Gold Member Badge


  • You're all caught up!

Exercises to Correct Abdominal Separation After Pregnancy

author image Erica Ziel
Erica Ziel is the founder of Core Athletica Inc. and Knocked-Up Fitness, as well as an adviser for Fit Pregnancy magazine. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and health from Iowa State University and is a certified personal trainer, Pilates instructor, nutritionist and mother of three.
Exercises to Correct Abdominal Separation After Pregnancy
Diastasis recti is a common issue affecting pregnant and post-partum women. Photo Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

Pregnancy takes a toll on your body. And sometimes it can do real damage that needs physical therapy to correct. When it comes to healing and correcting abdominal separation, also know as diastasis recti after pregnancy, it’s important to start creating a strong foundation — your core.

Video of the Day

No matter how long it's been since having your last baby, you can always work on correcting diastasis recti. Follow these simple, yet very effective guidelines and tips to bring those abs back together!

Improve Your Posture

Posture is the first (and easiest) step toward correcting abdominal separation, and it’s something you can do all day long. Focus on these tips when standing, sitting or carrying your little ones:

  • Lengthen tall through the top of your head.
  • Avoid locking your knees.
  • Keep a neutral pelvic position, which engages your core muscles.
  • Avoid tucking your butt under and drawing your belly to spine.
  • Breathe deeply into the sides and back of your ribcage.
  • "Zip up" your belly up lightly.
Use your breath as a guide to engaging your deep core muscles.
Use your breath as a guide to engaging your deep core muscles. Photo Credit: diignat/iStock/Getty Images

Strengthen Your Deep Core Muscles

As you focus on improving your posture, you'll be able to find and strengthen your deep core muscles more easily, very crucial for correcting diastasis recti.

Research from a 2016 issue of The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that when you pre-activate your transverse abdominals (think lower belly) before doing a movement such as a crunch, the linea alba (the space between your rectus abdominals) is lessened.

Before you move through any exercise, pre-activate your entire deep core:

  1. Inhale to relax your pelvic floor muscles and breathe into the sides and back of your ribcage (relaxation is key to proper activation on the exhale).
  2. Exhale to initiate "zipping up" the pelvic floor and lower belly and lengthen through the top of your head.

Out with the old thought of ‘kegels’, rather think about your deep core muscles functioning together. Researchers at the University of South Australia discovered that in order to properly activate pelvic floor muscles, you also need to activate transverse abdominals and internal obliques (muscles at the side of your torso).

When held properly, you'll feel a light core connection and be able to breath deeply out to your side and back. Holding this light deep-core connection can help strengthen your core daily, plus give added stability to your spine.

Initiate every exercise you do with this deep core activation to strengthen your abdominals and work on repairing diastasis recti.

Maintain a light deep-core connection throughout each exercise.
Maintain a light deep-core connection throughout each exercise. Photo Credit: diignat/iStock/Getty Images

Exercises for Correcting Abdominal Separation

Once you've mastered the technique above for properly engaging your deep core, use it before each exercise to speed up your diastasis recti healing. These exercises include:

  • Standing, sitting and moving with good posture
  • Squats (avoid letting your butt tuck under)
  • Pelvic tilts standing or lying on your back
  • Glute bridge (focus on artticulating your spine as you raise and lower)
  • Heel slides (lie on your back as you bend and straighten one leg at a time)
  • Cat-cows
  • Bird-dog
  • Single-eg kickbacks
  • Standing rotational exercises (rotate your hips with you)
Traditional crunches and twists are OUT if you have diastasis recti.
Traditional crunches and twists are OUT if you have diastasis recti. Photo Credit: diignat/iStock/Getty Images

Exercises to Avoid With Diastasis Recti

There are also exercises you shouldn't be doing if you have diastasis recti, at least until you're farther along in your healing. A 2005 study in The Journal of Surgical Research found that when you increase the intra-abdominal pressure, you put unneeded stress on your pelvic floor and abdominals.

This means that in order to help heal abdominal separation, it’s important to avoid exercises that put too much stress on your abdominals. This includes exercises such as:

Crunches and forward flexion exercises such as Pilates teasers and many other exercises that put you in this position. Eventually, you can add them back in after your diastasis recti is healed.

However, crunches aren't effective for properly strengthening your deep core, and they aren't recommended as a good abdominal exercise choose. At the least, don't rely on crunches as your main source of abdominal exercises.

Planks may be okay toward the end of your healing process, but you do need to be able to feel your deep core muscles engage without feeling any added stress on your abdominals.

Any exercises that cause "leaking down there" indicates that the intra-abdominal pressure is too intense for the current state of your deep core strength. Skip those exercises for now and revisit later on once your core has become stronger.

LiveStrong Calorie Tracker
Lose Weight. Feel Great! Change your life with MyPlate by LIVESTRONG.COM
  • Gain 2 pounds per week
  • Gain 1.5 pounds per week
  • Gain 1 pound per week
  • Gain 0.5 pound per week
  • Maintain my current weight
  • Lose 0.5 pound per week
  • Lose 1 pound per week
  • Lose 1.5 pounds per week
  • Lose 2 pounds per week
  • Female
  • Male
ft. in.


Demand Media