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Post Partum Abdominal Exercises – what to do- what not to do

In: Busy Mom Fitness Solutions|Exercises|Pain Management|Tips & Techniques

25 Jan 2010

Post Partum Abdominal Exercises

This week I was talking to my massage therapist and she said she had a post natal client with diastasis recti.  She said she was doing crunches and her abdominal split was getting worse- she was 6 months post partum if I recall correctly.

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First What is Rectus DiastasisWikipedia Definition It is the separation between the right and left half of the rectus abdominus muscles.  Mothers are prone to this from their growing uterus.

How to Test If you Have Diastasis Recti–  here is a link with an easy description and photos.


There are exercises that make Diastasis Recti worse.

If you do have more than a 2 finger separation than abdominal crunches are a definite no, no.  Flexing your rectus abdominus with this separation will pull from the origin of the muscle and can make your separation worse.  Oblique crunches are a definite gut buster, literally- again flexing lateral abdominal muscles can again pull your separation wider from your mid-line (linea alba).   Last but not least and on a more minor scale- abdominal bracing- this is used when lifting weights and you are just flexing everything in your midsection to stabilize your body.  Your obliques will flex with this method.  If you do not suffer Diastasis Recti, this is the preferred method of stabilizing when lifting weights.  If you do have a greater than 2 finger separation then focus on drawing in your abdominals and flexing your transverse abdominus muscle- it will feel like a band around your belly.  The slight draw in and brace method helps with neuromuscular retraining after your belly has been stretched, can help bind the rectus abdominus together as it works transverse to them and  does not flex your oblique muscles as much or at all.

So what exercises can you do.

Planks and plank variations for stabilization, leg lowering moves for hip flexors.  Exercises to avoid- lumbar flexion- or crunches- any variation- if your spine is moving you are not stabilizing it.  Hence the term CORE STABILITY.  Get more safe abdominal exercises in the Busy Mom Fitness program.

What if You Don’t Suffer Diastasis Recti?

Avoid crunches, avoid any lumbar rotation moves.  Yes, the lumbar spine was not designed to flex or rotate- that is why the segments are so big- it is designed to stabilize.  Dr. Stu McGill is a world renowned low back specialist from the University of Waterloo- yes right in our backyard.  Please look at his bio and home page as well as his published books.  Dr. McGill has his BIG 3 Exercises- they are side planks and plank variation, bird dog bilateral back extension exercises and a curl up lifting your head and shoulders off the ground but keeping your lumbar spine stabilized.  The true function of your abdominal muscles are to work as ANTI ROTATORS- that is right to avoid rotation thru your spine.   Rotation is reducing core stability and excessive flexion is putting undue stress on the segments of your lumbar spine.

But I have to Bend?  You are right bending is a functional movement, so try an alternative and try bending from your hips like the waiters bow move featured in the video and one of the staple exercises in the baby Bump Busy Mom Fitness Program


Last but not least I just completed a body weight workout.  My daughter would not nap today and I did not want her getting into the weights and bands.  Todays workout- 2 rounds of this superset- rear foot elevated split squat (10 each side, second set with a jump) with pushups 10x,  Second Superset 2 rounds of these 3 exercises 1 legged squat (10x/leg) Elevated foot knee drive (10x per side), Foam roller hamstring curls 10x- rest and repeat.  Rest and then a burpie blaster- 10 burpies, rest, 8 burpies, rest, 6 burpies, rest, 4 burpies, rest, 2 burpies- stretch gluts and hips flexors, chest.   This was done with NO EQUIPMENT, in my slippers in my basement.

We had a fun filled weekend with the girls.  They enjoyed a friends birthday party with animals.  They had the chance to hold a bunny, chinchilla, snake, turtle, gecko, chicken, and red eye tree frog.  The next day we took them to Funnelz indoor play ground and Sunday morning 8am, we were the only family at the park playing soccer with a princess ball.

2 Responses to Post Partum Abdominal Exercises – what to do- what not to do



January 25th, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Hey Jacqueline, what a great post and timely too! I have recently started a new training program which calls for ab curls and have been worried about widening my Diastasis. Mine is less than 2 fingers wide but even so I have been substituting mountain climbers for the ab curls. I want to be sure that my core is strong enough to cope before I attempt any curl type movement.

Thanks so much for this great informative post!



January 27th, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Nisha, I follow my own advice as well. My split is now about 1 finger, but I completely leave out curl up movements. There are so many great efficient ab exercises that do not involve a curl up movement, why GUESS, just substitute.


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