What exercises are "safe" if you have diastasis recti?
This is a question I get from many women. It’s also a question I’ve asked before… well, if you know me you know I didn’t ask it so much as researched it then decided to go against the grain on much of the “advice” I got from Dr. Google.
I am currently 18 weeks pregnant. When I was this far along with my son, I was furiously pushing my doctor for answers on when I needed to quit doing core exercises, i.e. my weekly Les Mills CXworx class, and not getting very far on that front. Basically all he told me was “you know what to do more than I do” and “listen to your body.” At the time I had just specialized in pre/postnatal and was completing my NASM Women’s Fitness certification, which I hate to tell you had VERY lackluster information on the actual phases of pregnancy and postpartum fitness and nary a mention of diastasis recti in the whole damn course- at least that I can recall.
I wasn’t happy with this advice. I thought, as my doctor, he would know more. He would understand my concerns over the health of my body, the concerns I had about my growing belly, and the fact that what I’d read had COMPLETELY terrified me as an active individual who wanted to keep it that way. Pretty much all I got was “meh, you’re fine.”
So I had to go it alone. I quit teaching CXworx around 16 weeks, I stopped going completely around 20 weeks because I had to modify basically the entire class and it just didn’t feel right for me. I really had no information beyond “don’t do crunches or planks or you’ll make it worse”, which was advice that had me terrified of sitting up out of the bathtub or out of bed.
After Eli was born, the fear stayed. I was actually terrified to test myself so I didn’t until about 6-8 weeks postpartum. I also didn’t really know what to DO with that information, where to go from there, or how to return to teaching my core class. When someone asked me if I could sub a class at around 8 weeks postpartum I said no because I had diastasis recti and their response was “oh, that sounds painful”, which sent me in a tailspin of wondering what was wrong with my body and feeling weak and broken.
Here’s the kicker. I KNEW diastasis recti was a normal part of pregnancy and postpartum… and I still felt that way.
When I returned to teaching CXworx, hoping that I was “healed” enough, I was around 15 weeks postpartum. Every second was terrifying. Every crunch or plank I did I was worried I would blow my belly out. Every time I had pain anywhere after a class, I wondered if I’d ruined my body.
I didn’t blow my belly out, but I did wind up with pelvic pain that lasted for about a year. Was that because of the exercise? I don’t know. Was that because I didn’t fully rehab before I began teaching again? Not sure. If I’d spent the better part of that year doing heel slides and no-crunch DR healing exercises, would I have had pelvic pain? Honestly, I probably would have still had it. If I’d had more support from a knowledgeable trainer or coach would I have had a less terrifying experience with my postpartum period? Absofuckinglutely.
Ok so that was a bit of a long-winded story to get to here, but I wanted you to understand that I’ve been there- Googling safe exercises and wondering what was right for my body. Stressing about every movement, hoping that in time everything would just “heal” and I’d be good to go. Stuck in an endless loop of breathing and heel slides, unable to connect the dots between these exercises and the ones I wanted to do.
So, I’m here to give you the truth. The real deal about diastasis recti-safe exercises. Are you ready for this one?
Any exercise can be diastasis recti-safe with the right strategy at the right time for your body.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m giving you the go ahead to do kipping pull ups, full sit ups (in volume), and plank all day at 38 weeks pregnant, 6 weeks postpartum, even in your second trimester or 4 months postpartum.
There’s an order of things. Pregnancy should be a time where we choose exercises appropriately to minimize the severity of DR (and other common issues) and postpartum should be a time where we are healing the belly (and the body) well. This requires different strategies, modifying certain exercises, sometimes taking them off the table completely, and taking a mindful approach to training- both in exercise choice and intensity. However, if you still have a gap after you’ve done all the “safe” things, all the rehab-type movements, and all the DR safe modifications, does that mean that you’re locked into rehab and modification-mode for life… or until your abs come all the way back together? Nope. Not in the slightest.
What I’m saying here is that what if the “unsafe” exercises for diastasis recti are the ones you actually need at some point to get your core stronger? If you feel weak doing these movements, more than likely it’s because you haven’t done them for a while because you’ve been in rehab and modification mode, not because your body is broken.
What if any exercise was diastasis recti safe with the right approach and at the right time? What if healing included doing some of the no-no exercises?
Here’s a few examples for you, just so I don’t leave you hanging on the DR safe exercises. Below you’ll find a few videos on two common concerns in terms of diastasis recti- crunches and planks- and ways to tell if they are appropriate for your body.
Exercises like these don’t have to be off the table forever because you have a gap, though many times we think that they are and no matter how often we do the rehab we never progress to the “safe” place. I’m here to show you that things can be different, that you are stronger than you think you are, and that healing isn’t just lying on your back breathing and heel sliding.
I’m also here to keep going against the grain (hi, because I’m me) and bust the myths we often see on Google. I’m doing just that on my upcoming FREE webinar “The TRUTH about diastasis recti- what the Google searches won’t tell you.” If you feel stuck, concerned, or just plain down about all the information you’re seeing out there, I want you to come join me.
In this webinar I’ll teach you:
The TRUTH about abdominal separation- 5 common myths that are holding you back
The actual methods I use to test for diastasis recti, that you can use yourself, and what you SHOULD be looking for (hint: it’s not all about the gap)
The top 3 things that every mom with diastasis recti needs to know about exercise
It’s going to be so amazing. I am so excited to help you move past fear and worry and actually start feeling strong and empowered up in this place!
The webinar is Tuesday, September 10th and you’ve got 2 times to join me- 10-11 AM CST and 8-9 PM CST. You can sign up here and choose your preferred time. And I URGE you to choose one that allows you to stay on till the end (even if Paw Patrol has to entertain the kids for a bit) because I’m giving you a special bonus at the end of the webinar, a bonus that won’t go public and only my live listeners will get.
Ready to move forward in your healing? Let’s do this thang. Remember to sign up here and bring all the questions you’ve got. See you soon!