In this article, Gymondo fitness expert Caro explains how you can tighten your stomach and close the abdominal wall with targeted postpartum training.
Every mother wants a flat stomach after delivery. Unfortunately, months after giving birth, many women still look like they are in their 4th month of pregnancy. Getting back into exercising after a pregnancy is not without its dangers, because the wrong exercises can increase your diastasis recti even more. In this article, I explain how to tighten your stomach with targeted training after birth and how to close the abdominal wall again.
You can get your diastasis recti under control after birth with the right training. The sooner you start, the better.
What is diastasis recti?
A few months after delivery, the abdominal wall is often still weak. The result: The muscle strands of the straight abdominal muscles come apart at the level of the navel.
At this point, you can then feel a gap under the skin through which the abdomen bulges – this is the so-called diastasis recti. Not only does it not look pretty, but unfortunately it can really cause problems. Don’t worry though, targeted exercises can help tighten the abdomen and close the abdominal wall.
During pregnancy, the abdominal muscle strands give way to the expansion pressure starting in the fifth month and drift apart. After delivery, this gap returns to normal – usually within a few months of birth.
But if there is a gap that is more than 2 centimeters wide, it is called an abnormal diastasis. A diastasis recti is usually 2 to 10 centimeters wide, 12 to 15 cm long and most pronounced around the navel.
Why is diastasis dangerous?
The abdominal muscles not only move the torso, but also provide the body with stability. So, it has important holding, support and carrying functions. A weak, overstretched abdominal wall can no longer do its job.
The consequences can be serious problems, such as chronic lower back pain, lumbar instability and digestive problems. A diastasis recti also promotes abdominal wall and umbilical hernias.
How do I recognize a diastasis?
The diastasis recti can be felt with your fingers while lying down. You lay on your back and lift your head. When you place your fingertips in the area of the navel, you will feel a gap there when lifting your head as soon as the abdominal wall tenses.
Since you should avoid roll-up movements with your upper body (crunches) like this in the event of a diastasis, please do not do this test too often!
How do I close my diastasis recti?
In most cases, the diastasis recti closes with appropriate exercises. Only in extreme cases and in case of chronic pain does surgery have to be performed.
Tightening the muscles by doing the right strengthening exercises is ideal for the regression (reduction) of the diastasis. This is a good idea even after an operation has been performed on the diastasis.
It is very important that you avoid exercises and movements that inflate or stretch the abdomen. Instead, you should focus on strengthening exercises that pull the abdomen inward and stabilize the abdominal wall.
Which muscles should I train with diastasis recti?
Wrong: Training of the superficial straight abdominal muscles. These muscles move your torso. They work when you bend or turn forward or sideways. So, training the muscle increases your diastasis, instead of closing it. Exercises such as sit ups and crunches aggravate the actual problem and can lead to posture problems (hollow back), back problems, and lumbar instability.
Correct: Training the inner abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor, as well as the transverse M. Transversus (TVA – transverse abdominal muscle). The inner abdominal muscles do not move the torso. They keep your abdominal wall stable, protecting the organs and the spine. The pelvic floor and the transverse abdominal muscle support the inner abdominal muscles with tension, like a corset. So, these muscles help you to stabilize your torso and close the diastasis.
Movements and exercises that make your diastasis worse
- Any kind of rolling-up movement from the supine position, i.e. every version of sit ups and crunches.
- Intensive abdominal exercises (e.g. V-shaped abs or double leg extensions) that bulge your abdominal wall too much or overstrain your abdominal muscles
- Intensive back bends, e.g. from yoga: downward dog, camel, bow, wheel or exercises with a gym ball, where you lie back.
Movements and exercises that help with your diastasis
- Always stand up over the side! It sounds obvious, but it’s super important in everyday life: Whenever you come up from lying down, you should turn sideways first, support yourself and then straighten up. When you stand up with your upper body directly in front of you, you perform the same damaging roll-up motion as you do with crunches.
- TVA training in everyday life! When you pull your navel up and the abdominal wall towards you in the all-fours stance, it is a simple and effective way to activate your TVA. You should also tension your TVA in between every now and then actively. It’s easy and you can do it anywhere: pull in your stomach and hold the tension as long as you can (keep breathing!). Then release again.
- Pelvic floor training & breathing exercises! Pilates is very suitable here. During any tensing of the abdominal muscles, a complete exhalation supports the effect of the exercise. You should also tense up the pelvic floor now and again in everyday life, hold the tension for a short period and then release it again.
My conclusion: It is never too late!
Even years after birth, you can start training and get rid of diastasis step by step. The quickest way is to use training to specifically target diastasis BEFORE you start your usual workouts again. With regular exercise, you will feel a difference after a short period of time – so keep at it!
I wish you a lot of success and fun while training! Best Caro