Today, I want to give you a rundown on 10 fast facts regarding diastasis recti, or abdominal muscle separation.
In full disclosure, I use the term ‘facts’ loosely. In 2017. Ha.
This all will continue to change, be researched further, and become much more well understood in the future.
10 years ago when I was beginning to learn about diastasis I wouldn’t have told you any of the ideas on the list below. At that time, I was still under the impression that a 2-finger gap between the rectus abdominal muscles = a diastasis that needs to close to be healed.
Hint: not the case.
After you read this list, I want you to feel way more comfortable and confident about diastasis recti, less stress and confusion, and to understand where your effort should go if you’re healing your own body or if you’re a trainer helping fitness clients heal theirs.
This is information that I think is key for you to know if you’re pregnant, a mom, or a fitness coach working with moms.
10 Fast Facts on Diastasis Recti
1). Your body knows what’s up.
Some degree of abdominal separation in pregnancy is really common and can be very normal in many bodies. Our bodies are incredibly smart. There is soft, connective tissue on the front side of the abdominal wall that has the ability to stretch. There are no bones there. This happens for a reason and that reason is to grow that baby!
2). Gap can remain.
Your diastasis can be FUNCTIONAL even if the gap remains. Forever ever. Meaning, it can be perfectly fine to have some degree of a gap between the abdominal muscles remaining after pregnancy and for you to be active, pain-free, and athletic.
3). Lifting and under load.
Pay attention to your alignment when lifting and while under load in the healing stages of diastasis recti. Your alignment doesn’t have to be perfect and you do not need to be in ‘good alignment’ all day long or for every single rep of every exercise you ever do.
That being said, for my clients in the early postpartum stages and those who are beginning to lift heavier weights again, I recommend they stack their body, when under load, by getting their ribcage over the hips and their bum behind their body.
It’s also extremely important that you move your body through many different positions throughout the day and not simply be stacked for life.
4). Breathe to lift.
When you’re lifting and under load, I cue the general rule to exhale on exertion. For example, when you start to pull your deadlift off the floor or when you start to lift the car seat out of the vehicle, start your exhale breath and continue it as you complete this big effort.
This can be useful in the early stages of restoration and when you’re training to lift heavier loads, but many people do not need to stick to this exhale on exertion pattern forever, on every lift or rep, for the rest of their lives.
5). Tension and density.
We want to be able to generate tension through the lines alba (the connective tissue that runs down the midline of the belly from sternum through pubic bone) and have it feel taut, when we need it: lifting, load, exertion, exercise. That is a great sign for your diastasis recovery!
A sign of poor tension and density would be if you’re assessing for diastasis recti and feel like you can push down into the belly quite far when you or your client is connecting to their pelvic floor.
6). Full body approach.
There is not one single exercises that is going to heal everyBODY’s diastasis. This is a full body and individual approach.
7). Full body approach – Pt. 2
There is not one single exercise that is going to wreck everyBODY’s diastasis. This is a full body and individual approach. This is how our To Pregnancy & Beyond workout programming is designed.
8). Extra help.
Tweaks to the body alignment, breathing, technique in lifting and while under load can make incredible changes to how the diastasis is healing. Sometimes, you might need to use other tools to help your body and brain re-train your core and floor, such as by working with a pelvic floor physiotherapist, or a fitness or health professional who has specific education in the core and pelvic floor.
9). It depends.
That’s the answer to, “how long will it take to heal my diastasis after pregnancy?”. That being said, lots of bodies can have great function back within 12 weeks postpartum and many within the 6 week (or much earlier) postpartum time period.
10). Crunches and planks.
Will you be able to do crunches and planks again after pregnancy if you want to? In most bodies, yes! What about doing crunches and planks while healing diastasis recti? ….Maybe? Never? Yes?
In most bodies, we can return to a place where these exercises can be done. That being said, be clear on why these exercises are being used and please understand that they’re unlikely to be necessary for a core that functions or a flatter belly, for example.
I’m more interested in why the exercise is being used and how it’s being coached and performed, than to say “don’t do this forever.”
Of course, in some bodies, these exercise won’t feel great on the core and floor despite great cueing, coaching, and rehab. Or, you might just hate them and that’s cool, too! 😉