If you’re a new mum, and you’re aware that you have a gap of more than 2 finger widths in your abdominals, never fear, I’m here to list some safe, effective exercises for you to perform to help these muscles re-align.
If you haven’t read my Blog post on “What is abdominal separation?”, then click here first to get some background knowledge on the anatomy side of things before you read on.
Just for some facts here:
a) Abdominal separation is quite common during pregnancy,
b) Not every new mum present a gap in her abdominals after birth, and
c) Generally speaking the more babies you go on to have, the wider the gap remains in between each pregnancy.
So, now that you’re clued up on everything to do with diastasis recti (that’s the technical term we use), let’s go about fixing it, shall we?
One of the best forms of exercise for any postnatal woman to do is Pilates. I’m a big advocate of this exercise method myself, simply because the very muscles which get affected during pregnancy eg the pelvic floor and transverses abdominus, are its main focus.
If you’ve read my article above, you will have discovered that the six-pack muscle which runs horizontally down your middle lengthens and (sometimes, but not always remember) separates. So, to fix or re-align these lengthened/weakened muscles, we have to do exercises which do the opposite.
What’s the opposite of lengthen and weaken? Well, it’s shorten and strengthen.
A simple movement of your lumbar spine known as the “pelvic tilt” is one of the best exercises to perform to help shorten the six-pack muscle, coupled with an activation of your transverses abdominus (commonly known as your “core”) and/or pelvic floor muscles.
The pelvic tilt can be performed in several different poses, and I’ll give you some guidance on how to perform these shortly.
It’s important that when you perform these exercises, that you do them in a slow and controlled manner, and with your tummy muscles or pelvic floor muscles held in slightly.
Are you ready?
Supine Pelvic Tilt
First up is supine pelvic tilt. So lying on your back with your legs bent and knees hip-width apart, you simply draw up your pelvic floor, push the lower back into the floor underneath you and return to a relaxed starting position.
Kneeling Pelvic Tilt
Kneeling pelvic tilt is next. Here, you need to be on all fours with your hands under your shoulders, and knees under your hips. You’ll feel your “core” muscles activate if you pull your tummy in towards your spine, then, keeping your shoulders still, tuck your bottom under. Keep you shoulders away from your ears, and your neck away from your chest. TIP: relax your hamstrings to really get things going.
Seated pelvic tilt
Says what it does on the tin, eh? Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor, and knees hip-distance. Relax your shoulders, lift your chin and engage your pelvic floor/core in preparation. Then, tuck the 5 lumbar vertebrae to your spine under (pubic bone comes forwards) and then release to a flat back eg don’t over-arch the opposite way to a pelvic tilt because it’s a little unsafe to arch the back, particularly if you’re presenting an existing back problem.
Standing pelvic tilt
Here, you need to find a flat wall/surface to place your back against. Your feet are hip-distance apart and a foot away from the wall, so slightly in front of you. Place your hands on your hips/belly/thighs, engage your core/pelvic floor and flatten your lower back against the wall behind you. Relax those shoulders and neck.
A little note on breathing: breathe out when you go into the pelvic tilt, and breathe in, as you return to the starting position. Oh, and keep your shoulders relaxed, your neck lifted and try not to squeeze your bottom.
And there you have it! Four variations of the one exercise for you to try to help re-align those separated tummy muscles, strengthen your core, work your pelvic floor, and release tension in the lower back.
What other exercise gives you four benefits in one simple movement, eh? Give them a try and let me know how you get on!
For an individual assessment and personalised abdominal separation rehabilitation program to help fix it click here to find out more about my 1-1 postnatal personal training.