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2 Healing Exercises for Diastasis Recti

If diastasis recti—a separation of the abdominal muscles—is part of your pregnancy experience, you are not alone. Two thirds of pregnant women develop the condition, which results from the stretching and thinning of the connective tissue that holds the muscles of the abdominal wall together. The resulting gap, which is measured in finger widths, often closes spontaneously after birth. But when it remains, the separation can contribute to core and pelvic instability and a pooch that refuses to budge.

Sara Haley, a pre- and postnatal exercise specialist who has worked with celebrity new moms like Brooklyn Decker, knows a thing or two about closing the gaps. The mother of two, and the creator of the Expecting MORE workout series, developed diastasis recti (DR) during her second pregnancy and set out to address it with her 4th Trimester Workout.

While several uncontrollable factors play a part in the evolution of DR (connective tissue strength, baby size, natural musculature), you have some sway over a few. “Get in shape before you get pregnant,” says Haley. “You may even have a DR prior to pregnancy if you’ve been working your abdominals wrong or are obese, which is why it’s so important to get in the best shape of your life prior to pregnancy.”

Other tips? Avoid overtraining your abdominals (Haley calls crunches “the devil”) and focus on working your core as a unit, paying special attention to correct form and the transverse abdominis (TvA), your deepest abdominal muscle that acts like a girdle.

Once diastasis recti is diagnosed (a separation of more than 2 to 2.5 finger widths is often considered an issue), the main objective is to close the gap without aggravating the abs further. “It requires lots of core stabilization and isometric holds where you engage the core, interlock the TvA [a technique featured in the 4th Trimester Workout] and kegel,” says Haley, who recommends steering clear of spine extensions (in yoga, that means positions like updog, camel and locust), twists and any exercises—particularly high-impact ones—where you feel you aren’t able to engage the TvA.

Ultimately, commitment is key. Stick to a regular routine of specific exercises, such as the two featured below, and expect to get stronger and see results. “Remember, your body was stretched for nine months and for those of us who have more than one child, it has stretched even more than that,” says Haley. “Give yourself at least the amount of time you were pregnant to heal—and probably longer.”

For 30 percent off any of Sara Haley’s Expecting MORE workouts—including her Expecting MORE: 4th Trimester Workout, which address diastasis recti—go to her website and use this code at checkout: FitBump30.


Resistance Fight

Lie on your back with feet on the floor and knees bent. Lift your right leg up to tabletop position: your shin will be parallel to the floor and your knee will be in line with your hip. Take your left hand and push against your right thigh. As you try to push your leg away, resist by trying to bring your leg toward you in opposition. As you fight, pull your navel towards your spine and close your rib cage. You may feel your body start to shake. Begin by holding for 15 seconds on each side. Gradually increase to 45 seconds on each side.

Slide Out

Sit cross legged on the floor. Place your right hand on your belly and think of pulling your navel away from your hand and into your back. By keeping your hand on your belly, you should be able to feel when your abs contract and when they do not. Hold a towel in your left hand and slide it along the floor, out and away from your body (pictured below). Think of going up and over to the side so your right side does not collapse. Return with the same control you used when sliding out. Perform 8 repetitions on both sides. Gradually increase to 12 repetitions on both side.


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