Effective core training when you have Diastasis Recti
A recent NPR article that felt like an infomercial and promoted a too-good-to-be-true, one-stop-shop, insta solution for diastasis recti (“mummy tummy”) was making the rounds on all sorts of mommy sites, blogs and groups. All this for good reason. Most of us – diastasis recti or not – would likely click a post by a reputable news agency promoting a simple solution for a complex issue because we have sadly been groomed to believe we all need a flat belly to be happy. Spoiler – key with diastasis recti is to have an effective core training approach but more on that later.
Is there an easy fix for Diastasis Recti?
So what is the exercise at hand, the elusive insta-fix that was offered? Pull your belly button in as hard as you can and keep it there. Do not let it budge. Repeat. That exercise is actually old news, not newsworthy at all and most importantly is not helpful for anyone, especially not those with a diastasis recti.
Let’s say I hold my bicep in a curl all day long. The muscle might get more tense but it will not get better at doing its job as a result. It will just be more tense and in fact that tension could lead to it not being able to function when needed. The same is applicable for your core. Holding it tight and pulling navel to spine all day does not ensure better function. However, it does ensures more tension and that is not what we are after. You can read all about that here.
To be clear, the pull in move itself is not the issue, the how you do it and in what context. I want to discuss the yes – what you should be doing to train your core effectively and it’ll cover stuff that works incredibly well for women with a diastasis recti.
Effective core training is the key if you’re dealing with Diastasis Recti
I wish I had an insta solution for addressing Diastasis Recti, but unfortunately I do not. Getting a functional core is a process that involves many things including alignment, breathing mechanics and finally, the right way to train using exercise. The whole goal is to train your body to react and respond appropriately to your movements and activities. (Restore Your Core program is based on this approach.)
Let’s outline a few effective core training fundamentals that you can put to use today.
- Ensure you are not a belly breather. Belly breathing causes a lot of intra abdominal pressure and that can lead to a diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction.
- Work on your posture and body alignment as both compromise your core.
- Stop sucking in your belly all day because that does not work.
Follow these steps and make sure that you engage your core effectively
Here is an alternate way to practice core engagement that doesn’t suck, suck, suck your belly in and it actually works. Try it:
- Come to your hands and knees. Ensure that your spine has neutral curves: lower back has a slight arch and upper back is slightly rounded. Booty untucked gently. Look between your hands and imagine you have a cake between them with 100 candles. Inhale and exhale to slowly blow all 100 candles out. You should feel your belly lift away from the floor and tighten. That is your deep core.
- Do the same thing sitting. Sit comfortably with a neutral spine. Imagine now you are blowing out a dandelion. Slowly exhale and feel how your core responds. Amazingly, these simple exercises are key to effective core training.
- The next step is to get more and more complicated with the exercises so that each time your body needs support of your core – that exhale will direct the support mechanism to engage. The more you do that, again and again, and the harder and more progressive the exercises – the more reflexive your core will be. Your reflexive core will kick in for you for all of your activities because your deep internal support system will be back online.
Remember these ground rules when working to strengthen your core via effective core training:
- Bulging is a no! Do not bulge your abs when doing core exercises
- Bracing is a nono! Do not brace (that feeling like you are about to get kicked in the belly and you react)
- Bearing down is a … no! Do not bear down (like making a bowel movement) when doing core exercises
- Holding your breath while doing a core exercise is a big nono! Do not breath hold ever during core exercises
Learning to effective core training is not rocket science, however it does require a shift for many of us in how we use our bodies on an exercises mat.
You are welcome to try some of the simple concepts and workouts I offer free on my video channel.