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Lose Your Mummy Tummy--Diastasis Recti & Why Crunches are BAD for You

Want to Lose Your Mummy Tummy? Find out how and Find out Why Crunches are BAD for you! This is seriously very important information about Diastasis Recti and is not just for moms.

Diastasis Recti.

Have you ever heard about that?

If you've been around my blog for awhile, you know that I care about health.  I've got posts about adrenal health, thyroid issues, gut health, and more.  So why a post about how to ditch your mummy tummy and how to get a flat stomach if it's just about being more attractive?

Because -- it isn't!

It's about diastasis recti.  What?

Well, being attractive is good for your mental and emotional health, but there is more going on here.

I have something super exciting today--a way to get rid of your "post-baby belly." 

Awhile ago I saw Beth's teaching on diagnosing and fixing diastasis recti (a cause of "mummy tummy" that won't go away)--and I knew I had it.

My stomach has NEVER been super flat. Ever.

But since having my kids, well--let's just say that I am almost constantly holding my stomach in--and I've always thought that I had a more intense problem than other moms.

I asked Beth if she would write about diastasis recti because I know I'm not alone. And besides--good abdominal health is something we all should have.  

So let's find out why we need to stop doing crunches--and find out how to get rid of post-pregnancy "mummy tummy" for good.

Having worked in the fitness industry for 18 years, one common complaint I've heard from many postpartum moms is that their bellies seem to get BIGGER-- not smaller--the more they work their core.

Before I had kids myself, I was a personal trainer, and I just told these unsatisfied customers to accept that some new curves would always be a part of the blessing of motherhood. Then I got pregnant three times myself, and let me just tell you what happened:

  • My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 11 weeks, and I wondered why my abs didn't go back to flat when I had barely even been showing.
  • Six months later, we conceived my daughter. After I gave birth to her, I wondered why my tummy got flat right after having her, but then pooched out when I started exercising again.
  • Three years after having my daughter, I had my son, and my belly didn't even attempt get flatter no matter how many crunches and planks and cardio sessions I did. In fact, he was over 2 years old when I realized my stomach was still making an inverted V-shape whenever I sat up.Yet I was doing core work almost every day. It was the kind of core work I was doing (crunches, situps, planks) that was making my belly rip more!

Women all over the world are reading those three pieces of my personal history and nodding their heads, because our physiology is the same and most of us have experienced this... and accepted it?

Yes, we've been told by personal trainers who've never had kids (like I was) that it's normal to have a mummy tummy.

Once I finally realized that my certification as a group fitness instructor and my degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Oregon State University had left out some important information about how a woman's core works during and after pregnancy,

I went in search of exercises that truly help minimize and treat diastasis recti (Diastasis Recti Abdominus--a split in your abs that’s wider than normal).

In the July 1988 issue of Physical Therapy, an abstract was published that showed EVERY pregnant woman's abs splitting into a diastasis in the 2nd trimester of pregnancy. "

Its incidence peaked in the third trimester group; remained high in the women in the immediate postpartum group; and declined, but did not disappear, in the later postpartum group. These findings demonstrate the importance of testing for diastasis recti abdominis above, below, and at the umbilicus throughout and after the childbearing year."

But have you ever been checked for diastasis recti? Has anyone ever told you which exercises help it and which ones make it worse?

Has anyone ever explained how the wider your gap is, the more your lower back, digestion, pelvic floor health, and many more problems will increase?

In fact, diastasis recti is a direct cause of back pain--this post on diastasis recti and back pain goes into more detail.

Because if your abdominal wall isn't holding your innards in the right spots, then your innards won't work as well... ding! Lightbulbs going off in heads all over the world!

I now believe that if every woman could learn the following four do's and don'ts for reclaiming their cores, then we'd have far fewer pregnant-looking grandmothers out there.

Because that is what is happening with traditional core work: the stress of crunches and planks and situps upon injured abdominals just stresses the connective tissue more!

If you follow these 4 exercise tips, you can start healing your core for good, no matter how many months or years postpartum you are...

Woman with Diastasis Recti - Lose Your Mummy Tummy

4 Exercises for Diastasis Recti to Ditch Mummy Tummy

Train Your Transverse Abdominus

Your TA is your own natural girdle, assisting the uterus with expulsion during birth and taking pressure off your healing six-pack (rectus abdominus) after birth.But the obliques and six-pack get so much attention in the fitness industry that many women don't even know about their bigger, deeper, more important TA muscle.

You can start activating your TA three days after vaginal birth and 10 days after surgical birth. Learn how by clicking HERE to watch my 10-minute "Totally Transverse" workout!

Walk! Walk! Walk!

Nothing is more effective at working your whole body in a safe, effective, gentle manner than walking. Walking naturally stretches and flexes your pelvic floor and activates your whole core without stressing your abdominal connective tissue.

If you use a baby carrier, please make sure that it's one that prevents hip dysplasia in the baby while supporting your core without yanking on your back - wraps and ergo-like carriers are best. If you are pushing your child in a stroller, your form matters!

Read this incredible article about how to push a stroller with good posture by Lorraine Scapens of Pregnancy Exercise in New Zealand.

Practice Perfect Posture

Visualize the inside of your torso like two bowls; your pelvis forms one bowl, and your ribs form another upside down bowl. While sitting and standing, your rib bowl and pelvic bowl need to center with each other.

If your ribs are thrust forward, that stretches the diastasis, so pull your ribs down while keeping your spine tall. If your pelvic bowl is tilted so your hips are tucked under a lot, or so that your lower back is severely arched, that will also yank on your connective tissue.

Can the Crunches

Yes, I know this flies in the face of all those cute pictures of moms crunching up to play "peek-a-boo" with their baby floating on their shins.But crunches bulge the belly, not flatten it.If doing 300 crunches a day worked, you'd have a flat belly by now.

Sit ups are even worse, in fact, any crunch-like motion - this includes anything where the shoulders come off the floor - contributes to diastasis by very nature of biomechanics. (Yikes! I've been adding these to my exercise regimen recently. :(.)Planks are also inadvisable until while your diastasis recti is still open because of the gravitational pressure pushing down and out on your damaged core.

In Short, You Have One Body

If your hurt it, you cannot trade it in for a new one, and replacement parts are very expensive. If your workout makes you hurt more or "shreds" your belly apart to the point that your abs can't even hold your own guts in (that's not a beer belly, it's a diastasis, dude!) then your workout isn't improving your health; it's ruining your health.

Fitness should be a fun time of healing and re-energizing your body so that you can be a better mom, partner and volunteer. Don't settle for a broken body.

Click here for wholesome workouts for the whole family that are:

  • diastasis / mummy tummy aware
  • safe and
  • effective!

**(It's Adrienne again here. Isn't this amazing?

I've just started my Transverse exercises and I'm already feeling a little better. Maybe my Mummy Tummy has hope yet! I plan to do a before and after photo and touch base with you in a few weeks to see how it's working. I can't believe how long I've been doing crunches [when I did exercise]--all this time thinking I was doing the right thing.  Sigh.

If you're as impressed with Beth's knowledge as I am, you'll want to check out her fitness site, Fit2B.

By the way, I'm an affiliate of Fit2B so if you join, I'll make a commission.

Fit2B is an amazing online gym that is:

  • Tummy Conscious (every exercise routine encourages healthy abs)
  • Modest (that's sooo important to me)
  • Understandable - no "what are they talking about" exercise mumbo-jumbo
  • Geared Towards Busy Moms (but anyone can do it--busy or not. Mom or not.). No videos for clutter. No driving to the gym. Doable exercise.
  • Encouraging (they have a network of supporters on Facebook and Twitter to help you along)

In short, she will help you get rid of your mummy tummy in an effective, whole woman friendly way.

I LOVE what Fit2B has on their About Us Page:  "Our goal for members of Fit To Be Us is that you will feel fit to do anything! Fit to run and jump on the trampoline with your kids. Fit to go hiking and biking. Fit to fit into your favorite jeans that have been on the floor of your closet for way too long!"

If that doesn't make you want to check them out, I don't know what will :)! Here's to all of us getting our abdominals in good shape so they can support all the important stuff that's inside of us--so we can be healthier and be better moms, wives, and citizens--Yippee.

So--do you have a diastasis recti / mummy tummy? Did you know crunches are BAD for you?

Beth Learn of Fit2Bus. Bio photo.

Bethany is a work at home mama to two wild rugrats in the Pacific Northwest. She and her husband just moved to a 7-acre farm where she's learning to milk 1 stubborn goat and get eggs from 10 hens. She runs Fit2B Studio from her laptop between homeschooling, picking berries, wiping noses, hodge-podging meals together, race-walking with two separate teams, and teaching at her local fitness center. Her hobbies include fitness {duh!} and crocheting rag rugs out of recycled t-shirts she cuts into yarn. Come see her passion for Diastasis Awareness in action over at fit2b.com today!

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85 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting! This is such important information and stuff I wish I had know with my first over 8 years ago. After my third, I had diastasis that wasn't considered extreme, but what was extreme was that I was unable to create the tension needed in the fascia and therefore had severe problems. I see the specialized therapists at Diane Lee and Associates. Diane is one of the experts in the field in this area! And if Diane tells you that you need surgery, well than you can bet they've tried everything. I ended up with srugery to correct my DRA and it is awesome. HOWEVER I fall into that slim margin of women for which nothing else (not even Fit2Be, Tupler, other methods) would have done anything.

    So yes Tupler, Fit2Be and other TA targeted methods are great and women should be TAUGHT and INFORMED about all of this, but remember that if it doesn't work for you, seek help from a specialist who will ultrasound and image your muscles. Because that's a surefire way to see exactly what is going on in there!

      1. I already had a few chronic pain issues from several things (old snowboarding accident, years waitressing, piano playing, bad computer posture) but I was working with my therapist on those through my first and second pregnancies. After I had my third my body went haywire. My right arm (and sometimes my left) would go numb from compressed nerves (different than circulation), my lower back was so tight and constantly ached, my left leg had sciatic pain and sometimes a knee or hip would suddenly give way. I'm a singer and couldn't breathe properly. I couldn't carry my son in a sling or carrier for a long enough period of time or I would be in so much pain the next day I could barely get out of bed. I couldn't spend time on my hands and knees cleaning or I'd be stuck. I could go on and on. I waited until he was 2 years old before deciding to go ahead with surgery (it had been recommended already when he was about 18 months).

        Within 2 days of surgery, the numbness in my arm disappeared during the day. It still goes numb when I sleep but that's a position issue, and is getting better. I just FEEL more stable and agile, even though I have a lot of retraining to do. I used to do yoga very regular and am now (3 months post-op) starting to get back into some easy yoga, and the body CRAVES it, because now it feels good. When I see my therapist she is so excited and happy that the muscles and area that used to be areas of holding, tensions, and bad patterns are starting to let go and heal and be normal.

        In Canada surgery is not covered unfortunately, so DRA repair is expensive. But for our family it was worth the expense because now I can be a normal wife, mother and woman again! It took years to "create" the mess in body so I know it will take plenty of time to repair and heal but it's like your gut. Long term damage means long term repair.

    1. Hi Rebecca. I think we all (except those in magazines who have tons of muscle and hold their stomachs in to show their tough abs - which doesn't seem healthy to me at all) have tummies if we are being realistic. Beth's is strong and healed. I think it is very important to think of diet and exercise for health and not for appearance. The appearance will follow.

      For example, you can have someone who is rail thin but eats only sugar filled candy and is truly really really ill. You can also have someone who exercises way too much and has the "enviable" abs but is about to fall apart physically from overexertion.

      In this case, we are going for a healed diastasis so that your entire body functions better.

      I think tons of ladies would be happy if their tummy looked like Beth's when not holding it in :).

      I encourage you to take a different look. The program is really really good.

  2. I've always had a baby tummy, especially after having six children. After reading this, I know exactly what you're talking about. My belly still bulges when I do sit ups. Will this work for me, even if it's been eight years since my last child was born?

    1. Definitely! A muscle is a muscle no matter how small, how old, how ... you get the picture ๐Ÿ˜‰ And fascia wants to be together! The pooch is a product of an old injury and your current lifestyle. Heal the injury and change your alignment and movement patterns, and you'll have a different belly. Oh, and STOP doing situps!!! Those are terrible for your spine and core!

  3. Fantastic information! Of course, I may just have to file this for a little later because I have way more to lose before that is my biggest problem! :). I recently just switched my focus from Mommy/DIY blog to Weight Loss blog because it has to be my first priority.

    I'd love if you'd link up some of your favorite posts at our first day of the Tips and Tricks Tuesday link party!

    Kristin

  4. I REALLY want to get rid of my pooch that I've had since my 1st child born 10.5 yrs ago. It got worse after I had a 9lb second baby and was stretched to the limit. My problem with the exercises where you have to pull your tummy in is that it tightens up my back/shoulder terribly. I have a shoulder that has trouble anyway and it makes it worse. Is there any way to avoid that?

    1. Linda, that is a common problem with programs where pulling in is the ONLY focus. The way I teach, though, shows you how to relax those surrounding muscles. They really want to take over because the weak core makes those surrounding muscles do its job. When you first try to recommission your core, there is a silent - yet very tangible - battle that is felt in the upper back and shoulders, because those muscles need to have a conversation with your core that goes like this:

      Core: Okay, peeps! I've been called back to active duty, so you all can take a chill pill now!

      Upper Back & Shoulders: Pfffttt! Look at you! You can barely flex. We'll just stay on standby because it still seems like you are only doing half the job you're supposed to be doing.

      Core: No really, guys! I've got this, see? Watch me! I activate like this and you can do your own thing!

      Upper Back and Shoulders: Whatever! You've been such a wimp for so long that we'll just keep flexing.

      Core: Oh no you don't! Nuh uh! Take that! And that! Ya'll just go about your own business. Cuz this mama's back in business! Woot!

      Upper Back and Shoulders: Wow. Guess we better keep our day jobs.

      ... Okay, so I had a little fun with that, but it really is what happens. With Fit2B you won't learn JUST about your how to recruit your transverse abs. I'm about the bigger picture, and our first routine here talks about this >> https://fit2b.us/start-here

      1. Ok....I literally only did the sample video for a minute or so and my shoulder is tightened and hurts. I must not be doing something right.

  5. Adrienne, this post has inspired me. For the last few years, I've pretty much given up on regaining any semblance of my pre-baby tummy. But I'm going to join Fit2B for a couple months and work through the Tummy Safe path. I'll use your affiliate link ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you!

    1. Hi Sarah. I will say that it is already making a difference for me - in how I look and how I feel. I am doing a few other things too but the other day my son asked why I looked so thin :). I know - thin isn't everything, but having an unhealthy pooch isn't a good idea!

  6. I have a 2 finger gap, which they say is normal but my abs on the whole jut out and just make my belly look bigger. What can I do about that?

    1. Hi Jerilyn,
      A diastasis doesn't have to be BIG to cause issues and affect the shape of your belly. However, with a smaller DR it's likely you also have some transverse abdominus weakness. This is usually the culprit behind the "muffin top" or "spare tire" and "pregnant pooch." Like any muscle on vacation, the TvA will be more slack when it's not being regularly commisioned. I'd highly recommend that you start with these First Five Foundational routines here >> https://fit2b.us/start-here/ ... btw, the second one is open to non-members ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Thanks for linking at Trim Healthy Tuesday! I've had a lot of friends have great success with this plan.

  8. I started to develop a diastatis with my last child. It was very minor but freaked me out. I have noticed that while I lose the baby weight after each pregnancy my once cute tummy just isnt the same. All the info on diastasis is so helpful but can be overwhelming. On another note these exercises are all similar to a pamphlet my mother received from the hospital when I was born 30+ yrs ago. So I guess like butter and eggs...traditional is better in exercise as well.

  9. I was a member of Fit2B for a couple months and never once was even able to use the workouts. I read on their site for hours yet everything said not safe for diastassis, and all of the 'paths' were so confusing. I finally gave up and cancelled my membership because I didn't have hours and hours to read everything on her site before actually starting a work out. I do have a pretty severe case of diastassis and have been to physical therapy which has helped some but I still have pain every now and then so I am very cautious and don't want to make it worse.

    1. Hi Katie, I'm so sorry you had trouble with Fit2B. I wish you had written to me so I could answer your questions. I'd be happy to give you some free time on the site to try it again. Over 95% of our site is "Tummy Safe" now. Perhaps you were a member back when we were still in the process of refilming. We've been working really hard to make the pathways more accessible and understandable. I'll admit that it's a work in progress. No one else is doing what I"m doing, and there's no "how to" manual for me to read. I rely heavily on member input from the forums, and just made a few more positive changes over the weekend. I hope you'll give it another try by taking a peek at the general workout section found here ... https://fit2b.us/account/ (you don't have to log in to see it) all workouts are labeled and marked in many ways now, since it's certainly not my wish for people to join and not use the info. I truly want to provide a wholesome healthy service that is usable, affordable and fun. Again, I apoligize that you didn't have that experience. Please feel free to write to me directly or contact us via this page https://fit2b.us/contact/

  10. This is so fascinating to me. I am a thin woman (119lbs, 5'4"), currently 9 weeks pregnant. I have been doing ZERO ab work or exercises since my last pregnancy 4 years ago. My stomach has been getting increasingly bigger, but only as the day wears on. Everything else is thin, but as soon as I start to eat, I get "bloated", to the point where now that I'm a few weeks along, people are commenting on how I'm showing. (And yet, in the morning, I have a completely flat stomach). I've had testing done, everything comes back normal. My gut bacteria is great and I was on GAPS to heal my bloating, but it didn't do much...and I've just recently started to wonder if it has to do with weak abs! My doctor said I had a slight split, but not bad and didn't think that had anything to do with the bloating, but now I'm wishing I had gotten a second opinion a long time ago.

    Does this sound like it could possibly be a bloating from weak stomach muscles?! Thank you SO much for this info!!

    1. Diet can be a huge factor in the pressure that shoves outward on our abdominal connective tissue. Also, our body heals and realigns while we sleep, but as we go about our day and do crazy-mom stuff in contortionist positions (i.e. driving while reaching back to give out snacks while feeling for a lost sippy cup that has become lodged under the brake pedal... been there!) our connective tissue gets stressed and stretched!!! Have you checked yourself via our video yet?

    2. I'm interested to hear the reply to this. My first and only pregnancy I noticed the exact same thing with my stomach changing size throughout the day, but as an LMT I've always had a strong core and didn't have a diastasis when I was checked about 7 weeks after my son was born...

    1. Tupler has an very good program, that is very cut and dry. The physical therapist I work with was a trainee of hers, and was providing her technique when I went through rehab. Now Kelly Dean, my PT, is the ONE person that Tupler sends her trainees to for further education. What Fit2B does is guaranteed to align with Tupler and complement that program, yet it's quite different... and more affordable ๐Ÿ˜‰ Julie and I email back and forth, and I advertise her program on my blog.

  11. Another reason Why Crunches (AND KEGELS!) are bad for you:

    Crunches and core exercises also increase your chance of pelvic prolapse later on - proper exercise and posture can help prevent or treat pelvic prolapse. The medical answer to prolapse is surgery - hysterectomy, bladder repairs, etc. Donโ€™t do it! Youโ€™ll be sorry later.

    You can find out more about pelvic prolapse at Whole Woman's site.

  12. Can I heal an umbilical hernia that developed after my 6th pregnancy (& possibly got worse with my 7th)?

    1. Definitely!!! While I need to caution you to monitor your hernia and always seek medical attention if it strangulates, if your hernia is in the linea alba of your abs (down the middle) then as that fascia comes back together and re-knits, the hernia can also close. Some of my members have still elected to have surgery later down the road for aesthetics and prevention. Diastasis is a thinning and widening of the two sides of your abs - like silly putty being stretched apart - and hernia is where there's actually a hole in the silly putty. As you "smoosh" it back together, there is great potential for healing, but get it confirmed by your doctor after 6-12 weeks of dedication to the core exercises, splinting and alignment.

  13. Is it possible to have diastasis even though I have never been pregnant? 2 1/2 years ago I have a very large ovarian cyst and had to have open surgery to remove it. The incision goes from above my belly button to the top of my pubic bone..vertically right down the center.

    I have been working with a personal trainer for 6 months and it seems like my belly isn't getting any smaller, even though the rest of me is. I have a pooch above my waist, then it's skinny where my pants sit (belly button) and then another pooch below.

    1. Most personal trainers have never been taught about diastasis. The muscles of the core function almost opposite from muscles in the rest of the body because of the connective tissue in the middle; they don't pull bones toward bones - they pull bones toward fascia, and that fascia can stretch apart if there is too much pressure. And Pressure is what causes DR not pregnancy.
      Show this printable to your trainer >> https://docs.google.com/a/fit2b.us/document/d/1x0BTHegGQlSUvGCBd8okj4pO1YJunt5uYEahVmXPHgI/

        1. Oh this is such a cool question! Okay, so the transverse abdominus (TA or TVA or TvA depending on my mood) connects to bone in several places: the lower back, the hips, the ribs, the pubic bone, and the fascia that runs down the middle of your abs. So when we flex the transverse, pulls our navel back toward our spine (flattening the tummy), and it also pulls our sides inward (bye bye, love handles) and it draws our ribs down a bit (hello, good posture) and it lifts our organs up off our pelvic floor (leaking, be gone!)... Do you see why I love this muscle!!!!???

          1. Thank you! I do feel much more aligned doing this. So hoping to reverse some of my issues. Thanks again!

  14. I have a few questions for Beth. What percentage of ladies are able to repair their abdominal muscles using this technique? And what is the average time for the repair to happen?

    1. When working with a qualified specialist one-on-one like I was able to do, closure often takes just weeks. Mine went from 3.5 to 1.5 in six weeks when I worked with Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team. She's the gal who "proofs" my workouts, and she's the best in the world (IMHO) Those who cannot afford rehab with a pro, can do my tummy safe fitness and they report anything from 2 weeks to 10 months, depending on how wide and deep their diastasis is when they start and ALSO how good of a mind-body connection they have. Much of healing happens through incorporation into dailly life, and I share lots of tips and tricks in my videos. But life happens! New pregnancies happen. Sick kids happen. Moving to a new place happens, and then dedication to a routine falls by the wayside. The awesomest thing I'm proud to report is that, for the mamas who only can afford Fit2B, even a few days seems to make a difference. Once you learn how to find your transverse and align your body, you cannot unlearn it!

      1. Great! So now I have one more question....once you "fix" the diastasis, is it fixed for good or do you need to continue doing the exercises?

        1. Once the connective tissue has had time to thicken up and "dry" for a while, the DR usually holds UNTIl your lifestyle changes. For example, you get pregnant, or you start sitting around all day eating bon-bons and forgetting your alignment. But even my pregnant mamas say that they open back up MUCH less if they keep incorporating during pregnancy. The mom who comes to me or Kelly with a 5 finger split and closes down to a 2 before getting pregnant again, well, she might open back up to a 3 and then close all the way back up easily after that baby comes because she knows what to do now. But if she hadn't closed, she would likely have opened further from a 5 to a 6 or 7... and now she's even further behind... BUT SHE CAN STILL HEAL!! It doesn't matter how big the DR is or how long it's been, muscle is muscle and it's designed to heal.

          1. Yippee! There is hope for me. I have to go and check my split but I am thinking it's like the Grand Canyon!

    1. Hula Hooping is awesome! Just watch the rib thrusting. Keep it in the hips ๐Ÿ˜‰