Understanding Diastasis Recti and the Best Exercise for Treating it

Image showing Diastasis Recti

As a pre and postnatal certified trainer, the topic of today’s blog is very important to me! And that’s why, it’s not only going to a blog, but also a vlog! I am a very animated person and I feel like it’s so much easier to see and understand Diastasis Recti when I can use my hands! So if you’d rather watch this video, simply click below. If you’re more of a reader, then just keep scrolling and I’ll explain everything. 

Before giving you the best exercises for Diastasis Recti, I wanted to explain it a little further. This can help you better understand not only what it is, but also if it’s something that you need to be watching out for. If you want to learn even more about Diastasis Recti, you can read this other blog I have on the topic!

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is the abdominal separation that happens in your abdominal muscles during pregnancy. You’ll probably know these as your 6-Pack Muscles. Below you’ll see more specifically what this looks like. 

Understanding Diastasis Recti

Now… oftentimes I’ll speak with women who are around 9 months pregnant saying, “oh my gosh! I have Diastasis Recti, what do I do?!” Well… nothing. Because Diastasis Recti is a normal process that your body is going to go through, so the baby has enough room. 

In the image above (and in the video), you can see that the muscles and the connective tissue are being stretched in order to make room for your growing body and baby. 

Alright so you’re 9 months pregnant and you know that you have Diastasis Recti. Once you’ve had the baby, what do you do then? Typically then you’ll go to see your healthcare provider (Obgyn or midwife) for your 6 weeks check, and many times you also get checked for DRA. There are 2 issues in this scenario:

1. 60% of women still have DRA at 6 weeks postpartum

2. The best professional to evaluate your DRA is a Women’s Health Physical Therapist.

Testing for Diastasis Recti

A typical ‘clinical’ Diastasis Recti diagnosis is at around a 2cm gap (around 2 or 2 ½ fingers). The problem with this is that most women will get fixated on this ‘gap’. However, there are other things that play into Diastasis Recti and usually, the biggest one of these is whether or not the linea alba has lost its elasticity. (Your linea alba is the connective tissue between your abdominal muscles that gets stretched during pregnancy.) 

So how can you tell if your linea alba has lost its elasticity? When you’re testing for Diastasis Recti, can you push your fingers down quite deep in between your abdominal muscles? If you can push your finger/s quite deep, that tells me that you might have lost elasticity. 

*If you want to see an example of this, you’ll find one in the video above at the 5-minute mark*

The Diastasis Recti + Crunches Dilemma

If you have Diastasis Recti and you might start looking up for more information on it and chances are you are going to find A LOT of reading material online telling you’ll never, ever do crunches again. In fact, even most trainers who do not have a lot of experience with the Pre and Postnatal population will say that you won’t be able to do crunches again. But, I am here to tell you that this is NOT TRUE! 

It might not be ideal to do it NOW, but it does not mean you will never be able to do them.

During and after pregnancy it is incredibly important that you work with a coach that specializes in YOU… in this stage of life you are in. It’s crucial to find a trainer who understands your changing body and knows how to modify and progress accordingly so that you are strengthening and not harming your body. 

Ultimately, It’s not a matter of never doing crunches again, it’s a matter of training your body to be able to do crunches after Diastasis Recti occurs. 

*For a great example of what I mean by this, watch the video above at the 8:00 minute mark!*

Understanding Diastasis Recti Exercises

As I mentioned above, there is training that you need to do before you can start doing the exercises that you were used to doing pre-pregnancy. These exercises are usually referred to as Diastasis Recti exercises. These include learning what kind of breather you are! YUP. Each of us breathes in a different way, but there are a few ways that we commonly breathe. 

Those include:

  • Rib breathers (meaning when you inhale you expand your ribs)
  • Bear down breathers (meaning whenever you are inhaling, you bear down and put pressure on your pelvic floor)

Understanding how you breathe and how you move when doing your day to day activities is going to help us start creating strategies to better rehab your DRA. This is especially important for women who’ve just had their babies. You can’t exercise right away but you can start to learn how you lift the baby from the crib. Is that helping your abdominal muscles or is it adding unnecessary pressure to an already stressed system? I cannot say this enough, working with a pre and postnatal trainer from the start is so important! 

Are you interested in downloading my free guide to Abdominal Rehabilitation Postpartum? It’s launching next week! Click HERE to be added to the waitlist so you’re the first to know when it’s available for download. (Did I mention that it’s totally free?!)

Now onto the good part! 

The best exercise for Diastasis Recti

The Heel Slide  

You start lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep one foot flat on the floor while you slide the other heel away from your body. Then you slide that heel back towards your body and switch sides. Always keep one foot as your base. 

Once you can easily do this movement, to make the exercise a bit harder you lift that heel from the ground, creating an extra challenge. Then you continue to alternate sliding one foot along the ground, while the other foot is raised (instead of being planted as your base)

And when that movement becomes natural, to where you can do it without trouble and without thinking, we progress further. The idea is that you start with something very basic to train your abdomen and be able to work up to a motion that includes weight or load.

The most important thing to note whenever you’re rehabilitating your Diastasis Recti is that your motions and your exercises should happen in a progressive way. This is the biggest thing that I have focused on inside the Mother Strong League (my program for moms- Pregnant, Postpartum, or seasoned moms). To learn more about the Mother Strong League, click HERE. 

Before I go, keep in mind mama’s that it is normal to have Diastasis Recti. 60% of women have Diastasis Recti at 6 weeks postpartum. Your body needs time to rehabilitate and heal itself. Remember, it’s been stretching and growing a tiny human for 9 months… it’s not going to whip back into place in 6 weeks. It’s just not. 

Always search for trainers that have been specifically trained for YOU. Postpartum is forever, so make sure the trainer you are working with is working FOR YOU. And don’t get discouraged if something that you want to do isn’t possible right now. Focus on progressive change and I promise mama, you’ll get there! 

Of course, if you want to learn more about working with me, simply send me an email at help@nathaliamelofit.com or check out my signature program, The Mother Strong League. 

Save this post to Pinterest!