Have you ever asked “Is this exercise safe for diastasis recti?” and gotten conflicting (or worse wrong) answers?
This is because the answer is different for EVERYONE!
It depends on your breathing, stage of recovery, alignment, strength and so much more.
Not sure about your breathing and alignment? Check out my free Blueprint to a Functional core to find out more.
So how do you know?
Well FIRST if you are early postpartum you should go and see a pelvic floor PT or do initial corrective exercises like you will find in the FREE Beginners Program or the Pelvic Floor Freedom program before starting back into any more traditional workouts so that your core has a good foundation.
This will adequately strengthen your deep core (pelvic floor and transverse abdominis), start healing your connective tissue, AND reduce the gap without the possibility (and PROBABILITY) of hindering your progress.
THEN as you start to progress the types of exercises (including DR safe exercises) you need to ask yourself a series of questions to help yourself decide if you are ready or not for it.
How do I know if an exercise is safe if I have Diastasis Recti?
So… what are the questions you need to ask yourself before participating in any activity?
Whether it is your favorite barre/yoga/boot camp class? Or doing dance aerobics or swimming? It doesn’t matter what activity it is – the questions to help you determine whether that movement is safe for diastasis recti are the same.
Does anything that I’m doing cause my abs to bulge, dome or sink?
Does it exert downward, outward or bulging pressure on my pelvic floor?
If the answer is yes to either question 1 OR 2 , ask yourself if you can consciously avoid that or is it beyond your control?
If beyond your control, you need to skip or modify that movement.
Does the movement involve lifting my shoulders off the floor from a back-lying position i.e a crunch motion.
If so, can you do this while maintaining a firm flat belly or do you dome or bulge? If it does (or you are unsure) you will want to modify that exercise to keep your shoulders down and your TVAs engaged, or replace that movement with another Diastasis safe exercise?
Does the movement involve lifting both legs off the floor from a back-lying position?
If it does, can I keep my spine neutral and my abs completely flat (no doming or bulging) throughout the complete range of motion?
The answer is probably no – this is a very advanced exercise, even for very strong moms, to perform while keeping the abs and the back safe. Instead, make this movement safe for diastasis recti by lifting only one leg at a time and keeping your hands on your abs to monitor proper engagement and ensure no doming or bulging occurs.
Am I moving too quickly (burpees or mountain climbers, for example) to know whether or not my core is correctly engaged?
If you can’t tell whether you are engaging your TVAs correctly, and can’t monitor for bulging or doming, then you need to slow down that movement or modify it so you can perform it with control.
Can I exhale and engage my TVAs on hard parts of the exercise?
For example, with any lift (free weight/body weight/kettlebell/resistance machine/groceries/your children), can you exhale on the exertion (lift) and engage your TVAs…
Backbends (For example, in Yoga, barre and dance/gymnastics class).
A full backbend, or any other extreme spinal extension and lengthening of the upper abdominal wall, will almost certainly exacerbate diastasis recti. This is because this type of stretch is essentially impossible to perform while keeping the TVAs engaged and not flaring your ribcage, which opens the upper abdominal muscles. For an alternative that’s safe for diastasis recti, perform a gentle bridge pose or a modified cobra – as long as you can keep your ribcage from flaring and your TVAs engaged
While performing an aerobic activity, such as running/brisk walking/biking/swimming/dancing/other cardio, these are your most important self-checks:
Can I maintain a neutral spine (no ribs thrusting/butt sticking out/ tucking the pelvis under you) throughout the workout?
Can I engage my TVAs when needed? (The abs will need to soften and relax on inhalation to allow adequate oxygen uptake –but never bulge forcefully forward).
Additionally, if your cardio of choice involves impact (such as running or jumping), closely monitor your pelvic floor: do you feel downward or bulging pressure? Do you leak or dribble involuntarily? If so, please stop performing that activity and focus on breathing and connecting with your pelvic floor and strengthening your core. Switch to low-impact cardio (like cycling, swimming or walking) for a few weeks OR reduce the intensity (time) of your current activity until this does not occur and you have the core strength and control to resume running or other high impact workouts without stressing your pelvic floor.
These questions stay the same no matter how far postpartum you are, and if you are a beginner just starting out your DR journey or more advanced.
By following these guidelines you will be able to naturally heal quicker and without set-backs and injuries.
If you have any questions please comment below, and if this was useful for you please share this article.