The abdominal muscles are stretched tremendously during pregnancy, especially for those who have larger babies or multiple babies. This makes diastasis recti very common in postpartum women. In fact, about 1 in ever 2 women experience diastasis recti postpartum and some don’t even realize it. This 15 minute diastasis recti workout is perfect to restore your core whether it’s been two months or two years since you had your baby!
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What is Diastasis Recti?
Diastasis Recti is the separation of your right and left abdominal muscles. Diastasis recti can cause a number of issues such as back pain, bloating, constipation, pelvic pain, pain during sex, and the “mom pooch” above or below your belly button that just won’t go away no matter what you do. That’s why it is so important to make sure that you heal up any ab separation that you have postpartum. Since many common abdominal exercises actually put more pressure on your diastasis recti and worsen it, it is important that you are doing the right exercises. The diastasis recti repair exercises below are ones that I personally used to heal my diastasis recti quickly and get back to feeling like myself again. You can complete this entire diastasis recti workout in only 15 minutes.
How Do You Know If You Have Diastasis Recti?
It is very simple to self test whether or not you have diastasis recti. Here is how to quickly and easily check to see if you may have diastasis recti:
- Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Curl your neck and head up as though you are doing a crunch.
- Use your middle and index finger to feel above and below your belly button.
- If there is a gap in your abdominal muscles these areas may feel much softer than the remainder of your abdomen. A one finger gap is considered normal. A two finger gap is considered diastasis recti.
- If you believe that you have diastasis recti after doing this self-test, make sure to contact your provider to discuss this with them before you complete my or any exercise program.
When Can You Begin Doing Diastasis Recti Exercises Postpartum?
You can start this diastasis recti workout as soon as you feel ready and your doctor gives you the all clear. Many times doctors will allow you to begin diastasis recti repair exercises prior to your six week appointment. Many people are able to start these exercises at two weeks postpartum! Starting these exercises early can help your abdominal gap heal faster and get you back to feeling like yourself again!
Ab Exercises You Should Avoid if You Have Diastasis Recti?
If you have diastasis recti or suspect that you may have it, you should avoid the following exercises. These exercises can actually make your diastasis recti worse and lengthen the healing process.
- Any ab exercise with a twisting motion (ex. Russian twists)
- Anything that bends backwards and stretches the abdominal area
- Planks (without modification)
- Push ups (without modification)
- Sit ups
- Double leg lifts
- Anything that causes your abdominals to cone or dome when completed
What is Coning/Doming?
If your abs are coning or doming, there will be a bump or bulge in the middle of your stomach. If you see your abdominals coning or doming during any exercise in this diastasis recti workout or any other workout, you should modify the exercise until it is no longer present. Do not push through it if you see this happening. This could cause more damage to your abdominal muscles.
**PLEASE READ FIRST**
Please be sure to get cleared by your doctor and discuss any exercises with your doctor before performing them. While these exercises did work for me, I am not a licensed physician and everybody is different. Beautifully Busy Mom does not take responsibility for any injury that occurs while completing these exercises.
15 Minute Diastasis Recti Workout
This diastasis recti workout consists of 10 different exercises. You will complete each exercise for 30 seconds before taking a 15 second rest and moving onto the next exercise. Go through all the exercises twice.
Make sure to listen to your body and modify this workout if necessary. If you have trouble completing these exercises for 30 seconds, start with 20 seconds instead and work your way up. You can also lengthen the amount of time spent on each exercise to 45 seconds as you progress and get stronger. Be sure that you do not complete the advanced version of the exercises before you complete the beginner exercises without abdominal coning or pain of any kind. Stop any exercise immediately that causes pain and/or doming or coning in your abdominals.
1. pillow squeeze
Beginner: Lay down flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a small pillow in between your knees. While squeezing the pillow, tilt your pelvis inwards towards your spine and hold for 3 seconds before releasing. Take a 3 second rest in between each repetition.
Advanced: Complete the action described in the beginner section, adding a glute bridge lift in between each squeeze.
2. Heel Slides
Beginner: Lay down flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slide one heel slowly forward on the floor until your leg is completely straight. Then, slide that heel back until your leg is back in the starting position. Complete the same action with the other leg and continue alternating.
Note: It helps to do this exercise in socks and it is best to do it on a wooden or tile floor. You can also use core sliders which work great on any floor!
Advanced: Complete the same movement described in the beginner section, while keeping your heel off the ground the whole time. Be sure to keep the supporting leg (the one not sliding) on the ground at all times to help support your abdominal muscles.
3. Single Leg Heel Taps
Beginner: Lay flat on your back with your legs bent and feet resting on your heels. Bring one leg at a time up towards your chest, keeping that leg bent throughout the whole motion. Place your foot back down onto the ground, resting on your heel, before doing the same with the other leg. Continue alternating.
Advanced: Lay flat on your back with your legs bent towards your chest so the bottom half of your leg is parallel with the ground. Drop one heel at a time to touch the floor before returning your leg to the top. Do the same with the other side and continue alternating. (should I make it a glute bridge march on heels)
4. Bird Dog Crunches
Beginner: Kneel on all fours on either an exercise mat or a soft surface. Reach your right arm out in front of you, in line with your right ear. At the same time, extend your left leg out behind you, parallel with the ground. Next, bend both your leg and arm to touch your knee to your elbow underneath your body. Make sure to draw in your belly button as you do so to activate your abdominals. Repeat on the same side for half of the allotted time and then switch to the left arm and right leg for remainder of the exercise.
Advanced: If you have mastered the beginner bird dog crunch and want to make this exercise a little more difficult, bring both your hands and your knees closer together when you get on all fours. This narrows your base and requires your abs to help stabilize you more throughout the entire exercise.
5. CAT COW
Beginner: Begin this exercise kneeling on all fours. As you exhale, draw your belly button and pubic bone in towards your spine, put your head down, and round your back. As you inhale, return back to your starting position with your spine straight and your gaze straight ahead. Repeat.
Advanced: DO NOT complete the advanced version of this exercise if you have severe diastasis recti and have not developed adequate core strength to do so. This exercise involves a slight stretching of the abdominal muscles and can worsen severe diastasis recti. To do this exercise, begin kneeling on all fours. As you exhale draw your belly button and pubic bone in towards your spine, put your head down, and round your back (see image of beginner version). As you inhale, press your chest forward, arch your back, and allow your stomach to sink towards the floor. Continue repeating this cycle of inhale and exhale slowly and controlled for the duration of the exercise.
6. MODIFIED SIDE PLANK/Side Plank
Beginner: Lay down on your right side. Place your right forearm onto the mat, directly under your right shoulder. Bend your right knee and place it underneath you while extending your left leg straight out. Push your hips up to create a straight line with your body. Make sure that both hips stay aligned. Repeat with the left side.
Advanced: Once you feel confident performing a modified side plank, begin straightening the lower leg to come to a standard side plank. If this still is easy for you and your abs are not coning, you can perform side plank dips by slowly lowering your bottom hip to touch the floor before raising it back in line with the rest of your body. Repeat on the other side of your body.
7. Clam Shells
Beginner: Lie on your side with your knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Keep your shoulders, hips, and feet stacked. Use your bottom arm to support your head and your top arm to keep your hips from moving. Pull your belly button in to engage your abs and slowly raise the top knee as high as you can while keeping the lower knee on the floor and without shifting your hips backwards. After completed the designated amount of time, switch to the other side.
Advanced: To increase the difficulty of the exercise, add a small loop resistance band placed just above the knee on each leg while performing the exercise.
Note: I am using a medium strength resistance band here.
8. Single Leg Lifts
Beginner: Lay flat on your back with your legs straight up in the air, forming a 90 degree angle with your body. If you cannot get to a full 90 degrees, simply get as close as you can to straight legs. Place your hands under you to help support yourself. Slowly lower one leg until your foot is resting on the ground. Pause and then slowly raise it back up. Complete this same motion with the other leg and then continue alternating.
Advanced: To increase the difficulty of this exercise, do not let your feet touch the ground when you lower your leg. Lower each leg until it is barely hovering off the ground and then lift it back up to the starting position.
9. Dead Bugs
Beginner: Lie down on your back. Place your legs in the air with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and the lower half of your leg parallel with the floor. Reach your arms straight up towards the ceiling with your palms facing in. To begin the exercise, simultaneously tap your left heel to the floor at the same time you extend your right arm overhead. Do the same with your left arm and right heel. Continue alternating.
Advanced: Start in the same position as in the beginner version of this exercise. Rather than tapping your foot to the ground and keeping your leg bent, extend your leg straight out to hover above the floor. Simultaneously extend the opposite arm above your head. Immediately switch the the opposite arm and leg. Continue alternating.
10. Slow Mountain Climbers
Beginner: Stand a little further than an arms length away from a wall with your feet shoulder width apart. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder height and about shoulder width apart, fingers facing upward. Slowly lift one knee up towards your chest before returning it to the ground. Do the same with the other knee. Continuing alternating sides.
Advanced: Get into a high plank position, hands directly below your shoulders. Slowly bring one knee up towards your chest before placing it back down in the starting position. Continue by doing the same with the other knee. Continuing alternating sides for the remainder of the exercise.
Another Great Diastasis Recti Exercise to Try!
What are Kegels? Why should you do them?
Pregnancy and childbirth can greatly weaken your pelvic floor muscles. This can cause incontinence when coughing, laughing, or sneezing. Kegels are the contraction and exercising of the pelvic floor muscles that are weakened during pregnancy and they can help restore these muscles again. Kegels are a great diastasis recti repair exercise.
How do you Kegels? How do you know if you are doing them correctly?
To begin, you will need to identify your pelvic floor muscles. An easy way to do this is to go to the bathroom and stop urinating mid stream. The muscles that you use to stop are the muscles you need to contract when doing a kegel. To do a kegel, lift/squeeze those same muscles and hold for 3 seconds before relaxing for 3 seconds. You can complete kegels for time, but it is often best to do kegels for a set amount of reps. A good goal to start with is a set of 10 kegels three times a day.
If you are having trouble telling if you are doing kegels correctly, using the Intima Kegel Sport is a great option. It is extremely affordable and is able to detect when you contract the incorrect muscles. It also registers the strength of contractions so you can see your progress.
If you are still having trouble and cannot figure out how to contract the muscles yourself, a kegel toner will emit electrical stimulation that makes the muscles naturally contract. Most people see results in about three months (at 20 min. a day) with a machine like this.
On the other hand, if you find kegels easy and need more of a challenge, you can increase the difficulty of this exercise by using weighted kegel balls. These also decrease the amount of reps you have to do for the same amount of benefit. With just 15 minutes of a kegel weight, you can replace 100 kegels! Kegels are a great addition to any diastasis recti workout!
It can be difficult to get back to feeling like yourself again after having a baby! Along the way, it gets tempting to give up, but don’t! I promise you, it will be worth it. Use this diastasis recti workout and you will see results! Belive in yourself and believe in your body. It is capable of amazing things! And don’t forget to post those amazing ab pics in the comments below! I can’t wait to celebrate with you!