No matter what shape your core is in, these diastasis recti exercises will heal and strengthen your entire core. Diastasis Recti is the separation of the rectus abdominus muscle that runs vertically along the anterior wall of our abdomen. It’s also known as the “6-pack muscle.” The two sides of the rectus abdominus are separated by connective tissue called the linea alba. When one has diastasis recti, the linea alba becomes stretched and weakened, creating a gap of 2.7 centimeters or more between the two sections of the rectus abdominus. Pregnancy, working out incorrectly or a weak pelvic floor and transverse abdominus muscle can all cause this separation. Not only can it create a bulge to your belly, but it can also create pelvic instability and low back pain.
To test whether or not you have diastasis recti, lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place one hand behind your head and the other hand on your abdomen, fingertips on the belly button parallel to your waistline. Lift your head as you exhale and engage your abs. Press your fingertips into your navel and check to see that the space in between your abdominal wall is not more than about 2 fingers width. You should also have tension as you contract the muscle which wouldn’t allow your fingers to press in too deep. Check a couple inches above and below your belly button as well. If you find that there is a large gap in any of these areas and that your fingers are not met with resistance, then doing these exercises should help rebuild the tissue and muscle strength properly. Proper breathing is crucial when you have diastasis recti. Always exhale at the point of exertion, drawing your navel in towards your spine.
Single Leg Heel Slides– Lie flat on your back on a mat with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Keep your arms by your sides or place them around your midsection to help keep your abs together as you do the exercise. In all of these exercises, you want to engage the pelvic floor muscles by contracting the same muscles you would use to stop a flow of urine. Think of pulling those muscles in and up, along with your belly button. Be careful not to tuck the tailbone under too much by squeezing your glutes. You want to have a neutral pelvis and spine. Exhale to slowly extend one leg out keeping the heel on the ground. If your hands are around your abs, apply light pressure to each side of your abs. Inhale to slowly slide the leg back in. Repeat on the opposite side. Keep your hips and core stable the entire time.
Tabletop Toe Taps– Stay lying flat on your back and lift both legs up to a tabletop position. Knees should be directly over hips and shins parallel to the floor. Again, you may keep your hands at your sides or place them around your midsection for more core support. Without letting your lower back lift off the ground, slowly lower one leg down to the floor keeping the same tabletop shape. It’s important to continue pulling your navel into your spine as you exhale. As soon as your toes touch the ground slowly lift your leg back up to the original position on an inhale. Repeat with the other leg.
Single Leg Circles– Lie flat on your back with your legs stretched long. Straighten one leg up to the sky while lengthening the other leg and anchoring the heel to the ground. If you cannot keep your abs engaged or back from overarching in this position, you can bend the leg that’s on the ground keeping the foot flat on the floor. Holding onto the leg in the air, bend and straighten the leg 3 times to stretch the hamstring. Hold the leg up in the air while you place your hands on your hips. Make sure your hips are square and keep your hands there during the exercise to help stabilize your pelvis. Slowly circle the free leg across your body and around to make a circle. Your circle should only be as big as you can make it without moving your torso. Inhale as you circle the leg down and exhale to bring it back up, drawing your abdominals deeper to bring the leg closer to your face. Do 5-8 circles in each direction before switching legs.
Bird Dog– This exercise requires focus on your deep core muscles to keep proper back alignment without the support of the floor. Get onto all fours making sure your shoulders are over your wrists and your hips directly over your knees. Pull your shoulder blades down your back and draw your navel into your spine to create a neutral spine. You want to avoid arching the lower back and allowing your belly to sink towards the floor. Without changing the shape of your torso, lift your left arm and right leg off the ground. Continue lifting your arm to shoulder height and your leg to hip height. If at any time you feel your back starting to arch or your abs disengaging, stop and hold your arm and leg at a height that you are able to maintain your posture. Find your balance and then slowly return back to the all fours. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm. If you can successfully complete several reps of these on each side, you may try the next variation. Once your arm and leg are extended, draw your navel in deeper as you exhale to bring your elbow to knee. Inhale to extend the arm and leg back out. Do this 3 times before coming back down to all fours and repeating on the other side.
Whether you have this condition, these diastasis recti exercises are great for improving core stability and strength!
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