10 Exercises For Diastasis Recti That Strengthen Your Core

The best exercises to get the six-pack ab muscles in shape after pregnancy.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Stacy Marie Chimento, MD
By Charushila Biswas, MSc (Biotechnology), ISSA Certified Fitness Nutritionist

Diastasis recti is a condition characterized by a small gap between the two abdominal muscles. It is often observed in mothers who have given birth recently. Performing certain exercises for diastasis recti (short for rectus abdominis) can help reduce the gap. But why does this condition occur in the first place? The reason is – as the woman’s body adjusts to make space for the growing baby, the mid abdominal muscles may pull apart. Sometimes, diastasis recti may cause herniation of the viscera, thereby causing difficulty moving, breathing, and during vaginal birthing (1), (2).

Regular exercise is recommended for women who have diastasis recti. These exercises target the pelvic floor muscles as well as the abs. Here’s a list of the 10 best diastasis recti exercises you can perform at home every day. We have also discussed the causes and symptoms of diastasis recti. Continue reading.

What Causes Diastasis Recti?

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Diastasis recti is caused by the pulling apart of the rectus abdominis. Rectus abdominis is the muscle that we commonly call the “six pack.” The two parallel muscles of the diastasis recti run vertically down on each side of the abdomen and are separated by a band of connective tissue known as the linea alba.

When the baby starts growing, your body readjusts itself as the pregnancy hormones help relax the muscles. This may cause the rectus abdominis to get separated, in turn leading to diastasis recti.

The rectus abdominis also helps hold the internal organs in place. But due to diastasis recti, the internal organs, like the bowels and uterus, are only held by a band of connective tissue. This lack of connective tissue causes the organs to bulge out.

Mostly, the diastasis recti heals itself after childbirth. But in many cases, it doesn’t heal and may need exercise therapy. Diastasis recti can occur in newborn babies as well as men (due to incorrect exercise technique). Before we start with the exercises, here are the main symptoms of diastasis recti.

Symptoms Of Diastasis Recti

  • Poor posture
  • Bloating
  • Low back pain
  • Bulging out of internal organs in the standing position
  • Disappearance of the bulge in the lying position
  • More than a two-finger-width gap between the muscles in your navel area
  • Constipation

Now that you are aware of the symptoms, let’s quickly see if you really have diastasis recti. Here’s how you can tell.

Diastasis Recti Test

  • Lie down on your back with your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your head slightly and place two (or three) fingers on your belly button.
  • Press your fingers lightly and see if there’s a gap.
  • If there is a gap, then you have diastasis recti.

NOTE: Consult your doctor before concluding that you have diastasis recti or doing any of the following exercises.

If you have diastasis recti, and your doctor gives you the green light to go ahead and do some core strengthening exercises, the following exercises are for you.

10 Best Exercises For Treating Diastasis Recti

1. Pelvic Tilt

Target – Core stabilizers and pelvic floor muscles

How To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat with your knees flexed and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and rotate your hip up toward your face.
  2. Engage your core by tilting your pelvis up so that your entire back, till your tailbone, is against the floor.
  3. Hold this pose for a second and then relax.
  4. Repeat this 10 times.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 30 seconds between each rep

2. Heel Slide

Target – Core, glutes, and pelvic muscles

How To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat and keep your knees flexed with the feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and toes pointing up. This is the starting position.
  2. Slide your right heel and straighten your right leg.
  3. Hold the pose for a moment and then slide your heel back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 times.
  5. Do the same exercise with your left leg.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 30 seconds between each rep

3. Heel Slide Circles

Target – Core, glutes, and pelvic muscles

How To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat with your knees flexed and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and your spine in a neutral position. This is the starting position.
  2. Slide your right heel and straighten your right leg.
  3. Make a “scooping” motion with your leg by lifting your heel off the floor, flexing your knee, and then placing your foot back in the starting position.
  4. Repeat the move 10 times before switching legs.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 30 seconds between each rep

4. Bent Knee Raise

Target – Core, glutes, and pelvic muscles

How To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat and keep your knees flexed and feet flat on the floor. Keep your hands by your side, palms facing the ceiling, and your spine in the neutral position. This is the starting position.
  2. Keeping your knees flexed, lift your right leg off the floor and then bring it back to the starting position.
  3. Do this 10 times before switching legs.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

5. Pelvic Pillow Squeeze

Target – Core, pelvic muscles, and abductor

How To Do
  1. Lie down on your back, keep your knees flexed, and feet flat on the floor with your hands by your side and palms facing up.
  2. Place a pillow between your legs, and keep your spine in the neutral position.
  3. Press your knees together and squeeze the pillow. Hold this pose for 3 seconds. Relax.
  4. Repeat 10 times.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

6. Slightly Hyperextended Bridge

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

How To Do
  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push your pelvis down so that your lower back is against the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Lift your core a little higher than the regular bridge exercise.
  4. Hold this pose for 3 seconds and then slowly lower your back to the floor.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 5 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each rep

7. Lying Overhead Reach

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

How To Do
  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push your pelvis down so that your lower back is against the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Keeping your arms extended, lift them off the floor, above your head, and bring them almost all the way to the ground.
  4. Pause for a second and bring your arms back down slowly to the starting position.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

8. Knee To Chest

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstring

How To Do
  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet and palms flat on the floor.
  2. Push your pelvis down so that your lower back is against the floor. This is the starting position.
  3. Lift your right leg off the floor and bring your right knee close to your chest.
  4. Bring it back to the starting position slowly.
  5. Lift your left leg off the floor and bring your left knee close to your chest.

Sets And Reps – 3 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between each set

9. Abduction With Core Activation

Target – Core, abductor, pelvic floor, glutes, and quads

How To Do
  1. Lie down on your back, flex your knees, and keep your feet flat on the mat.
  2. Take a resistance band and place it just above your knees. This is the starting position.
  3. Exhale, engage your core, pull your knees apart, and then bring them back to the starting position. Inhale as you bring your knees back.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 10 reps

Rest – 60 seconds between sets

10. Alternating Leg Circles

Target – Core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings

How To Do
  1. Lie down on a mat, keep your legs together, palms flat on the floor, and look up at the ceiling.
  2. Lift both your legs and flex your knees. This is your starting position.
  3. Straighten your right leg and draw two small imaginary circles with it.
  4. Flex your right knee and bring it back to the starting position.
  5. Do the same with your left leg.

Sets And Reps – 2 sets of 5 reps on each leg

Rest – 30 seconds between reps, and 60 seconds between sets

StyleCraze Says
Wait for 6 weeks after giving birth before you attempt exercises to correct diastasis recti.

The exercises above will help strengthen your core and get your ab muscles back to normal again. But it’s important to also know which exercises you should avoid. The exercises below can weaken and worsen your condition.

Diastasis Recti Exercises To Avoid

  • Crunches
  • Plank
  • Sit-ups
  • Bicycle crunches
  • Leg up crunches
  • Russian twist
  • Jackknife
  • Oblique curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Roll-ups
  • Full push-ups

In other words, if you want to improve your diastasis recti, then you should avoid traditional core-strengthening exercises.

Apart from doing the right exercises and avoiding the regular core strengthening exercises, here are a few other things you can do to improve your condition.

Other Things To Do

  • Practice good posture.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects.
  • Flex your knees and roll out of bed.
  • Place a pillow to support your back while sitting.
StyleCraze Says
Follow the right breathing technique while doing the exercises—exhale when you are exerting any effort and inhale when you come to the neutral position.

These extra precautions will protect you from the following complications.

Diastasis Recti Complications

  • Low back pain
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Bad posture
  • Weak trunk mobility and stability
  • A hernia

Pregnancy and incorrect exercise techniques cause the two vertical abdominal muscles to pull apart. The 10 exercises listed above, which are highly effective in treating this condition, act on your pelvic floor muscles, core stabilizers, glutes, abductor, quads, and hamstrings. Remember, exercises like crunches, plank, sit-ups, and bicycle crunches can aggravate this condition further, so make sure you avoid doing them. Also, make sure you avoid lifting weights and focus on your posture. Don’t be in a hurry for quick results, and have a proper plan chalked out after consulting a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is walking good for diastasis recti?

Yes, walking with the right posture can engage your core muscles and help make diastis recti better.

Can I have a flat stomach with diastasis recti?

Yes, you may have a flat belly with this condition.

Can diastasis recti be corrected years later?

Yes, your abdominal muscles can get back in place with proper and regular exercise.

Will losing weight help diastasis recti?

It may help improve the appearance. However, exercise is needed to correct the gap.

Is cycling good for diastasis recti?

Yes, cycling with the right posture can help with diastis recti.

Can diastasis recti cause belly fat?

No, it leads to an appearance of bulging fat.

Sources

Stylecraze has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Diastasis recti abdominis – a review of treatment methods
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29512814/
  2. Prevalence and risk factors of diastasis recti abdominis from late pregnancy to 6 months postpartum, and relationship with lumbo-pelvic pain
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25282439/
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author
Charushila is an ISSA certified Fitness Nutritionist and a Physical Exercise Therapist. Over a span of 5 years, she has... more

Dr. Stacy Marie Chimento

(MD)
Dr. Chimento is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, where she studied at Loyola University and subsequently received her bachelor’s... more

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