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Diastasis Recti Exercises: Reshape Your Abs After Pregnancy

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Diastasis Recti Exercises: Reshape Your Abs After Pregnancy

Diastasis recti exercises are an effective way to rebuild core strength after pregnancy. Low-intensity, core-focused exercises can help you regain your strength and ease back into workouts after giving birth. We recommend using a Hip circle band if you need a little extra support and help. 

Diastasis recti is a surprisingly prevalent injury that affects about 50% of women after they’ve given birth. Characterized by a separation of abs (it sounds much worse than it is), diastasis recti can heal quickly with the help of controlled core exercises. 

If you’re expecting a baby or have recently given birth, then keep reading to find out all there is to know about diastasis recti exercises. 

What is diastasis recti? 

Diastasis recti is an injury that often occurs as a direct result of pregnancy. We can best describe this injury as an indentation and separation of the abs. The increased intra-abdominal pressure causes the outer abdominal muscles to be forced apart throughout pregnancy and birth. 

Once the baby is born, the abdominal muscles can remain separated like this for days, weeks, and even months. It’s a very common injury to sustain during pregnancy.

As you can imagine, the abs won’t simply return to normal after being stretched for 9 months. In the majority of cases, diastasis recti isn’t dangerous, but it can be uncomfortable. If you’re ever in doubt about the severity of your injury, though, always seek medical advice. 

Diastasis recti isn’t limited to pregnant women, though! Occasionally newborns and men can face this issue. 

Signs and symptoms of diastasis recti

In many cases, signs and symptoms are minor and difficult to spot, but in more pronounced cases, they may be apparent.

The most obvious symptom is a distended belly or a visible gap between the abdominal muscles. This will look out of place from a typical postpartum belly. The belly button may also bulge outwards as more time passes. 

The most common symptoms include the following:
  • Visible ‘gap’ between abdominal muscles.
  • A visible post-pregnancy ‘pouch’ or pronounced stomach. 
  • Pain or discomfort in the core region
  • Back pain and discomfort.
  • Lack of mobility and difficulties carrying out everyday tasks. 
  • Urinary tract or bowel problems. 

How can I test for diastasis recti?

If you’re experiencing visible signs or symptoms, then diastasis recti may be pretty easy to self-diagnose. Still, you must have the injury looked over by a trained professional to confirm this fact. If you’re experiencing significant discomfort or pain in your lower back or core, then it’s essential to have a medical check-up, too. 

It’s also possible to check for diastasis at home if you are concerned. Simply try the following movements:
  1. Lie on the floor in a comfortable position with your back flat and knees bent at right angles. 
  2. Keep your stomach flat, then place your hand on your core, with your fingers along the midline. 
  3. Hold the back of your head with your other hand, then lift your head upwards off the floor. 
  4. While lifting your head, feel the midline of your core.
 If diastasis recti is there, there will be a noticeable gap that you’ll feel when you raise your head off the ground. If it’s not present, then you should feel a solid line of ab muscles across your midline. 

Healing diastasis recti injuries 

Many diastasis recti injuries will heal on their own, particularly if they are minor, but we always recommend visiting your doctor for advice on your personal situation. 

In many cases, they will advise that you perform simple diastasis recti exercises for women to help the healing process. The aim is to heal the core muscles by strengthening them through light exercise.

It’s important not to overdo any exercise! If you have a diastasis recti injury, don’t start lifting weights, running, or carrying out any intense exercise until the injury has fully healed. Wait until you have the all-clear from a doctor before getting back to your pre-pregnancy training regime. 

In severe (and thankfully, very rare) cases, diastasis recti injuries that don’t heal themselves will need to be fixed through surgery if they cause pain, discomfort, and further medical problems. 

Diastasis recti exercises for core recovery 

If you’re suffering from a diastasis recti injury, it’s important that you don’t start strenuous, high-intensity exercises. There are several diastasis recti exercises to avoid, in fact, and these include crunches, push-ups, and abdominal stretches. 

However, with the help of slow, controlled, low-impact, low-intensity exercises for diastasis recti, you can help to rebuild your core muscles and quickly move on to more intense workouts again, post-injury. 

We suggest using resistance bands (in particular, hip circle bands) to help support your body throughout the following exercises. If you feel any pain, then stop. Here are the best exercises for diastasis recti postpartum. 

#1 Seated side bend

The seated side bend requires you to sit down on a chair or the floor. 

  1. Take a hip circle band and hold it in both hands above your head. 
  2. Keep your back straight and hold your core muscles in.
  3. Bend your body to the right-hand side. 
  4. Hold briefly, then bend to the left-hand side.
  5. Slowly repeat for several repetitions. 

#2 Elevated leg extension

  1. Lie flat down on your back with arms by your sides or up in the air. 
  2. Place a hip circle band around both thighs for support during the exercise. 
  3. Bend your knees in towards your chest, and raise your legs so they are at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Slowly lower and raise your legs together or one at a time. 
  5. Keep repeating.

#3 Pelvic tilts

For this rectus diastasis exercise, you need to position yourself on all fours, facing the floor. 

  1. Begin with your spine in a straight and neutral position.
  2. Breathe in and pull your core in tight.
  3. Breathe out, and relax your core. 
  4. Repeat while maintaining the position on all fours. 

Stay relaxed, and control your breathing as you tilt backward and forwards. 

#4 Side plank

For this exercise, you can place a hip circle band around both thighs.

  1. Roll onto one side and get into a side plank position.
  2. Reach one arm up into the air, and keep the other firmly on the ground to support the movement. 
  3. Hold the position for 15 seconds (or for as long as you feel comfortable) while keeping your core tight and one arm outstretched. 
  4. Slowly move your body into the starting position.
  5. Switch to perform a plank on your other side. 
  6. Repeat movements as desired. 

#5 Opposite reach 

Work your arm, leg, and core abdominal muscles with the opposite reach exercise. As your core muscles improve, you can place a hip circle band around your arms or legs to make the exercise much more difficult.

  1. Begin by getting on all fours. 
  2. Once you are comfortable, lift your left leg up and out, straight behind you. Simultaneously, lift your right arm up and reach out in front of you. 
  3. Hold the position for a second.
  4. Return to the starting position, then repeat this movement using the opposite leg and arm.
  5. Continue performing the opposite reach for as many repetitions as you feel comfortable. 

Diastasis recti injuries in men 

While diastasis recti injuries are commonly associated with women, men are not totally immune! As you might expect, the cause of the injury in men is much different (hint: it’s not pregnancy!)

There are several potential causes of diastasis recti in men, and it can be the result of an accident or trauma (collisions, falls, etc.) It can also be the result of training injuries and overextension of the abdominal muscles. 

Other causes include obesity, bloat, and other medical conditions that result in overstretching the abs. Of course, these issues can also cause the same injury in women who aren’t pregnant, as well as men.

Your family doctor may recommend similar diastasis recti exercises for men to aid their recovery as well. 

Diastasis recti exercise to the abdominal rescue!

Diastasis recti is a surprisingly common affliction among women who have recently given birth. Although most cases are minor and often heal themselves, the injury regularly causes discomfort, pain, and in some cases, can disrupt mobility. 

Low impact, low-intensity abdominal exercises supported by resistance bands can help you quickly recover, repair your ab muscles, and get back to full-on workout regimes soon enough.

If you’re worried about post-pregnancy ab injuries, then bookmark our guide to diastasis recti exercises for use later!

Katherine Holden

Katherine Holden

Katherine is a CrossFit expert with humble origins. Starting out on a ranch, ever since she was nine, she spent most of her life roping and competing in team roping. After finding bodyweight exercises interesting she sought after a career in CrossFit and dedicated her life towards achieving the body of her dreams. Today Katherine is a personal trainer that loves to travel the world and change the lives of her clients.

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