A healthy lifestyle blog by ACE Certified Group Exercise Trainer.

The Mommy Tummy - Healing Diastasis Recti

I have several post-partum and pregnant clients, so I thought addressing the topic of the "mommy pooch" aka "diastasis recti" would be very helpful for pretty much any woman who has ever given birth (or will be giving birth).

What is diastasis recti? It's basically a separation down the midline of your ab muscles (rectus abdominis). See the lovely figure below. (Don't you just love how the pregnant lady's boobs went to hell in the illustration?)

How do you know if you have a diastasis recti? 

STEP 1: Lie on your back with knees bent
STEP 2: Place two fingers in the center of your belly, just above the belly button, pointing towards your toes.
STEP 3: Try to relax your abs and lift your head off the floor. (keeping abs as relaxed as possible will give you a more accurate reading, while squeezing abs tight will make the gap seem smaller)
Source: Daily HIIT Blog
If you have a separation of 1 finger, you don't have an issue. If you have 2-2.5 or larger (some women have 3 finger and 4 finger separations), it's considered problematic.

Personally, after I had my babies, I had a separation of 2.5 fingers. I have gotten it down to 1.5 but would still like to close the gap further.

Women who haven't given birth in YEARS can still have a diastasis recti and it still can be healed years later!

If you have this condition - STOP crunching immediately!

Women with diastasis recti larger than 2 fingers should not crunch. It actually can make your gap worse. Other exercises to avoid: planks, pushups on the floor, burpees, yoga poses like "cow pose" that extend the abs.

I know what you're thinking - that sucks! But, don't despair, there are several modifications and exercise to help improve the diastsis recti. First off, several exercises we do in my classes help strengthen the core without aggravating this condition - think squats, wall sits, lunges, cardio intervals, arm sculpting with weights.

GOOD EXERCISES TO START HEALING (some can be done during pregnancy)

1. Tummy vaccum - laying on your back in crunch position, knees bent, suck your tummy in while taking a deep breath in and squeeze. Don't hold your breath but hold the squeeze for 5-10 seconds. Do 5 - 12 reps. Do these kneeling if pregnant past the first trimester.

2. Flat back holds - on all fours, completely flat back (no cat or cow) do the tummy vaccum exercises.

3. Elevators - in seated or standing position, breathe in and pull abs up and in like going up in an elevator.


1. Jumping - take extra care to make sure to squeeze the abs as you lift feet off the ground. Don't jump as high or alternate lifting only one leg off the ground instead of both.

2. Planks & Pushups - Instead of planking or pushups go on to all fours and focus on squeezing the core tight. To push up, either do on the wall or keep your butt up in the air as you push up. Never do a plank if you can't keep your core squeezed tight during the exercise.

3. Side plank - always keep one leg on the ground.

4. Mountain climbers - keep booty high in the air and slow down the leg motion.

5. Standing Oblique crunches - don't do them, just focus on squeezing the muscles while standing in place, doing forward standing crunches.

6. Regular crunches on floor - lift head off the ground only (not shoulders) and squeeze tight as you take a deep breath. OR do standing front crunches instead.

7. Leg lifts on the floor - keep knees bent and gently lift one knee at a time to the chest as you squeeze tummy in.

8. Lat pull downs or pullups - do not do. Do shoulder presses overhead instead.

9. Overhead tricep press while lying on back- do butterfly open/close instead.

10. Positions laying on stomach - don't push belly into the floor. Rocking horse movements instead of superman movements.


1. Focus, focus, focus on posture. Make a conscious effort to engage and squeeze the core when sitting, standing, etc.
2. Splint. There are several belly splints that pull the muscles in, especially useful during exercise.
3. Seeing a doctor. If you have any pain, tender bulges, issues holding urine, etc. you should see a physician. The diastasis could be a symptom of a hernia or prolapse and needs to be treated.

Exercises: http://inspiredrd.com/2013/11/5-exercises-to-heal-diastasis.html
Explanation: http://bikinibodymommy.com/2013/04/28/diastasis-recti-101-why-some-moms-shouldnt-do-crunches/
Modifications: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmFfzHz5-Us
Exercises: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2FW0UhNAas

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