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March 08, 2023 12 min read
Diastasis recti is a condition that many women experience during and after pregnancy, which can cause weakened abdominal muscles. However, men can also have abdominal separation in specific instances. Fortunately, there are exercises that can help strengthen the abdominal muscles, improve posture, and make the core more stable.
In this article, we will discuss the best diastasis recti exercises for ab recovery. We will look at the benefits of these exercises, what muscles they target, and how you can incorporate them into your regular fitness routine.
Diastasis recti is a condition also called abdominal separation. You have a thin band of connective tissue that runs down the front of your abdomen – the linea alba. The separation happens in the area where the “six-pack” muscles meet at the midline of your stomach. It can cause your abdomen to appear bulging or to have a “pooch” appearance.
Diastasis recti abdominis is typically associated with pregnancy, but men can also have abdominal muscle separation. During pregnancy, the human body undergoes a remarkable transformation to make room for a growing baby, approximately the size of a watermelon. It is caused by the expanding uterus pushing the ab muscles apart.
It usually resolves on its own in the weeks after giving birth, but some new moms have to diligently work out their deep core muscles for months postpartum. Thus, it is normal for the body to show signs of this remarkable transformation after the baby is born.
After giving birth, your uterus will go back to the size it was before you became pregnant. However, if your linea alba has been stretched too much for too long, the tissue that connects your abdominal muscles won’t be able to go back to its regular size. Imagine a rubber band that has been stretched for so long that it loses its elasticity – the same thing can happen to your linea alba. Postpartum diastasis recti is estimated to affect 1 in 3 women after pregnancy.
Ab separation often goes undiagnosed in men and is erroneously labeled as a beer belly. The main cause of rectus abdominis muscle separation and weakening is typically linked to unsuitable abdominal exercise techniques and over-exertion when doing exercises such as sit-ups, crunches, push-ups, and front planks. Too much weight and obesity can also add stress to the abdominal muscles and lead to weakened and separated muscles.
Symptoms can include a bulge or ridge in the midline of the abdomen, a feeling of weakness in the abdominal area, low back pain, difficulty with core exercise programs, constipation, and a protruding belly.
Sometimes people mistake abdominal muscle separation for a hernia. The main way to tell if you have a hernia or diastasis recti is whether you feel pain. Hernias can cause substantial pain while diastasis recti may increase discomfort and abdominal wall weakness.
Follow the steps below if you are unsure about having abdominal muscle separation.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Place two fingers just above your belly button and press gently.
Lift your head and shoulders off the floor, using your abdominal muscles.
Feel for a gap between the right and left sides of your abdominal muscles.
If you feel a gap wider than two finger widths, you may have diastasis recti.
To confirm your diagnosis, consult a doctor or physical therapist.
The benefits of diastasis recti exercises for ab recovery include the following:
Core strengthening and stability
Increased muscle tone and support of the abdominal wall
Reduced lower back pain
Improved overall body alignment.
Additionally, diastasis recti exercises help to restore the normal abdominal anatomy, which can help reduce the risk of future abdominal separation.
Finally, for new moms and ex-beer-bellied men, these diastasis recti workouts can help to improve overall body confidence and help them feel more comfortable and secure in their own skin.
Which Muscles Should be Targeted for Ab Recovery?
Ab recovery is all about re-establishing core stability, and the main muscles targeted with diastasis recti ab exercises are listed below.
Pelvic floor muscles
To heal diastasis recti, it is important to focus on rebuilding core strength. This can be done through exercises that target the transverse abdominis, the deepest abdominal muscle. Exercises such as planks, bridges, and Pilates can be effective in strengthening this muscle. Additionally, exercises that focus on posture and alignment can help to keep the abdominal muscles in proper alignment.
For women planning postpartum exercise routines, it's important to remember that if you have recently had a baby and are just beginning to exercise again, it could be too strenuous to do all of these moves at the same time. It is important to avoid any exercises that cause excessive abdominal pressure. It is also important to avoid any exercises that involve lifting heavy weights or twisting the torso. Talk to your doctor and personal trainer to find the best way to gradually reintroduce exercise into your postnatal routine.
If you've had a C-section delivery, wait to jump into your post-pregnancy exercise regimen until at least six weeks postpartum, after you've visited your health care provider. Passing these two milestones before you begin exercising is vital to ensuring that your recovery goes smoothly.
You can assess whether your core is robust enough to progress to the next exercise, but be sure to sustain your core involvement with every repetition. Don't give up! This may be a gradual process, but it is essential to be consistent. It is advisable to devote at least five to 10 minutes to recuperation every day. These exercises are just the beginning of your recuperation journey—once you have mastered these exercises, focus on incorporating good core breathing into all your physical exertions and normal activities.
There is an endless list of exercises for ab recovery. The following exercises were selected to ensure they will be easy to perform for both beginners and moms who have been through this before. At the same time, men working on recovering their six packs can perform these moves to strengthen their abs gradually without the risk of causing further damage.
Unlike Diaphragmatic Breathing which activates the diaphragm and inspiratory rib cage muscles, Transverse abdominal breathing is a type of abdominal breathing technique that helps to relax the body and reduce stress. It can also help to improve posture and core strength. Transverse abdominal breathing is a type of deep breathing where the abdominal muscles are used to move air in and out of the lungs. The abdominal muscles are contracted to move air in and then released to move air out.
Here’s how to do it
Start by lying on your back on a flat surface. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your abdomen.
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. As you do this, focus on pushing your abdomen out as far as it will go. This will help to engage your transverse abdominal muscles.
Hold your breath for a few seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, contract your pelvic floor muscles and draw your abs toward your spine.
Repeat this breathing pattern for several minutes, focusing on keeping your breaths slow and deep.
When you are finished, take a few moments to relax and observe your body. Notice any changes in your posture, breathing, or overall relaxation levels.
Heel slides can help strengthen and tone the abdominal muscles, which are essential for providing support to the spine and helping to maintain proper posture. Heel slides can help to restore the abdominal muscles to their full functioning capacity. Here are a few simple steps to help you get started with heel slide exercises.
Begin by lying on your back on the ground.
Place a rolled-up towel or pillow under your head for support.
Maintain a neutral spine, and also make sure your head and neck are in a neutral position.
Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground.
Place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath.
On an exhale, press your navel towards your spine and draw your abdominal wall in.
While keeping your core engaged, slowly slide your right heel away from your body, straightening your knee.
Hold this position for 2-3 seconds, then slowly slide your heel back in towards your body.
Repeat on the other side with your left heel.
Continue alternating sides for 8-10 repetitions.
When finished, release your core and relax.
Doing glute bridge exercises helps to strengthen and engage the glutes, core, and pelvic floor muscles, which can help to improve posture, reduce back pain, and improve diastasis recti symptoms.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Place your hands on your lower stomach and press your lower back into the floor.
Lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your glutes tightly as you do so.
Hold the bridge position for a few seconds before lowering your hips back to the floor.
Repeat for 8-12 reps.
If you feel any pain in your lower back, adjust the angle of your hips and your feet to modify the intensity of the exercise.
This is an excellent exercise for helping to close diastasis recti or separate abdominal muscles. This exercise strengthens the transverse abdominis, the deepest layer of the abdominal muscles, and helps to pull the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack” muscles) closer together. This helps to restore core stability and reduce lower back pain.
Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
Engage your abdominal muscles and lift your right knee up towards your chest, while keeping your left foot flat on the floor.
Slowly lower your right knee back down to the floor, while still maintaining abdominal engagement.
Repeat the same steps with your left leg.
As you become more comfortable with the motion, you can increase the intensity by lifting your leg higher or marching your knees up and down.
Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions of the bent knee march.
Once finished, stretch your abdominal muscles and relax your body.
Regularly performing the lying heel taps helps to reduce the size of the diastasis recti. This is because it activates the transverse abdominis muscle, which is the main muscle responsible for closing the gap between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle.
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees flexed and your feet flat on the floor 6 to 12 inches from your butt and about hip-width apart.
Your arms should be by your sides, palms down.
Lift your legs with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your thighs perpendicular to the floor.
With your pelvic floor muscles contracted, pull your belly button toward your spine to engage your abs.
Without changing the angle of your knee, lower your right foot toward the floor and briefly tap your heel on the floor.
Return to the starting position then repeat the same movements with your left leg.
Continue tapping your heels on the floor for 8-10 reps, keeping your abs engaged and your lower back pressed into the ground.
The Alternating Single Leg Lift exercise helps to reduce diastasis recti by strengthening the muscles that support and connect the abdominal wall.
Start by lying on your back with your legs extended and your arms by your sides, palms down.
Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your navel in towards your spine.
Lift your right leg off the ground as far as you can without bending your knee.
Aim to get it perpendicular to the floor without experiencing discomfort, and hold that position for a few seconds.
Lower your right leg and then lift your left leg off the ground to a similar height, and hold it up for a few seconds.
Repeat this alternating single-leg lifting motion 8-10 times on each side.
Rest for a few seconds and then repeat the exercise for 3-4 sets.
Lying Bent Knee Pulls help strengthen the abdominal muscles, including the transverse abdominis (TVA), which helps support the spine and core.
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent.
Place your hands behind your head and engage your core muscles.
Slowly lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor and tense your abdominal muscles.
Now, lift your bent knees towards your chest and hold for a few seconds.
Extend your legs away from your chest and then lower them back down to the floor.
Repeat the exercise 10-15 times.
Make sure to keep your core muscles engaged and your neck and back in alignment during the exercise.
The exercise works the entire core, from the front to the back, which helps to reduce the separation of the abdominal muscles. Moreover, dead bugs can help to improve overall core strength, which can help to reduce the risk of developing diastasis recti in the future.
Begin lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Engage your core muscles and press your lower back into the floor.
Lift your left arm up towards the ceiling and your right leg straight out, keeping both legs at 90 degrees.
Hold for two seconds and then lower both your arm and leg back to the starting position.
Repeat the same movement with your right arm and left leg.
Continue alternating arms and legs for 8-10 repetitions.
Remember to keep your core engaged throughout the exercise and your lower back pressed into the floor.
Bird Dog exercises can help to reduce the separation of the abdominal muscles that often occurs with diastasis recti. This can help to improve the appearance of the abdomen and reduce the risk of future complications.
Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees.
Slowly inhale, tucking your tailbone and engaging your core.
As you exhale, lift your right arm and left leg so that they are in line with your torso.
Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower your arm and leg back to the starting position.
Repeat on the other side.
Do 8-12 repetitions on each side.
Focus on keeping your core engaged throughout the entire exercise.
Fire Hydrant exercises are an excellent way to strengthen the midline muscles, which helps to close the gap caused by diastasis recti.
Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides.
Place your hands just above your knees and bend your knees slightly.
Lift your right leg out to the side, making sure to keep the knee bent.
Push your right leg back so that your foot is flat on the ground and your knee is bent.
Push your hands into your right knee as you press your right leg out to the side.
Hold this position for 10-15 seconds, focusing on keeping your abdominals tight.
Release the position and repeat on the other side.
Do 10-15 repetitions on each side.
Men working on ab recovery can benefit significantly from adding Whey Protein Supplements to their diets. However, how safe is it for breastfeeding new moms?
Breastfeeding moms require extra protein.
They have special nutritional needs and require extra protein in their diet to meet the extra demands on their milk-making bodies. (Pregnant women in their 2nd and 3rd trimesters require extra protein too!)
Breastfeeding moms are almost always HUNGRY! If you are breastfeeding your new baby, you require an extra 450-500 calories per day. Adding extra protein to your diet helps you stay fuller for longer. Protein powder is a great way to do this!
Increased Protein Intake:Adding whey protein powder to your breastfeeding diet can help you increase your daily protein intake. While it is important to get sufficient protein from a variety of food sources, adding a whey protein supplement can help you meet your daily protein needs.
Improves Milk Supply: Whey protein powder can help increase your milk supply. It contains important protein building blocks called branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) which help promote lactation.
Provides Essential Nutrients: Some whey protein powders are fortified with essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. These are important for both your and your baby’s health.
Boosts Energy Levels: If you’re feeling tired and run down, adding a whey protein supplement to your diet can help give you an energy boost.
Convenient. Protein powder makes it easy to ensure you consume enough protein.
Versatile. Easy to mix into smoothies, shakes, or recipes.
Enhances Weight Loss: Whey protein has been shown to help with weight loss in breastfeeding women. It can help suppress your appetite and make you feel fuller for longer. This can help reduce your daily caloric intake and promote healthy weight loss.
These 10 best diastasis recti exercises are a great way to help you recover and strengthen your abdominal muscles. With regular practice and dedication to your ab recovery program, you can expect to see improved strength and stability, as well as improved posture and alignment.
It's important to remember that diastasis recti recovery is a long process, and you should speak to your doctor or physical therapist if you have any questions or concerns. With the right guidance and exercises, you can make significant improvements in your ab strength and recovery. When that time comes, it will be safe to do more challenging ab exercises.