Dia-what-y? That’s what I said the first time I heard the word. Diastasis recti – DR – is a fancy way of saying separation of the abs (“diastasis” means separation and “recti” comes from the muscle group, rectus abdominis, they were very clever with naming this.). This is when the left and right abdominal wall separate from either other due to the stretching of the linea alba, which is the connective tissue between the two muscles. This commonly occurs during pregnancy but doesn’t not ALWAYS occur during pregnancy. It is not a hereditary condition, you can’t eat differently to avoid it, and if you have super tight or super weak abs it doesn’t mean it will happen either. Many times this separation is caused by multiple births (i.e. twins), rapid weight gain (so this can happen to people who are obese, men included), rapid baby growth, or having babies very close in age. With that said, these aren’t 100% indicators.
Over the years I have heard from many women: “Why can’t I get rid of my pooch?” or “I have a bum tummy” or “I have a tent belly” or “My stomach will never be the same”. Well here are some ways to help strengthen that tummy, back and core and get rid of the “pooch”, “tent”, “bum tummy” all while getting a rocking core that is solid throughout.
Many women that develop DR don’t always know they have it. Doctors will often check for it during pregnancy as well as occasionally after, but it is so easy to check yourself! We will be working hard on strengthening our transverse abdominis – TA- as these muscles not only keep our backs strong and give us a sexy shape but without them, you would have no overall core strength!
Checking for DR
Laying on your back with your feet flat on the ground place one hand behind your head for support and one hand on your stomach. Crunch up and place your fingers right where your ribs meet. Press down gently with your finger tips and you’ll feel your linea alba (or that “line” down your stomach). Walk your fingers down your stomach slowly feeling for any separation while pushing in. Remember to stay crunched the whole time and to breath slowly. As you walk your fingers down your stomach you may feel that 1 or more fingers will start to fill in the space between your left and right abs. Make sure your fingers don’t go in further than your first knuckle/finger nail depth, and it’s no wider than 2.5-3 fingers. Continue this until you reach your pubic area (a couple inches below your belly button…depending on how high your belly button is :) ).
If you feel any separation you have developed diastasis recti. It’s totally fixable so don’t fret!
Strengthening Your Core and Correcting DR
These exercises will work your transverse abdominis – TA – muscles which wrap from your spine all the way around to your belly button. These are what give you that sexy shape but most importantly will keep your back strong and your core shapely and solid. Anyone can build a 6-pack but it doesn’t mean they have core strength.
So important: with all these moves make sure you are breathing slowly, taking nice big deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. There is no need to race through these moves. Slow and controlled is your friend here.
Inverted Chair with Marching
Lay on your back with your feet on the floor and knees bent. Concentrate on your hips and bring them towards your ribs, which means you are tilting your pelvis so your back is now flat on the floor. DO NOT move from this position. Your TA muscles are engaged and this is important! Slowly bring one leg up so your knee is in line with your ankle and your hip. Slowly bring up your other knee while keeping your back flat on the floor. You will feel the intensity increase immediately. Place your hands on your thighs right over your hips. This will keep you from bringing your knees in too close. Hold this for 15 seconds – 1 minute depending on your core strength.
Modifications – Marching
You can either march your legs from a flat foot position or from a high foot position. Slowing bring your leg either up or down (depending on your starting position). IMPORTANT: Make sure your back stays flush to the floor the ENTIRE TIME.
The first photo shows the more advanced version of dropping one foot towards the floor. The second photo shows the beginner version of starting with your feet on the floor and bringing your leg up. Do this for 15 seconds – 1 minute depending on your core strength.
Feeling tight after a workout? Getting that ache in your back? While in the same inverted chair position place your feet on a solid non-moving object, ie, a wall, couch, someones legs etc. While keeping your bum and back flush to the floor and push hard against the wall. Hold this push for about 20 seconds then slowly release. Make sure your bum doesn’t lift up when you start to push. Hold the inverted chair for a 5-10 second break then push again. You will feel this in your quads as well so it’s a double whammy! Make sure you’re on a non-slip surface or put your mat down as you can slide back while pushing. It’s best to use a person for this as they can provide resistance back to you. You get a better quad workout as well as a deeper back release.
Sitting on your bum with your heels/feet on the floor curl your back and shoulders in so you’re in a sitting fetal position. Slowing raise your chest up, opening through your shoulders and chest, straightening your back and pulling your core in tight (like someone is going to punch you in the gut). Slowing contract back to the fetal position, this will start to feel like a sitting crunch. Be sure to keep your eyes up and your chest pushing upwards. It’s almost as if there is a string attached to your chin and chest and you’re being pulled up. Do this for 1 minute – 2 minutes.
Place one hand on the ground and place the same knee on the ground as well. Push your body up so that your hips are in the air. IMPORTANT: Make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other to activate your whole core. If your hips are tilted too far back or too far forward you can hurt your back, and you will take the intensity out of the move. You can keep your knee on the ground, or for a more advanced version bring your bottom leg back and your top leg forward and come up on to the sides of your feet. Keep your belly button pulled in towards your spine (like someone is going to punch you, not like your “sucking in”). Hold this for 15 seconds – 1 minute.
Superman (well, this is what I call superman)
While on all 4’s be sure your wrists are directly under your shoulders and your knees are directly under your hips. Slowly bring up one arm and the opposite leg, pointing your toe and hold this position. Be sure to really extend through your toe and feel the stretch through your leg, across your back and stretch it out through your fingers as well. Again, like a broken record, keep your core tight, like…you guessed it, someone is going to punch you in the gut! Slowing switch sides. Hold each side for 10 seconds, then 15, then 20, 25, 30 then work your way back down. You can also hold each side for a full minute. You are also able to do this from your toes, HOWEVER, if you’re rebuilding your core this is not recommended right away.
Work on these at home while watching TV, movies, reading a book (I love doing the inverted chair and reading!), with your little one beside you or underneath, or first thing in the morning (then it’s done and out of the way!). A badass, solid, strong core will make working out so much easier and enjoyable. Strengthening the muscles that we can’t always see is just as important as strengthening the ones we can.
If you aren’t sure if you have developed DR or you’re too weirded out to check yourself (it is a strange feeling!) I am more than happy to check for you, and do so often with my clients.
Let me know how it goes and if you have any other questions!
Showing you the difference between liking and loving that badass body