Most women think that abdominal separation is the splitting of the muscle at the front of the torso – that 6 pack muscle, the rectus abdominis.
This is really only half true- as it’s not the muscle, but the connective tissue that is in the middle – called the linea alba.
This connective tissue stretches and thins out to make room for the baby during pregnancy. This is completely normal and is meant to happen!
But with our busy lifestyle, lots of sitting, and physical demands, a lot of women are finding they STILL have diastasis recti even decades after giving birth.
The mistake a lot of us (inadvertently) make thinking that by working that ‘separated’ muscle, we’ll heal diastasis recti. But actually, working this muscle when the connective tissue is weak, makes it much worse.
Here are the 3 common types of ab exercises that widen the gap and weaken that connective tissue further:
Flexion is bending forward at your spine.
Common exercises in flexion - sit-ups, crunches, v sits, ab bicycles
TEST IT: As you lift up into this position it will widen the gap - pop your fingers in and see.
Extension is bending backwards, creating an arch in your back, and stretching out the abdominals.
Common extension exercises - yoga poses such as warrior, half-moon, upward facing dog, back bends.
If you have thin connective tissue along your separation, this position can place too much stretch along that line, furthering weakening the area.
If you’re doing yoga while you have an unhealed separation/weak connective tissue, modify your session until you have healed.
Intra-abdominal pressure is a pushing out and bracing sensation in the abdominal area. We do it when things are very heavy, when we are straining to lift things, or when we hold the same position without moving (called an isometric exercise) for a long time.
Common exercises that create intra-abdominal pressure: planks, push-ups from the toes, heavy overhead extensions.
The bracing and pushing out effect widens the abdomen and creates pressure on the linea alba (the bit that is 'separated').
Once you have closed the gap if you are correcting diastasis recti, it can still take a couple of months for the connective tissue to thicken and strengthen in this fixed position.
Wait for this reinforcement to occur before leaping out and doing the exercises above again.
Remember if it’s malleable enough that corrective exercises can bring the gap together, it’s also malleable enough to be moved apart.
Connective tissue takes time to heal, it’s not a muscle, and you can’t speed up the process.
The place to get started with healing diastasis recti is undestanding a complete deep core and pelvic core activation. You can try the program, full of comprehensive assessments, daily access to me for coaching, and exercises to close diastasis recti for good - here.
The Postpartum Method takes women though 3 levels of training - Core Healing, Core Fitness, and Core Strength.