Updated: Nov 29, 2022
By Laura Wilson, founder of Natural Pilates
Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles, particularly the rectus abdominis – or your “six-pack” abs. During pregnancy, those muscles separate, and the connective tissue that connects them gets thinner and weaker. For many women, this separation will remain after pregnancy, and approximately 30% of women will experience it one year after childbirth. But just because something’s common doesn’t mean it's normal. The good news is that Pilates and Diastasis Recti can go very well together. Pilates helps to restore the connective tissue to bring the abdominals back together again as well as build strength. Whether it's on the reformer or mat, Pilates focuses on the transverse abdominis in a very concentrated and controlled manner.
Here are 3 exercise moves that can help diastasis recti:
HALF ROLL BACK WITH BALL
Start seated tall on your sit-bones, ball between your knees. If your lower back is rounded, sit on a cushion. Reach your arms forward or place them on your knees or backs of the thighs.
Exhale: Keeping your feet flat, tuck your pelvis under and roll halfway down to the mat. Squeeze the ball when you reach the end range
Inhale: Return to start position
Repeat 10 to 20x with a single squeeze or add progressive squeezes each time you roll back to increase the challenge on the abs, inner thighs, and pelvic floor.
Start on your back, spine flat, with legs in tabletop position (90-degree bend at hips and knees).
Inhale: Keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle, lower one foot towards the mat
Exhale: Using your abs, pull the leg back up to tabletop. Remember to keep your back flat. Only go as low in the range of motion as your spine stays flat.
Repeat 10x each side. Then do another set of 10, lowering both legs together. To increase the challenge, perform the same sequence with straight legs.
*Note: This exercise can also be performed with the ball under your tailbone. This adds a balance challenge but also can help stretch the lower back.
SIDE BENDS ON THE BALL
Lay on your side with the ball under your ribcage. Stagger your legs mat-distance apart with the top leg straight and bottom leg bent. Hands can go behind your head or across your chest.
Exhale: Side bend, squeezing your top rib toward your hip
Inhale: Lengthen back to start position
Repeat 10-20x. This exercise has a small range of motion. Keep your bottom ribs heavy on the ball as you do a small side crunch.
“These exercises are safe for women if they have or think they have diastasis recti. I would recommend starting with 25% abdominal engagement in the first couple weeks, then move to 50% in the first 3-6 months and finally progress to 100% as the client gets stronger and more confident. If the separation is bigger than two fingers, I would recommend working closely with a physical therapist for best results.” “Delivery by Cesarean section generally decreases the damage to the pelvic floor muscles (affecting urinary incontinence), but it shuts down the abdominal muscles and can cause intestinal obstruction and chronic pelvic girdle pain. Internal organ trauma can decrease someone's ability to strengthen their abdominal and pelvic floor area, so it's very important to focus on healing before putting a lot of intention into strengthening. I would recommend a gentle flow that involves abdominal and pelvic floor activation without strain or fatigue.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Wilson, founder of Natural Pilates Laura Wilson is one of the most successful and sought-after fitness instructors in the country. As the founder of Natural Pilates, she has set up an empire in the fitness capital of Los Angeles featuring Pilates studios in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, West Hollywood, and Sherman Oaks (Aug 2022) along with Natural Pilates TV, teacher-training workshops, and a line of fitness gear. A national champion archer from Romania, Wilson immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 from her native Romania with $100 in her pocket. From these humble beginnings, she has always strived to be the best in her field and has certifications in Stott Pilates, Gyrotonic, Spin, and Vinyasa Yoga. Additionally, she is a Resistance Training Specialist and Muscle Activation Technique Specialist. Wilson will expand to the East coast in September 2022 with a new studio opening in New York’s Soho neighborhood. https://naturalpilates.com/