Pre-blog NOTE: If you want a well-rounded, comprehensive 12-week program that can help heal your DR whether you’re 4 weeks or 4 years (or 40 years!) postpartum, click here to learn about MuTu System. I’m an affiliate because it ROCKS. And now, onto the blog post!
Do you have “mommy tummy?” If yes, then girl, STOP doing those crunches and sit-ups and take a minute to read this.
One of my most clicked-on posts is called, “is it too late to close my diastasis?” I wrote this post quite a while ago, and although the first part of the post is great, the strengthening routine is super confusing!!! Rather than creating a single, unified video with clear instructions, I took the lazy way out and pieced together multiple clips from previous YouTube videos I’d created. Not cool.
Now it’s time to redeem myself! The inspiration came after receiving the following email from a FemFusion friend:
“Hello Brianne, 15 months ago I had my first child and after the birth my abdomen didn’t close properly (diastasis recti) and I would like to know if your workouts would help to close it? I would like to strengthen my core as well as close the gap which is about 1.5 centimetres in width at the moment.” -Jackie
Unfortunately, I had to tell Jackie that although most of the exercises I teach in my online videos are completely safe and absolutely fine for women with DR, I do include the occasional “crunch” and quite a few planks. Women with DR need to be careful with these moves.
First: Wondering if you have DR? Do this self-check:
If you have DR, you have special needs when it comes to core fitness. This is true whether you’re 4 months, 4 years, or even 40 years (!!!) postpartum.
As stated in my previous DR post, you will need to focus on strengthening the deep abdominal muscles including the transverse abdominis, which is the muscle underneath the outermost abdominal muscles. You will also need to:
- “Zip up” (engage your core muscles from your pelvic floor on up through your low abs) when lifting/pushing/pulling.
- Get out of bed without jackknifing (in other words, don’t sit bolt upright! Roll to your side first, and then push yourself up).
- Sit less and move more. Too much sitting leads to tight hip flexors, which can pull your posture out of alignment, exaggerating the lumbar curve and making your tummy protrude. Try my bathroom fitness challenge to fit more movement into your day!
- Practice good posture (this also helps with back pain and bladder health).
- Drink lots of pure + clean water, since collagen is 70% water by weight.
- Eat plenty of gelatin and bone broth to provide your body the collagen it needs to help heal the DR.
- Eat unprocessed, “clean” foods to support your body’s healing processes in general. (What does clean eating look like? Click here).
The most important thing to remember: you can make the separation worse by doing the wrong exercises.
Many new mamas are anxious to return to their pre-baby body and embark on an intense abdominal program including crunches, sit-ups, and other exercises that focus on trunk flexion. Crunches and sit-ups have their place in the world of core strengthening, but they are absolute no-no’s for women with DR. Crunches can make your diastasis larger. If you have DR, you will need to discontinue crunches or any supine (back lying) exercises that require your shoulders to be off the floor.
In addition, you’re going to want to be cautious with planks and exercises that are done on your hands and knees. These exercises are not completely off-limits, but doing too many of them — and doing them without properly engaging the deep abdominal muscles — can be an issue due to the weight of the viscera (abdominal organs) against the weak abdominal wall.
So what are safe exercises for diastasis recti?
Let me show you!
This is a fairly general fitness video that ANY woman can enjoy doing, whether or not she has a DR. I’m not claiming to “fix” your DR with these exercises… But I will tell you that you can feel safe doing them if you have a diagnosed DR. Click below to watch (and do) these safe exercises for diastasis recti. Note: don’t dismiss the breathing exercises — they are a huge, super-important part of the fitness program! And as for the speed? Take it slow. Slow and controlled is always better than fast and sloppy.
Prefer a shorter routine? Try this 15-minute option:
Again, please remember: The above videos are NOT exclusively designed to heal DR; rather, they are fun + feel-good routines with safe core strengthening options (other than planks, crunches, and “sit ups”) for women with DR who are looking for ab exercises. If you want a comprehensive postpartum fitness program that’s 12 weeks in length and delivers incredible results, you’ve GOT to check out MuTu System. I’m an affiliate, because I think it’s absolutely AMAZING. And if you’re a fitness professional interested in working with the postpartum population, check out the great continuing education resources at Burrell Education.
Enjoy my crunchless abs video and I’ll meet you at the beach… In our bikinis! Until then, if you have DR, remember to skip crunches and be careful with planks!
*NOTE: This website in general, and this article specifically, is for general information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition, but rather to understand what options are available. Please seek the advice of a physician to properly diagnose your symptoms.