Strengthen Your Core, Heal Your Diastasis Recti: 6 Targeted Exercises for Postpartum Recovery

A separation of the abdominal muscles, also known as a diastasis recti that occurs during pregnancy, can be a source of frustration and discomfort for many postpartum women. While it's a natural part of the body's adaptation to pregnancy, addressing diastasis recti is essential for restoring core strength and function. In this blog post, we'll explore how targeted core exercises can effectively improve diastasis recti and support postpartum recovery.


Understanding Diastasis Recti:

Diastasis recti occurs when the linea alba, the connective tissue that runs down the center of the abdomen, stretches, causing the rectus abdominis muscles to separate (at least 2 finger width) along the midline. This separation can lead to a protruding belly- also known as “the mommy pooch”, weak core muscles, and even contribute to back pain and pelvic floor dysfunction.


While diastasis recti is a common and natural occurrence during pregnancy, it's important to address it postpartum to prevent long-term complications and promote healing.  Targeted core exercises can play a significant role in strengthening the abdominal muscles and reducing the severity of diastasis recti.

What is the Core?  

Before we dive into core exercises, let's first talk about what muscles make up the core.  Most people think of the core as just the front abdominal muscles.  However, I want you to think about the core as a canister.  A canister has a top, bottom, front, back, and side. 


The top of the core is the diaphragm, which is the muscle responsible for breathing.  The sides of the core are our obliques, which are our abdominal muscles on the side of our trunk. The bottom of the core are the pelvic floor muscles, which hold our pelvic organ in place and are responsible for continence. Our pelvic floor muscles work together with our abdominals and diaphragm.  And the back side of our core include our glutes (buttocks muscles) and erector spinae, also known as our spinal extensors.   The glutes and spinal extensors work to stabilize and support our spine and pelvis, as well as extend our hip and spine. 

6 Targeted Core Exercises for Diastasis Recti Recovery:

Transverse Abdominis Activation/ Connection Breath: This exercise targets the deepest core muscle, the transverse abdominis, helping to strengthen and stabilize the core. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your lower abdomen, just inside your hip bones. Inhale deeply, then exhale as you gently draw your belly button in and up towards your spine, feeling the muscles engage beneath your fingertips. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and repeat 10 times. 

Connection breath + ball on knee squeeze:  Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.   Bring 1 knee up so that your hip is at a 90 degree angle.  Place a small ball on your thigh (close to the knee) and hold it in place with your hand.  Inhale deeply, then as exhale you gently press your hand into the ball while simultaneously drawing your belly button in and up towards your spine. Hold for 5 seconds, then release and repeat 10 times on each leg. 

Modified Planks: Planks are an excellent full-body exercise that can be modified to accommodate postpartum recovery.  Begin on your hands and knees, then walk your hands forward keeping your body in a straight line from your head to your hips.  Engage your core muscles and hold while maintaining proper form. I would recommend starting with plank modification on your knees or against a wall and work up to a full body plank.

Bridges + ball squeeze:  Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Place a small ball in between your knees. Inhale deeply, then as you exhale, squeeze the ball and lift your buttocks up in the air as you gently draw your belly button in and up towards your spine.  Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly lower your buttocks down to the mat and repeat 10 times. 

Pelvic Floor Exercises:   Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles is essential for supporting the abdominal wall and reducing the severity of diastasis recti. Kegel exercises, in particular, can help improve pelvic floor strength and function. To perform Kegels, contract the muscles of the pelvic floor as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat.

Bear Hoover:  Begin on your hands and knees, make sure hands are under your shoulders and knees under your hips. As you engage your core muscles, drawing your belly button in and UP,  you slowly lift up both of your knees and hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times. Make sure you are not holding your breath and not pressing your abdominal wall outward.


Check out my 12 minute post baby workout right here on Youtube! 

Benefits of Targeted Core Exercises for Diastasis Recti:

Prioritizing targeted core exercises postpartum offers countless benefits for women recovering from diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction:

  • Strengthening the Abdominal Muscles: Targeted exercises help to strengthen the abdominal muscles, including the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, and obliques, which can reduce the severity of diastasis recti and support core stability.
  • Improving Core Function: By strengthening the core muscles, women can improve full body functional mobility, which is essential for activities of daily living, such as lifting, bending, and carrying children and objects.  
  • Reducing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction: Core exercises, particularly those that incorporate pelvic floor activation, can help reduce the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction, such as urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse, which are common concerns for postpartum women.
  • Promoting Healing and Recovery: Consistently engaging in targeted core exercises can promote healing of the linea alba and encourage the abdominal muscles to realign properly, leading to a flatter and stronger midsection over time.

Diastasis recti is a common condition that affects many postpartum women, but it doesn't have to be a permanent obstacle.  By incorporating targeted core exercises along with focusing on proper breathing and improving posture into your postpartum exercise routine, you can promote healing of diastasis recti. 

Remember to start slowly and always consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.  With patience, consistency, and the right exercises, you can reclaim your strength, confidence, and a flat, strong core postpartum.