Everyone has abdominal separation. Diastasis recti happens when there is a gap of 2 fingers or more. Abdominal separation is most common after having a baby. What happens during pregnancy is the six-pack muscle (Rectus abdominis), which runs down from your breastbone to your pubic bone, is joined together by a fibrous sheath called the Linea Alba. This mid-section of the body stretches and expands to allow room for the baby. The muscles don’t actually split; it is more an abdominal “separation”. A bit like a piece of cling film coming apart.
The result of this separation is that the ‘core’ becomes increasingly weakened, a less stable pelvis, and an overall reduction of functional strength. Weak core muscles and an instable pelvis are a perfect combination for poor posture and low back pain.
Before skipping this article thinking it’s more related to post baby ladies. Abdominal separation isn’t just isolated to the postnatal lady. For example people with muscle imbalances, those working in a job with copious amounts of heavy lifting can get diastasis recti (correct Latin name for abdominal separation). For this other group of individuals it can be caused by a number of factors genetics, or excessive abdominal pressure.
There is no ‘quick’ fix for repairing abdominal separation and doing lots of curl ups is certainly not the correct answer. In fact, curl ups will make your abdominal separation worse. Focusing on just the abdominal muscles in an effort to ‘fix’ the separation will also not resolve the issues.
Muscle imbalances are caused by:
Carrying a baby on one hip
Picking baby up from the floor/cot/ car seat
The good news is, if you have abdominal separation or suspect you have abdominal separation, the View Studio can help. Our classes are designed to realign the whole body, strengthen the muscles to help stabilise the core. We talk about the ‘corset’ a lot in class. The deep abdominal muscles act like a corset around you protecting your lower back. The first step to improving abdominal separation is taking the modification that is on offer in class.
When starting classes either postnatal or otherwise these are some points to consider when treating abdominal separation:
Is this first/second/third/fourth/fifth baby?
How is your posture?
What is your ‘core’ strength like?
Which muscles feel really tight?
Which muscles tend to dominate?
What are some everyday tasks being carried out?
It is good to look at the broader picture. Taking a full-body approach to get the whole system working and functioning in a more efficient way and implementing a healthy lifestyle as part of your daily life.
As discussed earlier, most women with post-natal abdominal separation think the only way to heal the separation is to work their abdominals harder. This is actually counterintuitive and not the time to be gung-ho. Instead, our classes at The View Studio recommend embracing subtle bodywork and modifying a few exercises so that you build strength from the inside out.
Modification 1: Avoid forward flexion of the spine.
What it is: Forward flexion of the spine takes place when the spine is bent forward in a rounded C curve position. For example when lying on your back and lifting the upper body, think abdominal curl ups.
Why it’s not good: This forward flexion of the spine can put too much pressure on the abdominal wall and actually increase separation.
How to modify:
- Avoid abdominal curl ups completely and ensure you lie flat on your back instead.
- Do not lift your head, neck, or shoulders off the ground during core work.
- It is also important to note, avoid lifting both legs in the air during core work. Knee Marches are the perfect modification for core strengthening because they allow you to stabilise your pelvis and strengthen the deep layers of your core, whilst maintaining alignment with your supporting foot on the floor.
Modification 2: Plank standing.
Why it’s not good: Plank on the ground can aggravate abdominal separation. When your stomach is parallel hovering over the floor, gravity increases the pressure on your linea alba and can cause further separation.
How to modify: The View Studio recommends standing plank at the ballet barre instead to take pressure off the abdominal wall. By opting for this modification, you are still reaping the benefits yet with less pressure on the body.
Modification 3: Sit tall during seated core work.
Why it’s not good: When the small core ball is wedged behind your lower back, and you lean back into it, this put’s more weight onto your core therefore increasing the risk of separation.
How to modify: Sit tall on a chair or a stability ball instead and avoid leaning backwards. By doing so, you’ll work the exact same muscles with less pressure. Consider doing pelvic tilts instead of leaning back.
Finally always be mindful of your standing posture is a great way to ensure you are aligning and re-balancing the whole body.
Top 10 Tips for
Perfect Pilates Posture
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart
- Outer edges of feet lined up with a magazine or floorboard
- Weight back into heels, to stack pelvis on top of ankles
- Stand tall, lengthen spine from the base of the skull – two helium balloons on the tips of your ears
- Let your shoulders melt like ice creams in the hot sun
- You rib cage is lifted but not pushing forwards
- Slide your shoulder blades down and back
- Abdominal muscles are gently pulled in to “notch #3” or 30%
- Be sure not to hold your breath
Breathing is vital!