Ask Judy: Abdominal Diastasis And Exercise

Hi Judy! I love your blog, the advice is always so helpful. I have a question about post-partum exercise that I was hoping you would be able to help me with.

My baby is 11 mo old and i still have abodominal diastasis (separation of my abodminal musculature). I am a healthy weight and in really great shape otherwise. I eat well, exercise daily, etc. I just can’t seem to get my mid-section to bounce back after baby. I think the issue is that I don’t work my abdominals hard enough to get them back in to shape because it is painful due to the diastasis. But I can’t make the diastasis better without exercise – it’s a rock and a hard place situation!

I’ve read that splinting the abdomen during abdominal exercises helps keep a diastasis from being painful. When I’ve tried splinting with a towel it does seem to help, but i also don’t feel like I’ve gotten a very good workout in because i can’t use my arms. So my question is 2 part:

1) Could i work out in a belly band? I’m wondering if i got one of those if I could use it in place of a towel so that i could have use of my arms while working out. Do you think a belly band would work to splint my belly and help make abdominal exercise less uncomfortable?

2)Do you know any exercises that will help pull a diastasis back together?
Thank you so much! — Logan E.

Hi Logan,

I know several people who use the Belly Bandit to help with Diastasis. Here is an article for you to read about a splint that people have worn with their belly bandit (it was recommended to me by the folks that make the belly bandit). Use of this splint in combination with a belly bandit has been great at helping moms with Diastasis.

You can also read this article on my blog by Helene Byrne about fitness to help you get an idea of what types of exercises might be beneficial to you. Helene is a great fitness expert and she was kind enough to write an article for my blog to give tips to new moms on working out. If you’d like to contact Helene directly for more information, please visit her website as well.

If you are reading this blog and you have additional advice for Logan, please leave a comment here to share you advice, experiences and tips!!

7 comments to Ask Judy: Abdominal Diastasis And Exercise

  • I don’t have any advice for Logan, though I am in a similar situation. I still have lots of weight to lose, but my stomach muscles are wrecked. Is there hope when it’s been so long since you gave birth? Logan is 11 months PP but I am over 2 years!
    .-= Elita´s last blog ..Simplisse Update: Are Simplisse & Handi-Craft Separate Companies? =-.

  • A facebook friend posted this comment on my facebook page in reference to this blog post. I am copying it and pasting it here because I thought the information would be helpful for those of you with Diastasis – if anyone else has any feedback, please pass it along! Thanks — Judy

    http://debragoodman.com/debras_bio.html this page has some links at the bottom for safe ab exercises. You might be able to find a good physical therapist who is trained in closing the diastasis. I never closed my diastasis postpartum and now am doing daily exercises during my second pregnancy, will continue them postpartum.
    Here is a link to find professionals trained in diastasis rehab: http://www.diastasisrehab.com/ this is who my PT trained with. Good luck!

  • Hi Moms,

    Judy sent me an emailed and asked if I would help out with the diastasis questions.

    For Logan E: I think you might have some issues other than diastasis, because abdominal separation is never painful. Other postpartum issues that cause pain include pelvic instability and umbilical or ventral hernia.

    To repair diastasis, women need to first build A LOT of strength in their deepest muscle, the Transverse Abdominis, or TvA. This is the body’s internal “girdle” and when contracted compresses the abdomen. The TvA does not move bone.

    After a foundation of strength has been re-established, then you need to train the muscle to function properly as a stabilizer. This is key for closing abdominal separation, as well as rehabbing pelvic instability and re-flattening the abdominal wall after pregnancy.

    If you’re having trouble flattening your abs, you most likely don’t need to work out harder, you need to change your exercise selections, and work out smarter.

    Women with diastasis should not perform ANY exercises that flex/roll the upper body off the floor and/or against the force of gravity. So most traditional ab exercises, as well as most Pilates mat work is out until the diastasis is resolved.

    Most fitness pros believe it is far better to build a strong internal girdle than to wear a girdle, like the splint shown above. The problem with wearing any type of external support device, is that when you are wearing it, the TvA does not engage (co-contract to support the spine and pelvis) and over time the muscle will weaken and atrophy. Exactly what you don’t want to happen.

    When the TvA is not strong enough to counter-balance the intra-abdominal pressure that a movement like a crunch creates, then the abdominal wall will balloon outward, further stretching the mid line tissues. This prevents proper closure of the mid line after pregnancy, and exacerbates problems like umbilical hernia, pelvic instability, and pelvic floor reconditioning and uterine and bladder prolapse.

    Manually splinting the mid line closed with the hands during exercise can be used to help out the TvA, especially when women are transitioning to exercises that flex/lift the upper spine off the floor or against the force of gravity. The towel wrapping technique has been largely abandoned it does not actually move the right and left sides of the Rectus Abdominis closer together. It does prevent further bulging of the abdomen, but here again, does nothing to strengthen the TvA.

    I see that one woman has recommended the Tuppler technique. This system does some TvA strengthening, but does not integrate proper usage of the TvA during other exercises to train the muscle to function as a stabilizer. They also now sell a belly splint, which I do not advocate using for training purposes.

    I know that I’ve given a long and technical answer, so feel free to ask any follow up questions for clarification.

  • Logan

    Hi Helene. Thank you for your “long and technical” answer! My diastasis isn’t painful normally. It aches like crazy after i do abdominal exercises, in a way that is well beyond normal exercise induced muscle soreness. I’ve had it medically evaluated already and i don’t have any other problems (hernia, etc). I just think that maybe I’ve been doing the wrong sorts of exercises- things like crunches and Pilates- exactly like you recommend NOT doing and that by doing these wrong exercises i’m exacerbating rather than helping to correct the problem.

    I’ve read several places that the key to improving a diastasis is to strengthen the TvA. But how do i do that? I’m having a hard time finding lists and descriptions of specific TvA strengthening exercises i should be performing! Thanks so much for your help!

  • Your mid line tissues should not ache post exercise. If you engage your TvA properly then you might feel generalized muscle soreness in your deep abs the next day when you contract them.

    There are two TvA exercises on my web site, which are good for both pre and post natal, on the bottom of page: http://befitmom.com/strength_training.html.

    To find out more about my philosophy of postnatal reconditioning go to:
    http://befitmom.com/abdominal_reconditioning.html

    To find out more about diastasis go to: http://befitmom.com/abdominal_separation.html

    You can get complete postpartum workouts check out my award winning DVD “Bounce Back Fast! Post Natal Core Conditioning” or my acclaimed book “Exercise After Pregnancy: How to Look and Feel Your Best.”

  • Hi Logan,
    I am a Physical Therapist and am also pregnant, with a small diastasis and have been learning about how to close it. My favorite sources are anything Julie Tupler related. I wrote an article on my blog (healthnutforlife.org) for a TvA exercise which is from the Tupler Technique. I’d also highly recommend reading “Maternal Fitness” by Julie Tupler. I will be highlighting a lot of her exercises as well as Elizabeth Noble’s (the founder of women’s health P.T.) on my blog.

    Hope that helps and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

  • Hi Logan,

    There’s lots of good advice here. Do check out http://www.diastasisrehab.com and read what Julie Tupler has to say about TvA and splinting. The splint should never take the place of appropriate TvA exercises, but should be used during and after exercise to approximate the rectus abdominis muscles.

    Your abdominal muscles will ache afterward if these exercises are done correctly, but that’s to be expected. If you stick with the exercises and splinting for 6-8 weeks, the results will be amazing.

    A study was done by Columbia University’s PT Dept. They measured the separation during pregnancy before taking Julie’s classes and after, and compared the results with a control group who did not do the Maternal Fitness program. Those women who took the class (and splinted) had a 25% smaller diastasis and 25% shorter labor.
    The results speak for themselves.

    She pioneered this work at a time where people couldn’t even pronounce ‘diastasis’.

    Good luck,

    Elaine Stillerman, LMT
    MotherMassage (R)

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