Given how precious few minutes mothers have to themselves, we can’t afford to waste valuable workout time! This is especially true if, like a majority of childbearing women, you suffer some degree of diastasis recti (abdominal wall separation) that lingers after pregnancy.
Sadly, many conventional core exercises strain the connective tissue in the abdomen, inducing, or worsening the condition. Diastasis recti has real health implications, including back pain, urinary stress incontinence, and pelvic dysfunction, not to mention the cosmetic nuisance of a stubborn pooch. So if you’re ready to kick off your postpartum exercise routine and want to heal diastasis recti, here are 5 mistakes and postpartum exercises to avoid.
Mistake 1: Postpartum Exercises that Exacerbate Diastasis Recti
Postpartum exercises to avoid include:
- Bicycle crunches
- Reverse crunches
- Some classic moves in postpartum yoga - boat pose, for instance
- Pilates - rollbacks, double leg lifts, scissors, etc.
The very exercises you might be doing to “get your body back” can actually exacerbate the problem you’re trying to fix. To state it as simply as possible: any movement that bulges the abdominal wall forcefully forward will further separate the abdominal muscles, making an existing abdominal separation worse, possibly even causing one in a previously healthy abdomen. Always engage your abdominal muscles in a flat-to-flatter contraction as you exhale. Never brace, barrel, or flex the abs forcefully forward in a bulging action. No “rib thrusting!”
So what can you do instead of conventional abs exercises?
A great alternative workout for core strengthening and toning is our Core Compression library and our core intensive workouts. These challenge you to work every core muscle synergistically for comprehensive and effective core strengthening. And when you've resolved abdominal separation and established a solid baseline of core strength, you can move on to our progressive and challenging EMbody Surpass program.
Mistake 2: Doing All or Nothing…Which Usually Means Nothing
Don’t wait for that elusive opportunity when you can get away for an hour at the gym! You could be waiting for a very long time, which will get in the way of meeting your postpartum exercise goals. Each step forward is a step in the right direction, no matter how small. All it takes is less than 30 minutes of exercise a few days a week to radically improve your fitness (and only 10 minutes daily to restore your core!). Squeeze in what you can, when you can. It might be the final minutes of your day after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet. It might be first thing in the morning, or even a lunch break at work if you can swing it. Figure out how you can carve out 30 minutes as a gift to yourself 3-4 days per week – put it on your calendar, and keep the appointment.
Mistake 3: Getting Stuck in a Rut
We all have favorite activities or routines, but we have to keep challenging ourselves in new ways so the body continues to respond and improve. Definitely include a couple of different resistance workouts each week. Take your workout outside for a refreshing change, or inside. Try increasing the weight you lift and decreasing the reps or vice versa. Follow our clinically proven 12-week EMbody Reclaim program with a variety of dynamic challenges built-in, rather than sticking to your few favorite workouts over and over. Even your daily Core Compressions can benefit from new body positions – try them in a side plank, while lying in the fetal position (be sure to do it on both sides), in a wall-sit, or on all fours. The key is to keep mixing it up to stay focused and challenge your body in new ways, getting the most out of each minute.
Mistake 4: Only Doing Cardio
Are you sticking solely to cardio for every single workout? Whether it’s running or elliptical, cycling or swimming, a cardio-only workout routine will not serve you in the long run (pun intended!). To keep your metabolism revving, to build strength and improve posture, and to develop muscle tone, you must incorporate strength training! This can include bodyweight exercises, free weights or resistance bands – or all of the above. Strength training is vital. It will do more than you realize to achieve your aims, and no, it will not bulk you up! Our EMbody workouts offer a great combination of resistance and aerobic moves to efficiently achieve your health and fitness aims.
Mistake 5: Boot Camp Fitness
I know you’re eager to get your body back, and a super intense, sweaty, all-out effort can feel like you’re really doing something. Well, you are doing something, but it probably won’t achieve exactly what you hope. All boot camps are not created equal, and not every boot camp class is necessarily injurious, but I will warn you that injuries are common, and new moms are especially at risk. The fast, power-based moves that define boot camp style classes place excessive pressure on the abdomen and the pelvic floor. This stress further separates post-pregnancy abs and weakens the pelvic floor.
Why mindlessly return to your pre-baby workout routine when you can harness the power of science to achieve the body you want without collateral damage? A study conducted by Weill Cornell found that 100% of 63 women who followed our program achieved full resolution of abdominal wall separation! So, don’t just work hard; work smart. For detailed training on diastasis recti safe exercises join the Every Mother diastasis recti exercise program, the only proven program to resolve abdominal wall separation. Make sure you know these postpartum exercises to avoid to regain your health and av
Note: If you feel bladder pressure or experience “leaking” while performing any exercise, you should not be doing it!
- Leopold, Madeline, et al. “Efficacy of a Core Strengthening Program for Diastasis Rectus Abdominis in Postpartum Women: A Prospective Observational Study.” Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, vol. 45, no. 4, 2021, pp. 147–63. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1097/jwh.0000000000000214.
- Sharma, Geeta, et al. “Postnatal Exercise Can Reverse Diastasis Recti.” Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 123, no. Supplement 1, 2014, p. 171S. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.1097/01.aog.0000447180.36758.7a.
- Sperstad, J. B. (2016, September 1). Diastasis recti abdominis during pregnancy and 12 months after childbirth: prevalence, risk factors and report of lumbopelvic pain. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/50/17/1092
By Leah Keller, creator of the Every Mother diastasis recti exercise program, the only proven program to resolve abdominal separation. Learn more about Leah and the EMbody Program™ here.