4 Exercises to Help Prevent Diastasis Recti


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Most people who have been through pregnancy—especially more than once—have experienced some degree of diastasis recti, or a separation of the outer layer of vertical abdominal muscles. For many people, this may not come as a surprise because your uterus expands as the baby grows causing your abdomen to stretch to accommodate the growth.

According to Amy Hoover, DPT, PT, a specialist in women's health and chief physical therapist at P.volve, diastasis recti is an instability of the connective tissue between the outermost layer of abdominal muscle called the rectus abdominis.

"[The rectus abdominis] is the muscle that runs vertically from the lower sternum and lower ribcage to the pubic bone, and is connected down the centerline of the abdomen by a band of connective tissue called the linea alba," Dr. Hoover says.

This condition quite often appears as a visible bulge in the abdomen and can spark lower back pain and pelvic instability, given the decrease in core strength. For many pregnant and postpartum women, diastasis recti is unavoidable, which is understandably a cause of frustration. However, there are exercises you can do to help prevent its severity. Below, our experts explain the causes, how it might impact you, and provide exercises for your radar.

Causes of Diastasis Recti 

More than 60% of postpartum women experience diastasis recti due to the abdominal muscles stretching and losing connectivity. This phenomenon is especially common if you have multiple pregnancies. Aside from this, people who are obese or anyone who has undergone abdominal surgery may also be at risk.

That said, the main causes of diastasis recti are still disputed. Although it has been hypothesized that the condition may be caused by weak abdominal strength, research involving people with mild diastasis recti failed to find a credible correlation.

Despite this fact, exercise can counteract the effects of the diastasis recti by helping the muscles knit back together. Core bracing during daily activity and tuning into your breathing is also fundamental in supporting your abdominal muscles. Incorporating these techniques can reduce strain on your core and relieves intra-abdominal pressure.

Consequences of Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti can cause a wide spectrum of issues—some more severe than others. Primarily, it depends on how the connective tissue stretches and how much outward pressure is placed on the abdomen from weight gain or pregnancy, Dr. Hoover says.

"If the muscles separate, it can cause instability in the abdominal wall, which is an integral part of the core, the consequences of this being the same symptoms that may arise due to a weak or unbalanced core," she says.

Although diastasis recti can be a normal part of pregnancy for a number of people, there are things you can do to improve the integrity and function of the abdominal wall before, during, and after birth, Dr. Hoover says.

"For example, maintaining a healthy weight as well as performing proper functional core and breath work during the perinatal period can help decrease the risk and aid in your recovery," she says.

Common Symptoms

  • Lower back pain
  • Urinary incontinence (especially when sneezing)
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Discomfort during sex
  • Constipation
  • A lack of core strength
  • Cosmetic appearance of the abdomen

Exercises to Help Prevent Diastasis Recti

In a recent study, specific exercises with a heightened focus on transverse abdominis activation were found to improve diastasis recti by narrowing the muscle gap across participants.

Additionally, focusing on the entire core—meaning the abdominal wall, diaphragm, back muscles, and pelvic floor—can also help improve the strength, integrity, and flexibility of the abdominal wall, says Dr. Hoover. When these elements work dynamically with one another, it enhances both stability and mobility throughout the body.

Here are four possible exercises for prevention of diastasis recti—just be sure to clear them with a healthcare provider before beginning.

Abdominal Bracing

The first step in connecting with the core is to feel each component of proper core activation, says Dr. Hoover. Abdominal bracing may assist you in accomplishing that goal.

"You need to coordinate your breathing to feel the deepest layer of the abdominal muscle, along with the pelvic floor and the deep back muscles," she says. Here is how to do it.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and take a few deep breaths.
  2. Let your diaphragm contract during the inhale by allowing the abdominal muscles to relax, noticing your belly rise as you deepen the inhale.
  3. Contract your pelvic floor on the exhale, and gently pull the deep abdominal muscles in, bringing your belly button towards your spine. As you do this, you may or may not feel the deep back muscles engage.
  4. Continue to draw in and up from the abdominals and pelvic floor as you exhale, and then relax on the inhale.
  5. Maintain a neutral spine and stable pelvis.
  6. Repeat 15 to 20 times, relaxing on the inhale and engaging the core on the exhale. 

Shift Back

With the shift back movement, you strengthen the abdominals against gravity and load the connective tissue to make it stronger, explains Dr. Hoover. This is important to encourage the muscles to work together. Here is how it is done.

  1. Start on all fours with your wrists directly below the shoulders and your knees directly under the hips.
  2. Shift your body back into a deep knee and hip bend as you inhale.
  3. Perform abdominal bracing as you exhale and as you shift forward to the starting position, working your core and pelvic floor at the same time.
  4. Repeat 15 to 20 times, coordinating with your breath.

Standing Abs Soccer Kick

Loading and working the abdominal muscles in a standing position is the most functional way to work your core, as you need to be able to connect with your core on the move, Dr. Hoover says. This movement is especially as you spend a good chunk of the day upright.

  1. Start in a standing position with your hands behind your head.
  2. Lean your body back slightly tilting your pelvis up, and point your right foot forward.
  3. Lift the leg with a soft knee on an exhale, keeping your chest upright and contracting through your abdominals.
  4. Return to start on an inhale.
  5. Repeat 8-10 times on each leg for 2-3 rounds.


As you lift, raise your leg up, scoop the belly button in toward your spine, close the ribcage, and zip your pelvic floor muscles up.

Bent Knee Dead Bug

An exemplary exercise for targeting the core is the bent knee dead bug. This move is especially useful for training the transverse abdominals—the deep core muscles that, when functioning, can prevent diastasis recti or help re-build your core following pregnancy.

  1. Lie flat on your back.
  2. Lift and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Keep your shoulders in contact with the mat and raise your hands straight up, palms facing toward each other.
  4. Tilt your pelvis backwards so that your lower back is flat on the mat.
  5. Take an inward breath with arms extended and lower one bent leg toward the mat, tapping your toe at the bottom.
  6. Return the knee back on an exhale and switch sides, making sure your belly is scooped toward your spine throughout the movement.
  7. Repeat for 15 to 20 taps in total.
  8. Take a break every few taps if you need to reset your pelvis.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you suspect that you have diastasis recti, do not delay in seeing a healthcare provider for diagnosis. Many people experience diastasis recti—mainly in the third trimester of pregnancy—and your provider can help you find a suitable treatment.

Ignoring such an issue can worsen your condition and extend the period of recovery. This may impact your day-to-day activities or cause issues such as lower back ache or pelvic floor dysfunction.

You also should consult with a healthcare provider prior to engaging in physical activity or beginning a new fitness routine. If you are completely new to exercise, consider working with a personal trainer or physiotherapist to guide you through useful exercise routines.

A Word From Verywell Fit

Diastasis recti is a common condition affecting many people, both prenatal or postpartum, as well as those who struggle with obesity. This condition is largely due to a lack of connectivity between the rectus abdominis muscles.

Severe cases can lead to issues including pelvic instability, a weakened core, and constipation. Exercises focusing on re-engaging your abdominal muscles can help to close the gap, but be patient—it takes time.

A healthcare provider such as a family physician, OB/GYN, a pelvic floor specialist, or a physiotherapist can diagnose diastasis recti through a simple evaluation. From there, they can formulate a treatment plan to tackle your diastasis recti.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How common is diastasis recti?

    The prevalence and degree of diastasis recti is very common during and after pregnancy, but will differ from person to person depending on the stage. One study found the prevalence of diastasis recti among participants to be 33.1% at week 21 of pregnancy, 60.0% at the six-week postpartum mark, 45.5% by six months postpartum, and 32.6% at 12 months postpartum.

  • What increases the risk of diastasis recti?

    Research has yet to find any solid links between specific factors and an increased risk of diastasis recti. In a study evaluating risk factors including age, BMI before pregnancy, and weight gain during pregnancy, as well as baby's weight at birth, no significant differences were found between the groups for any measured factor. However, multiple pregnancies and obesity are thought to increase the likelihood.

  • How does weight loss impact diastasis recti?

    Postpartum weight loss is a natural part of the birthing process, once your baby and placenta are delivered, along with the loss of fluids. Once you are cleared to do so, a focus on re-training your core muscles, rather than focusing on weight loss, is likely to have a greater impact on improving your diastasis recti. This includes engaging in proper breathing techniques and abdominal focused exercises to reduce any gap in the muscles.

12 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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