As busy moms we always want to see the easiest and fastest results for our efforts – especially when it comes to our diets and workouts. In the post-partum period we strive to get back to our pre-pregnancy bodies in a way that is easy and efficient. We want to minimize the time away from our kids while getting stunning results – toning and firming up trouble areas quickly.
But if you seem to be working out hard, and are still not seeing the results you want (especially in the abdominal area) do consider that you may have an underlying medical condition, known as diastasis recti, that needs attentionand healing before you can make moves to get your abs back in some shape and tone.
What is Diastasis Recti?
If you haven’t heard of diastasis recti, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I hadn’t heard of it myself until I began searching the internet for possible medical reasons for myinability to make certain twisting and jackknifing movements, combined with my growing back pain after my fourth child.
Two thirds of women experience a stretching of the muscles of the abdominal area, known as diastasis recti, in the third trimester of pregnancy. It can also occur in men as well – usually due to improper form when lifting. This muscle injury, if left undiagnosed and unaddressed, can linger on for years.
When the rectus abdominis muscle separates the abdominal muscles become weaker and less supportive of the core internal organs. The lack of internal support produces a noticeable pooch in the abdominal area that is often overlooked and dismissed as the inevitable weight gain of pregnancy or as a “beer gut”.
Without swift attention, needed exercises, movement adaptations, or special belly binding, diastasis recti can linger on in some women for years after delivery. Though not considered an emergency per se, when the internal organs don’t have the full support of the abdominal muscles women can experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Indicators include; difficulty performing certain movements or exercises, back pain, constipation, and (in rare cases) more extensive damage to the area which may result in a hernia!
Diagnosing diastasis recti
Thankfully, the presence and severity of diastasis recti can be easily self-diagnosed with a simple at-home test where you can determine the size of your injury. Once you know what you’re up against there are scores of tutorials for the exercise modifications available through tummy-targeting programs and fitness professionals specializing in treating and training to heal this type of injury. It’s important to avail them before attempting a hard-core abdominal-targeting exercise regime.
Contrary to what many well-meaning trainers teach, traditional abdominal exercises can exacerbate the injury and make your exercise efforts futile. It’s important toproperly knit the abdominal muscles back together by modifying not only your exercise routine, but your daily movements as well, on order to prepare theabdominal muscles for more intense targeted exercises.
Modified Exercises – Diastasis recti and fitness
It’s especially important to be mindful of the possibility of developing this condition after pregnancy and women should be encouraged to properly modify their movements and activities post-partum. Slow and mindful actions are key to healing this underlying abdominal injury. It takes extra attention and concentration at first, but the modifications soon become second-nature and easier to do.
Keep in mind that some routine fitness moves trainers promote to target the abdominal area – including crunches, press-ups, and front planks –can actually inadvertently aggravate the abdominal injury – making the separation worse, not better.Specific common exercises to avoid includeany twisting or jackknifing movements, some types of lifts, and exercises that make the tummy bulge out or hang down. Exercises like pushups, and sit-upsare also counter-productive: in contrast to what some personal trainers, websites, and magazine articles might recommend for “toning your core.”
When you have an abdominal injury it has to be addressed and healed first, before you can dive into a traditional workout routine. Even swimming, some yoga poses (like downward dog), and doing anything on your hands and knees can also worsenthe injury.
Movements that help reknit the rectus abdominis muscle safely include: gentle and careful side-lying exercises, upright sitting postures, deep chest breathing, and mindful awareness of and modification of daily tasks. Pushing up on one’s side to get out of a chair or bed slowly will also help prevent additional separation and begin healing the injury over time.
If you prefer to work with trained professionals and physical therapists there is a wealth of information and programs online. Paid courses and programs for those with diastasis recti include fit2be.us,TheTummy Team, or any programs or trainers promoting the “Tupler Technique.”But there is also a wealth of free information, tutorials, and videos that explain how to modify your movements and start your healing journey.
Additional support for troubled areas
Once you’ve healed your diastasis recti, and you see big improvements but still haven’t achieved the look in your abs and waist that you’re aiming for, you may also decide that you also want to avail the many modern tummy and abdominal targeting shape wear and waist trainers on the market – and don’t worry, we’ve come a long way since the 19th and 20th century use of tight-lacing corsets.
Waist trainers and flexible body shapers can help you improve your posture and continue to shape and tone your waist and abdominal area once your diastasis recti is healed – giving you the slim hourglass shape you desire.
As mothers it can be hard to squeeze in all the exercises, modifications, and diet changes we need to make to see the results we want. If we take the time to ensure proper healing and reknitting of the abdominals before we expend lots of effort in targeted exercises, we can ensure that we get the results we really desire in the most efficient way with less time-wasting and less time away from our kids.