How do I know if an exercise is safe if I have Diastasis Recti?
This is something I get asked a lot in our private Facebook workout group (which you can join here)
As always seems to be the case the answer is:
Before you can decide if you are ready to do an exercise you need to ask yourself a series of questions to help yourself decide if you are ready.
Don't know if you have Diastasis Recti? Here is how you can self-test here
FIRST though you should do the FREE Beginners Program for at least 3 weeks WITHOUT other exercises, possibly up to 6 weeks depending on your gap and core strength.
This will adequately strengthen your transverse abdominis, start healing your connective tissue, AND reduce the gap without the possibility (and PROBABILITY) of hindering your progress.
So… what are the questions you need to ask yourself before participating in any activity?
Whether it is your favorite barre/yoga/boot camp class? Or doing dance aerobics or swimming? It doesn’t matter what activity it is – the questions to help you determine whether that movement is safe for diastasis recti are the same.
Here they are:
1) Am I able to perform this activity with my Transverse Abdominis (TVAs) engaged?
If not, you need to skip or modify that movement to make it safe for diastasis recti.
2) Does anything that I’m doing cause my abs to bulge or dome forward?
Does it exert downward, outward or bulging pressure on my pelvic floor?
If the answer is yes to either question, ask yourself if you can consciously avoid that or is it beyond your control?
If beyond your control, you need to skip or modify that movement.
3) Does the movement involve lifting my shoulders off the floor from a back-lying position?
i.e a crunch motion.
If so, can you modify that exercise to keep your shoulders down and your TVAs engaged, or replace that movement with a Diastasis safe exercise?
4) Does the movement involve lifting both legs off the floor from a back-lying position?
If it does, can I keep my spine neutral and my abs completely flat (no doming or bulging) throughout the complete range of motion?
The answer is probably no – this is too demanding for most humans, even very strong ones, to perform while keeping the abs and the back safe.
Instead, make this movement safe for diastasis recti by lifting only one leg at a time and keeping your hands on your abs to monitor proper engagement and ensure no doming or bulging occurs.
5) Am I moving too quickly (burpees or mountain climbers, for example) to know whether or not my core is correctly engaged?
If you can’t tell whether you are engaging your TVAs correctly, and can't monitor for bulging or doming, then you need to slow down that movement or modify it so you can perform it with control.
6) Can I exhale and engage your TVAs on every exertion?
For example, with any lift (free weight/body weight/kettlebell/resistance machine/groceries/your children), can you exhale on the exertion and engage your TVAs…
7) Backbends (For example, in Yoga, barre and dance/gymnastics class)
A full backbend, or any other extreme spinal extension and lengthening of the upper abdominal wall, will almost certainly exacerbate diastasis recti.
This is because this type of stretch is essentially impossible to perform while keeping the TVAs engaged and not flaring your ribcage, which opens the upper abdominal muscles.
Avoid this category of stretches to prevent injury.
For an alternative that’s safe for diastasis recti, perform a gentle bridge pose or a modified cobra - as long as you can keep your ribcage from flaring and your TVAs engaged
While performing an aerobic activity, such as running/brisk walking/biking/swimming/dancing/other cardio, these are your most important self-checks:
Can I maintain a neutral spine (no ribs thrusting/butt sticking out/ tucking the pelvis under you) throughout the workout?
Can I engage my TVAs with every exhalation? (The abs will need to soften and relax on inhalation to allow adequate oxygen uptake –but never bulge forcefully forward).
Additionally, if your cardio of choice involves impact (such as running or jumping), closely monitor your pelvic floor: do you feel downward or bulging pressure? Do you leak or dribble involuntarily? If so, please stop performing that activity and focus on core strengthening exercises that are safe for diastasis recti. Switch to no or low-impact cardio (like cycling, swimming or walking) for a few weeks, until you have the core strength and control to resume running or other high impact workouts without stressing your pelvic floor.
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