The Internet is full of advice on how to heal your Abdominal Separation/Diastasis Recti. If you do a Google search on the subject you will find endless Dos and Don’ts. Most articles stress that certain exercises are no-no’s, and that others are the key to healing your core. And while its true that there are many exercises that are way too challenging for a typical postpartum mom with an abdominal separation, it is simply not true that certain exercises will be off limits forever. It’s also not true that one set of exercises performed daily forever will heal and strengthen your core. So how do you heal your abdominal separation and strengthen your core after giving birth? How do you know if the exercise you are doing is hurting or helping? Well, here is the answer:
The key to healing your abdominal separation is to learn to properly engage your transversus abdominis and then progressively strengthen it.
In part 1 of this blog post, I give you an overview of how to learn to properly engage your transversus. This is done by learning the ABCs of core engagement:
ALIGN – Your transversus and all the muscles of your inner core work best in a neutral spine and pelvis. For this reason, one of the first things I teach my clients is how to find and maintain this important position.
BREATH – Your transversus has several functions. One of them is to help with breathing. Therefore, learning how to breathe in the most effective way is an integral part of learning how to engage your transversus.
CONTRACT – Once you are in good alignment and breathing well, you can begin to practice contracting your transversus. The transversus and inner core working alone don’t move any bones, so you don’t need to move to activate these muscles. Don’t start an exercise until you feel confident that you know what it feels like to contract your inner core.
Stay tuned for posts on each of the ABCs, but in the meantime, how do you know if your transversus is engaged? Your abdomen is being compressed and your abdominal separation is being pulled together. If your abs are bulging out, or your separation is coning, your transversus isn’t doing its job – and this applies to ANY exercise or movement. Lifting a heavy object or “crunching” to get out of bed without inner core engagement will risk making your separation worse.
On the flip side, as you get your transversus and inner core functioning properly by practicing the ABCs, it will start to engage automatically-as it should-in your daily life. In the meantime, aim to stay aware of your alignment, breathing and core contraction in your movement during the day. This will also help to heal your separation, so learn your ABCs!
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