Hi guys,  Kris from Custom Fitness here, your personal trainer in Amarillo.  Yesterday’s blog looked at diastasis; an area between the bellybutton and pubic bone that seems impossible to tone for many postpartum moms. Trying out all the ab exercises out there, this “matron’s apron” remains.  Today I’ve got a few exercises for you to try out today to regain strength (and eventual tone) across your core. If you have questions about today’s blog or would like more information about how we can help you out with your postpartum body, give us a call: 806-322-3188.

Let’s recap: diastasis is where the vertical connective tissue that houses the rectus abdominis (your blocks of abs), has been cut or stretched out. This connective tissue is what holds you abdominal muscles together. When you gain weight or your stomach stretches from pregnancy, the connective tissue is stretched thin disrupting your smooth muscle contractions.  This leads to a myriad of problems including constipation, back pain, abdominal pain, sciatica, and worse. Your muscles aren’t functioning correctly causing the power from the core to be transferred to the back. This extra pressure in a new location will throw off your your posture and everyday movements. Knowing that you have diastasis is one thing, and there’s ways to test for that, but knowing how to recover from it is a different ball game.

I dealt with diastasis for two and a half years. My connective tissue had stretched as wide as the width of my hand during my pregnancy.  After the first six months, it wasn’t improving. I was getting frustrated. Thinking to myself “I’ve been a personal trainer in Amarillo for almost two decades…I should know how to fix this.” It became my personal mission to find a solution.  Over the next two years I poured over research articles, studying the ins and outs of the medical, fitness, and nutritional sides. I tried out a multitude of different exercises and took part in therapy.  I eventually minimized the gap between my abs to about a 2 finger width gap. I did have some damage and became a surgical candidate. Not my top wish for my body, but you have to do what you have to do to allow the body to function properly.

What is one thing that we can start doing to improve the diastasis? The first thing is to know which exercises to avoid. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you do the wrong exercises you will exacerbate your symptoms (like a widening gap between the blocks of abs) and cause severe damage. There are two main things to limit or eliminate during your recovery:  

  • Rotation.  If it is side to side crunches or practicing your underhand at tennis, limit or eliminate all rotational exercises. You have oblique muscles that form an X shape across your abdomen. When you twist you are strengthening those fibers, but it pulls to the sides your rectus abdominis. This can only cause the connective tissue to thin further. Protect your core.
  • Extension.  Anything that involves bending backward. This could be a down dog in yoga or working out with a hyperextension machine. Avoid or limit extending backwards.  

Think of this condition like a broken bone. You don’t immediately go using the damaged area the way you would otherwise. You wait for it to heal then gradually build back up to regular use.  Your abs actually keep you from bending backwards. Try it. Engage your core and attempt to lean back.  The abdominal muscles are keeping you upright in order to protect your spine.

When people do crunches, they feel a burning sensation up by their ribs. Focus all ab work and effort to the bellybutton area. How do you practice at home without excess stress but maintain proper form?  The answer comes from one of the posture techniques we teach here at the studio. This works on the transverse abdominis.  Essentially this a sling of muscle that is located on the lower abdomen around the bellybutton.  

To do this, place one hand lightly (just enough to feel the sensation that it is there) on your lower stomach.   Place another hand on your lower back.  Pull your stomach in and away from your front hand. Do not suck your stomach in because then you are just displacing organs and not engaging your muscles at all. Squeeze your ribs towards your hips and pull your stomach away from the front hand slowly: 10%, 20%, 30%. Go until you can’t pull in anymore. Then keep your stomach in that position for a few seconds. Then relax your stomach out at the same pace 30%, 20%, 10%, contact with the front hand.  Practice this 3 – 5 times everyday. That will start to reactivate your core engagement process. It’s a little tough to recommend exercises in a general way when the condition affects people uniquely.

If you are curious to know if you might have diastasis or want to know how to heal your unique version of this condition, we’d be happy to have you in for a consultation to see if we can help you out.  With all of our clients we find out what their unique needs are, what their goals are, we design a customized program that takes into account exercises, nutrition, and lifestyle modification, to help them get where they want to be, and we walk them through it by being an accountability source. We want to make sure they achieve the results they want while being safe and healthy.

Just a reminder, registration is open for our final Down Size program of 2017. This is a 6 week program that will teach you how to exercise, how to eat healthy with real food, and transform your lifestyle habits to reach the you, you’ve been dreaming of. If you lose 15 inches during the 6 weeks, you will receive a 100% refund.  We start October 30th and spaces are running out. Get in touch with our team if you’d like an application.  

You can reach us at 806-322-3188 or e-mail us at info@customfitness.biz. At Custom Fitness, we are YOUR personal trainers in Amarillo, Texas.  Have a great day!