Smutty Fitness: Beyond sit-ups

Hayley Posted by Hayley at December 16, 2016 18:51:23 December 16, 2016 18:51:23

After my second child I realized I had diastasis recti. And then I realized that I'd had it after my first 5 years earlier - but just dismissed as Mom body. I've quit sit-ups as I've heard that they just make it worse, but my regime of toe-taps and wall sits is not giving me results. Any suggestions? 

Thanks!

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Diastasis recti is the stretching and separation of the rectus abdominals (the six pack muscle). The rectus attaches to the linea alba (which is a fascial line that runs down the center of the abs) and as the uterus expands, the linea alba and the ab muscles stretch, creating a laxity and weakness in the muscles which you have referred to as “mom body”. The first 8 weeks postpartum is the most crucial time to help those muscles heal with gentle core and pelvic floor exercises, but unfortunately the knowledge around this condition and how to test for it is lacking in the fitness industry, so many women miss that short window.

However, it is not a lost cause. I will be honest and say that you may never have a tight, toned tummy again but you can definitely improve the condition of your current abs, step one being staying away from sit-ups. You need to start by strengthening your abs from the inside out, starting with your pelvic floor and your transverse. These are not the most exciting group of exercises but they are the most important and will help give you tone as well as provide support to the other abdominal muscles (your rectus mainly) so they don’t have to do all of the abdominal work themselves. Stick with training these muscles for 6-8 weeks and you should see a difference in your abdominal strength and appearance.

Many women through pregnancy and childbirth will lose their ability to sense when their deep core muscles are firing so I do recommend working with a pelvic floor specialist who can use ultrasound to help these muscles wake up. These types of practitioners are usually found in physiotherapy clinics and you can find them by contacting your midwife or gynecologist. However, while you are waiting you can do some work on your own.

Think about your pelvic floor as if it is a diamond that connects to your pubic bone, tail bone and two hip bones.  Lie down and take a deep breath in, sending the breath as deep into your pelvis as you can, and visualize this diamond expanding. As you exhale, draw the diamond in, making it smaller, and try and lift the diamond to your belly button without clenching your butt. A boring exercise but an efficient one and it should be done 2-3 times a day with 10 receptions each time. 

The next step is get onto all fours in front of a mirror. Take a deep breath in, letting the diamond expand and your belly fall to the floor (this is the least attractive position but just do it). Then as you exhale draw the diamond up while drawing your abdominals up to the spine, trying not to engage your rectus muscle. Do this 10 times, 2 or 3 times a day. As you get stronger start to slide one arm away from you and then work on lifting one arm and the opposite leg, holding for 2-3 seconds.

You can also add a towel wrapped around your mid-section while doing your toe taps (etc.) while pulling the towel tightly around your tummy. This helps to hold the abdominals together and also provides you with feedback as you should keep your abs soft and not push them up into the towel.

Once you become a master of these exercises you can start to progress into gentle planking and other abdominal work but you should always add these movements to your abdominal repertoire.  

Speaking of second children: Natalie Portman at 21st Annual Huading Global Film Awards in LA on December 15, 2016 attached. 


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