Is it Possible to Workout with Diastasis Recti (aka Post-Baby Tummy)?

Diastasis recti is a very common occurrence in postnatal women as well as anyone who has been obese. It is the stretching of the tissue that connects the two sides of the rectus abdominis together (this is the “6 pack” muscle). Living with diastasis can be hard. Women especially often feel self-conscious about their abdominals holding the rounded shape of pregnancy. I’ve had clients over the years that are constantly asked when they are due as a result of their diastasis. (Note: don’t ever ask a woman if she is pregnant –even if it looks like she might give birth in the next five minutes.) On top of appearance, diastasis might be a sign that your abdominals aren’t functioning well. This can lead to back pain or injury, pelvic floor issues, poor movement patterns (which are likely to injure other joints), loss of balance, and other issues.

How can you tell if you have diastasis? 

Lie on your back and lift your head and shoulders off the floor with your hand over your tummy. If you feel pressure up from the midline or if you can push your fingers deep in between your rectus abdominus then you likely have a diastasis. (Some degree of space is to be expected; that is what creates the 6-pack line.)

Don’t worry!

It can be fixed or very much improved with proper care.  If you think you might have diastasis, I highly recommend seeing a physiotherapist that specializes in pre/postnatal recovery. I work closely with the wonderful folks at Bloom physiotherapy who take the best care of my clients that I send their way. They are pros at getting moms functioning well again. 

When you are looking for a physiotherapist please make sure you find one that will support you in working out even while you are recovering. Movement is medicine and all movement can be modified. Many moms have been told not to do anything until they are recovered, but it is possible to heal your diastasis and follow the physio’s program while exercising. In fact, women recover better when they are training (properly) and not just doing physio. Moms need to be strong and fit; they do a lot of heavy lifting, they need the energy and endorphins to help with sleep deprivation and they all want to feel like themselves again after pregnancy. Exercise is key for all moms. 

Exercise is the link between physio and life.

I’ve seen so many moms over the years that get good at their physio exercises but still can’t do the things they want to do.  While it can be frustrating (especially for the fitter moms) to slow down a workout in order to connect to their core, and then slowly progress each movement in a way that the core can keep up, it is the key to recovery and getting back to doing all the things you used to do. Even with diastasis and zero core awareness, there are plenty of movements that will not over-stress the core that can help build strength, endurance and improve body composition. In truth, our tissues and muscles respond to the stresses placed on them by building stronger tissue. If you can find a fitness professional that understands the recovery process and helps you train right, it will speed up recovery and get you back to doing everything you used to do.

Here are the basics: 

Learn the feeling of “doming” i.e. when your midline pushes forward in between your abdominals, and learn how to control the doming with gentle core work. Over time you should be able to progress to more challenging core exercises (anything is safe as long as there’s no doming). Work through all your functional exercises and regress the movement to the point that you can maintain proper core engagement and no doming. Progress these movements as you get stronger. With lots of commitment (and patience), you’ll be back to pre-pregnancy function before you know it!

This blog post was written by Coach Kate Laird