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Diastasis recti exercises- 5 tips to get the most out of them

Close up picture of stomach wall separation (diastasis recti)

I am so excited to share my top tips for closing a diastasis recti (DR). Many people come to me having given up on their diastasis recti exercises for fear of making their gap worse. Hopefully these tips will help get you back to doing the exercise you love.

Whether following a rehab program or working 1-2-1 with a diastasis recti specialist. I’m sure you will learn something to help you perfect your diastasis recti exercises.

1. Breathing coordination while performing your diastasis recti exercises

Address breathing habits that create a pushing out into the diastasis recti. There is a lot of confusion around belly breathing. Often being seen as the optimal way to breathe. There is a vast difference, however, between a 3-dimensional expansion of the entire torso including the belly versus the ribs being locked down and only the belly moving. The latter isn’t ideal when performing your diastasis recti exercises.

Try this instead. Place your hands around your lower ribs and feel the small expansion side to side, front to back and up and down.

Image of lady sucking in under her ribs which isn't ideal when performing diastais recti exercises

2. Core engagement patterns 

Address core engagement patterns that over-rely on the superficial muscles without using the deep core musculature. 

We absolutely want to build up to working the six-pack and obliques from a functional perspective but in a way that also connects to the deeper underlying transversus abdominus when we are dealing with a diastasis recti. 

Try this to help you connect with your deep core, sit upright in a chair and slowly exhale as though you are blowing out a candle. You should feel a corseting and drawing in of the area below your belly button. This is the breath that will pre-empt any core-focused work. If when you are performing your diastasis recti exercises you are feeling your abdominals bulge, push out, brace hard like you are about to be punched or it feels like a bearing down into the pelvic floor you aren’t optimising healing. Working with someone one to one can really help you to build this connection.

Two postures slouching versus thrusting  ribs forward and tipping the pelvis. Neither is in neutral and therefore not ideal when performing diastasis recti exercises.

3. Postural habits 

Address postural habits that create a push out into the diastasis recti such as an anterior pelvic tilt and rib thrust when doing your diastasis recti exercises. I don’t bash particular ways of standing and moving but in the context of when we are doing specific diastasis recti exercises, bringing the pelvis into neutral and having the ribs stacked on top of the pelvis is going to make it 100% easier for you to connect to your deep core which for many people can take some practice.

Image of a wooden figure stepping up wooden stairs to demonstrate small an consistent progression. required when doing diastasis recti exercises

4. Consistent progression 

Actually do the exercises consistently and load progressively. This is what will ultimately help the gap to close. 

It’s also incredibly important that we don’t pigeonhole ourselves into the rehab box. Don’t just stick to reverse marching forever. We need to train the core in all dimensions to mimic daily life. Twists and side bends are absolutely on the table once you are sure you aren’t bulging, bracing, bearing down or forcefully pushing the belly out with every breath. So when choosing a personal trainer, rehab course or class ensure that they will help you to continually progress.

Lady laying on her back with a massage therapists hands gently massaging her abdomen to perform myofascial release massage

5. Bodywork on the edges of the diastasis recti. 

My final tip for getting the most out of your diastasis recti exercises is having bodywork done. Working on the areas of tension and overactive muscles that create overdominance on the superficial muscles can help you to connect with your deep core. Releasing excess tension around the ribcage and spine can reduce the pressure pushing into the gap.

Working on the edges of the diastasis recti can help the gap to lie more evenly and promotes healing and closure.

A myofascial release therapist can work on all these areas for you. 

So those are my top tips for getting the most out of your diastasis recti exercises: 

In summary

Breathing, core engagement strategy, alignment/posture particularly when working out and doing diastasis recti exercises that progressively load the core more and more. For those with a rigid spine who also hold a lot of tension in their ribs and shoulders having myofascial release, massage is incredibly beneficial. 

If you found this useful please do share so that we can help more people with a diastasis recti to feel confident in working out and getting stronger. 

If you are finding that diastasis recti exercises aren’t helping you. You may have some movement blind spots that a trained pair of eyes could really help to clear up. 
If you would like to book either an in-person or online consultation to access how your core engagement strategy and movement habits could be affecting your progress. Drop me an email to arrange a 1-2-1.