the stabilizing position we just described, and then progresses through a series of strengthening motions for an entire sweat sesh. 
  • Breathe before you lift. We know parenthood comes with a lot of stuff to haul around. The baby, the stroller, the groceries, the gigantic boxes of wipes delivered to your door. If you have to lift, don’t hold your breath. That puts strain on your pelvic floor and abdomen that you just don’t need right now. Always inhale to prepare, and exhale to lift. 
  • Make your exercise functional. Don’t worry about kickboxing or beating your opponent on the soccer field. What you need help with, right now, is getting out of bed and getting up off the floor after stacking block tower after block tower. Make sure your exercises mimic those movements so that you can enjoy strength in your daily life. You can add in the intense stuff after your beautiful body is healed. 

Diastasis recti is a serious situation – after all, you deserve to have full use of your glorious bod at every phase of life. But even though it’s serious, it’s not incurable. 

Not remotely. 

Smart, Pilates-based exercise is the most effective way to heal diastasis recti. 

Ready to learn a full range of diastasis recti-friendly exercises that will make you feel like yourself again? Girl, we gotchu. Mosey on over to our program page and get started!