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What exercises should be avoided when abdominal separation is present?

Have you ever wondered what exercises should be avoided when abdominal separation is present?

The best form of exercise for new mums should be postnatal-specific because it focuses on pelvic floor strength and activation of the deep abdominal muscles. These are the two main areas that as an ante/postnatal instructor I want to be focusing on building back up again first with you, before moving on to any other area of your abdominals.  

If you do the wrong types of exercises too quickly after birth, or if you know that you have an abdominal separation (also known as “diastasis recti”) of more than 2cm width apart, then chances are, you’ll make any abdominal separation that’s currently there, actually slightly and/or severely worse.  

This makes my job (and yours) much, much harder when it comes to your postnatal rehabilitation!  

So, here’s a quick checklist of exercises to avoid if you:  

  • Haven’t done any specific abdominal healing exercises post-birth; or
  • Have an abdominal separation present  and/ or your core currently has difficulty in resisting resist intra-abdominal pressure (e.g. check for signs of “doming” of your belly or accidental urine leakage when performing the exercise).

Remember, each woman is unique in terms of where she is in her postnatal recovery, but here are the main movements to look out for.

Ready?  Here we go:  

  • Resisted flexion – a.k.a. sit-ups to you and me – because the amount of pressure placed on your abs (and pelvic floor) whilst performing this exercise is immense, and performed regularly can easily make any gap in your abdominals worse!
  • The plank – see above.
  • High-intensity, so-called “stability” exercises, often performed on uneven surfaces like a Swiss ball or half dome– mainly because your body will find easier ways of stabilising itself which involves using the wrong muscles in place of your stabilising muscles.
  • Any movement that involves strong/resisted rotation or side flexion – this might be something like selecting an inappropriately heavy dumbbell,  holding it out in front of you and you twisting it to the right or left, or indeed holding a dumbbell in your right hand and you are bending your body down to the right.  These movements, coupled with …
  • Movements that stretch the abdominals – these will not only feel uncomfortable before, during and after the event, but they are most unsuitable for a weakened, overstretched core unit.
  • Really pulling/sucking your abdominals in tightly – i.e. over-activation of the core muscles. It is often mistakenly thought that the harder you hold your tummy muscles in, the flatter your stomach will become, and faster. This is not the case.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but these are the major exercise movements you will want to avoid doing when returning to exercise after the birth of your baby.  

You might be thinking “Well, what CAN I do?

You’ll be happy to know, there is a whole range of exercise you can do and I’m here to help you. It’s part of what I teach in the FIT Mamas ‘n’ Buggies postnatal class in Exeter. And, if you’re looking for a specific course to rehabilitate your core and pelvic floor, you’ll find it here on the New Mama Postnatal Recovery course.

By the way, if you’re unsure if have abdominal separation or not, why not ask your G.P. to check for you, or better still, ask me to test your abs for you before or after your class?  I’m more than happy to do this for you. It’s peace of mind for you, and for me that’s everything.  

Want to know more about healing abdominal separation? Click here to watch a FB live video I recorded for you.

Got questions? Let me know by posting your comments below.