During pregnancy the muscles of your core are stretched to make room for your baby. The tissue between the abdominals thins and widens, which leads to separation of the abdominal muscles.
This is totally normal so generally nothing to worry about and in most women their 'abs' will naturally come back together over time.
You can measure the extent of your abdominal separation by how many fingers you can fit in the gap. This is usually best done by a physiotherapist or
post-natal qualified personal trainer but you can also do this yourself if you fancy it.
A gap of two fingers or more qualifies as diastis recti and depending on how large it is, you may need something more focused to help close it up. In very severe cases some women may also require surgery.
For most women exercise should be nothing to fear. In fact, it’s a great way to strengthen the abdominal wall however certain movement patterns may hinder your recovery, so it’s important to know what to do (and what not do do) so it doesn’t get worse.
Most forms of exercise are perfectly safe with diastis recti and you can strengthen your core without actually doing core specific exercises. The main thing you need to concentrate on is trying to control your core during all exercises but focusing on your breathing and engaging your deep core muscles.
Learning how to correctly engage your core and pelvic floor at the start of each rep is a great way to strengthen the core even if the exercises are not specifically core related. Squats, lunges, deadlifts etc all hugely benefit your core strength when done correctly.
You should avoid exercises which create excessive doming of the stomach if you have diastis recti i.e. in a crunch or v-sit where the centre of your stomach may raise up. As your stomach domes the abdominals will separate and you'll effectively be adding additional pressure to an area which is already weak which can exacerbate the problem.
This does not mean that you can’t do ‘core’ exercises and there are still many exercises that you can do safely, but you do need to be aware of exerting additional pressure onto the abdominal wall where it is already weak.
What each person can and can’t do safely will be different. In my group exercise classes we focus on engaging and strengthening the core muscles without adding additional pressure to the abdominal wall, so all exercises are diastis recti safe.
You can build core strength without spending lots of time on ‘core’ exercises and in many cases core exercises are overrated as they are an inefficient way to build strength, burn calories, lose fat and get fitter.
Your core muscles are tiny, so the impact of a core workout on your strength and calorie burn will be minimal when compared to the impact of a leg or upper body workout.
There is a place for rehab core exercises as you’re getting back to exercise and you do need to learn to engage your core muscles properly however provided you don’t have a serous diastase recti that needs expert physio, you will still see great results in your overall core strength by training your full body.
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