6 Exercise Tips for Diastasis Recti

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Bethany Learn  –  Fit2B™ Fitness Studio

Bethany Learn is the founder of Fit2B Studio – on online platform for streaming hundreds of workouts at home. She has a Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Science and throughout her career has taught countless workout classes: step aerobics, cycling, water aerobics, group weightlifting, senior fitness, pre/post-natal exercise, and dance aerobics as well as Pilates and Yoga. She is also well educated in diastasis recti and incorporates her knowledge of this into her workouts so that you can be sure the movements are “Tummy-Safe.” We love working with Beth because of her passion for making fitness accessible to everyday people. We highly recommend her program to pursue your fitness goals – whatever they may be.

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When you first find out that the connective tissue running down the center of your abs has thinned and weakened to the point that it allows the two sides of your abdominal wall to shift apart in what we call a “diastasis recti,” you might feel a little fearful of making it worse. While there is a lot of conflicting information on the internet, I hope this article offers you some clarity with three exercises to avoid, plus three motions you can do safely if you have diastasis.

DiastasisRecti

As the founder and face of Fit2B Studio, which is an online Tummy-Safe™ fitness portal, I’ve worked closely with Kelly Dean at The Tummy Team to be sure my moves align with her work. Fit2B offers monthly and yearly memberships to almost 200 workout routines that are specifically geared toward those dealing with diastasis recti, hernia, symphysis pubis dysfunction, and abdominal surgeries like tummy tuck and hysterectomy. We are the fitness piece that should ideally come after the rehab piece.

Most people know they should avoid full planks, sit-ups, and crunches (as well as crunching motions) while they’re in the early stages of healing their core dysfunction. This article I wrote explains why those things make your belly bigger not flatter! However, there are some sneaky variations of those moves that should also be avoided until your fascia thickens and regains enough tension that you can easily exhale to engage your whole core – diaphragm, transverse abdominis, and pelvic floor. Below are six tips for exercising with diastasis recti: three things to avoid and three things to love!

Three Types of Exercise to Avoid When You Have Diastasis Recti

  1. Yoga

    Most Yoga instructors aren’t educated on how to provide modifications for diastasis recti and weak pelvic floor. While you are going through abdominal rehab, it’s important to avoid mainstream Yoga. Read this article to see a shocking image of what a belly with diastasis does during downward dog, plus learn about specific Yoga poses you should and shouldn’t do. We have an awesome Yoga pathway with some safe routines for you

  2. Pilates

    Again, most Pilates teachers aren’t trained in the proper modifications. They think that just because Pilates is so core oriented and the exhale happens with the work, that it makes all the moves safe. But loads of high-pressure moves that would be hard on a dysfunctional core weakened by diastasis recti will just see more bulging and thinning of the abdominal wall. Fit2B has a Pilates pathway of routines that include modifications – and I don’t just do the main move and then offer the mod – I teach the mod as the main move.

  3. Running

    If you love running, you need to know that you don’t need to wobble and dribble while you do it. The professional rehab services of The Tummy Team + Fit2B will get you back to running AFTER you’ve healed your core, and you’ll be stronger and faster than ever. I promise. But just for right now, you need to take a break and rebuild the functional integrity of your abs before you joggle them all around the countryside again. Read this for some hope!

And now that you’re feeling like there is NOTHING you can do, let me give you some ideas of what you can do. Because diastasis recti isn’t a movement death sentence. It’s really an open door to a whole new world of yummy motions that you may just love more than what you’ve been doing before!

Three Exercises to LOVE While You’re Healing Your Diastasis Recti

  1. Walking

    It naturally flexes and stretches all the muscles in your core and pelvic floor in a low-intensity, low-pressure way that serves to further the healing process. If you think it’s boring, you’re not doing it right. I’ve become a race walker, and I love it! It keeps me in shape, tones my arms, works my core, doesn’t stress my bladder, and satisfies my competitive nature. Maybe no competitive walking during the healing phase, but check this out!

  2. Spin Cycling

    If you set your bike up so your torso is more vertical {handlebars higher than normal} and you skip the weird “push-ups” and keep your breath during the workout, I believe this is a very safe workout. In fact, I was teaching spin cycling classes while I went through rehab. I would also advise wearing your splint if your DR is wider than 2 1/2 finger widths (FW) and deep.

  3. Fit2B Studio

    You knew I had to say that, right? Hey, by saying that I just opened up the door to thousands of movement possibilities for you! Beginning with our Foundational Five “F5” routines – one of which is a stretching routine with Kelly herself – we progress you on through our Fit2B Beginning and Fit2B Advancing paths. Then the 6×6 pathway has you do 6 routines, one per day for 6 days each week, starting with 15 minutes, on up to 45 minutes! You really need to check us out if you want to keep moving while healing your core!

Bottom Line: There Is Hope. You Don’t Have to Quit Moving!

Movement helps the healing process. You just need to choose the right movements. Actually, you don’t have to choose. We’ve already done it for you. Between The Tummy Team and Fit2B you’ll have a clear map of how to regain strength and function, and then get into the best shape of your life over the next year! Let’s go!

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16 responses to “6 Exercise Tips for Diastasis Recti”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for posting this information. I have a pretty large DR issue. I am have been very over weight most my life. I have been diligent in diet and exercise. I have started using Leslie Sanson walk at home program. I have also begun an arm work out with 5lb weights. As the weight comes off I am seeing the DR more and more. Have you seen or heard of this walk program and is it recommended?

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      I don’t know about that program, sorry. It sounds like you are heading in the right direction. Even with things like lifting weights or walking, you can be activating your core. And that is an important part of rehabilitating the muscle and closing that gap. Keep in mind, we always recommend rehabbing the DR before challenging the core with fitness.

  2. Olivia Owens says:

    Hi I have only the smallest of gap less than 1cm my question is which one of your programs would be the best value as I am wanting to close the gap before I do too much training

  3. TheTummyTeam says:

    If your linea alba has less than a 1 finger gap, it is within normal/healthy limits and no longer considered a diastasis. So I think it’s time to shift your focus from rehab to challenging the core in elongated, upright postures. Choose fitness choices that are upright as much as possible so you can stay neutral and engaged. And of course avoid any crunch-like movements that put pressure against the linea alba.

  4. Toni says:

    Is a mini trampoline a safe exercise if you have a hernia?

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      Hi Toni,
      It can be if your core is strong and you have the coordination to engage properly when you are making impact. Often abdominal hernias are caused by forward forceful pressure on the abdominal wall which can be caused by crunching movements, or breath holding or bracing. If you internal corset is weak (typically is with hernias) then your body will brace or fill up with air to try to support your body. This happens a lot with jumping and trampoline work if you are weak. But if your core is strong and you can engage and stay in neutral alignment then a mini tramp can be a good choice. If you are curious if your core is truly strong enough for this, you should do our Core Foundations program. It can really give you the strength you are missing.

  5. Mary says:

    I am about 21 weeks pregnant and am just discovering that I have DR (and believe I have had for several years during and between other pregnancies). I have been doing high intensity workouts including piyo (combination of yoga and Pilates) throughout these years with no discomfort. Will I make matters worse to continue exercising the way I have been until I can actually do something to heal the DR after this pregnancy?

  6. TheTummyTeam says:

    Mary,
    Yoga and Pilates can be really great for your body but often there are some exercises that are inadvertently keeping your core from staying connected. We discuss this in length in our programs and give you suggestions on how to make the right modifications once your diastasis is healing.

  7. Laura B. says:

    I was diagnosed with 3 finger separation after my little one. Luckily, it isn’t obvious on the outside, but boy howdy it is on the inside. I’ve been working so hard to close the gap, and have been slightly successful but it’s unlikely I will get back to where I was before without surgery. Since I want to have another kiddo, I am in exercise Purgatory until then because I love nothing more than my Barre, Pilates and Yoga classes.

    I have 3 questions:

    1) What do you recommend for arms? My arms used to be beautiful from the planks and push-ups I did religiously, but now, this is not an option. I do free weights a few times a week but am not getting the same results. Like a lot of my friends, I have also developed the after pregnancy upper back squish. I am scared to do a lot of movements to work on my Latissimus dorsi because I feel like they put strain on my tummy.

    2) Are swimming and golf bad ideas?

    2) Is it true, that even with surgical correction, that a person with DR may not ever be able to return to Pilates and yoga?

    Thanks for your help! I received a flyer about your program in a Fab Fit Fun box and have been looking forward to giving it a shot;)!

    • TheTummyTeam says:

      Hi Laura,
      Thank you for reaching out. Often DR is more obvious by our symptoms than by how we look so I am so glad you are taking care of yourself. We would love to help you heal your core and get back to the exercise you love. A lot of Barre 3, Pilates and Yoga is safe when you know what to modify and how to effectively engage your core but functional core rehabilitation is often the best first step. We highly recommend you do our Core Foundations course before you get pregnant again and then do our Prenatal Core Training during your pregnancy. So many people make the mistake of waiting until they are done having kids to do rehab but you actually need a strong core for motherhood and for pregnancy, delivery and birth recovery so I would encourage you not to wait.

      To answer your specific questions…
      1) I would recommend you look into our tummy safe online fitness partner http://www.Fit2b.us. Beth Learn was a client and is not a valued colleague and has over 200 videos on her site that are tummy safe and great for all your workout needs. She has amazing arm workouts on there as well as yoga, Pilates, barre and so much more. We have promo code for her site to give you a discount on a year membership if you use promo code: TheTummyTeam. But often people need Core Foundations first.
      2) Swimming can be great if you are connected to your core and your chest muscles are not too tight causing your ribs to flare. Golf can be done well too but rotation with flexion is difficult if your diastasis is not closed and your core is not connected. (Broken record but… rehab first)
      3) Well surgery is not a good solution as it rarely solves the issue or strengthens your core. But we work with clients all the time that can return to Pilates and Yoga.

      You can do this. It is more about functional strength for real life than about fitness but fitness can work for you are work against you. We want you to be able to do what you love but also keep your body strong for real life.

      Thanks!

  8. Helen Shepard says:

    Hi

    Can I do step aerobics with diastasis recti? I really need to work on my lower body?

    Thanks so

  9. Kelly Dean says:

    Step aerobics is not specifically targeting diastasis recti but as you strengthen and connect to the core you can absolutely do step aerobics and keep your core strong. There are a few movements that can be tricky, like cross body twists that might crunch you as well. The main guideline is to try to stay elongated with your pelvic and rib cage in neutral and exhale and engage your core on the effort of the exercises. This should help you. If you are crunching, bulging, holding your breath or simply collapsing you might not be strong enough to do this workout or you may need to modify. Form is so important. I hope that helps.

  10. Donna Parker says:

    When swimming can you water walk or jog, do the breast stroke, side stroke or using a kick board to help improve Diastasis Recti?

    • Kelly Dean says:

      All of these movements can be helpful if you are staying elongating and aligned and working on exhaling and engaging the core on the effort. Often it is how we do these activities more than which ones we do.

  11. Donna Parker says:

    Is it safe to hike to help with Diastasis?

    • Kelly Dean says:

      Yes, hiking can be great. We encourage clients to stay in good walking posture, neutral pelvis, elongated torso and watch your head placement. Hiking can often have us look down at our footing and then our entire body changes position. If you can anchor your eyes looking at the horizon and only intermittently look down you can help keep your body elongated. Avoid straining in a way that cause bulging or breath holding and you should do well.

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