Diastasis recti is a muscular condition that’s way more common than you might think; in fact, two thirds of pregnant women develop it. Diastasis recti happens when theab muscles separate, leaving a gap between them. This little gap can create serious problems, with anything from lower back pain to a hernia. Surgery can fix diastasis, but most of the time, so can exercise. The goal is to bridge and strengthen your transverse abdominis (TVA) muscles, which are the deep core muscles that give you you stability, strength, and pretty much help you do anything and everything.
These TVA exercises aren’t your typical ab crunches, bicycles, or planks; gone are the days of training your abs until you can’t laugh the next day without also whimpering in pain. Now, it’s all about subtle, simple movements that force you to engage your TVA muscles, which will help heal your diastasis recti over time. Whether you use these three moves as a circuit three times a week or incorporate them into your existing routine is up to you, but you should make these three moves a priority to help you fix your diastasis recti on your own and prevent anything more serious from happening. The best part is? No equipment needed but yourmat.
One of the best moves you can do to heal your diastasis recti is incredibly small, and surprisingly simple. You can do this move anywhere and anytime, which makes it easy to incorporate a few sets into your day. To start off, sit cross legged with your shoulders back and spine tall and straight. Take a giant breath, feeling your belly expand, then exhale while sucking in your ab muscles as far back as you can. You want to feel the motion of pulling your muscles back into your spine (without ever rounding your back), which is how you’ll activate those deep TVA muscles. The fun isn’t over yet: hold this position and start taking tiny breaths. With each exhale, feel your belly muscles contract even further. To make sure your stomach isn’t bulging out, keep your hands flat on your stomach and make sure your back stays straight. Continue this exercise for ten minutes, rotating between sitting cross legged, kneeling on all fours, lying on your side in the fetal position, or sitting on your knees.
One common symptom of diastasis recti is lowerback pain, because your body doesn’t have the core muscles to rely on anymore and instead it makes your lower back do the work that your core normally would. Pelvic tilt exercises can help teach you to rely on your TVA muscles instead of your lower back, while also strengthening these muscle bands to help pull them back into place.
The pelvic tilt is pretty simple: lie on your back, bend your knees, and keep your feet flat on the ground. You’ll notice a slight rounding of the lower back that leaves space between your back and the ground; you want to get rid of that space by pulling your belly in towards your spine and tilting your pelvic forward. Hold this position while continuing to breathe, relax, and repeat. There are a few variations once you master this move, such as bringing in one or both knees to the chest while holding the tilt, and then progressing to single or double leg lowers. If you ever start to feel your lower back engage, it means your TVA muscles aren’t strong enough to support you (so back to the basic pelvic tilt!).
Crunches and planks feel intense, which makes you think they’re working, but they’re also putting intense pressure on your lower back. A gentler move that effectively strengthens your TVA muscles are toe taps. Lay on your back and raise your legs so that your knees are in line with your hips and your shins are parallel to the floor. Pull your belly button to your spine, and slowly lower your right foot to gently tap the ground (keeping the 90-degree bend in your leg). Raise back to your original position and repeat on the left side. Repeat for up to a minute (or as long as you can), and do 1-3 sets if possible. Once you master this, you can lower and raise both legs at the same time as long as you don’t feel any tension or pain in your back.
Try this no-equipment back exercise in your next workout and start building a stronger back and core. Jenny Lam shows you how it’s done!
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