Diastasis Recti Exercises | What Works?

Diastasis Recti, or Diastasis of the Rectus Abdominis Muscle | Diagram / ImageWhat exercises will work to close a Diastasis Recti or abdominal separation? Many commonly prescribed exercises (even a number of Pilates moves) will actually make a diastasis recti WORSE, so you need to be very careful when exercising with a diastasis.

Cardio? A bit, to lose some extra flab maybe, but it won’t address the root problem.

Pilates? You could certainly borrow a few core and postural principles from pilates … but some moves could even exacerbate the problem and won’t be the most effective diastasi recti exercises

Yoga? Good for lower back and core strengthening if done correctly, which will help relieve back pain and improve posture, but it’s not going to fix your mummy tummy on its own

Or crunches? NO, NO, NO!!

Firstly, you need to differentiate between a flabby belly (ie excess fat over your tummy), and the mummy tummy which is partly caused by diastasis recti, a (perfectly natural) separation of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy which makes way for the growing uterus.

Incidentally, you may have a diastasis and a flabby belly, but we will deal with both, so don’t worry!

Obvious indicators that you have a diastasis, are a bulging, or ‘doming’ above or below your belly button when you contract your abdominals (especially if you attempt a crunch or sit-up type movement).

There are a number of important muscles you need to exercise (in the right way) to repair a diastasis, the most important of which is the transverse abdominis. This is the innermost abdominal muscle which runs right around your middle like a corset. It is attached both in front of, and behind, the rectus muscles (the ones that have split), so if you work the transverse abdominis (TVA) correctly, your diastasis (the gap) will reduce, and stay put!

The fundamentals of effective diastasis recti exercises are to start identifying and ‘engaging’ your transverse abdominis, you need to breathe diaphragmatic-ally or into your belly and ribcage. Sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor and place your hands on your belly. Breathe in, fill your lungs and let your belly expand. Then exhale, emptying your lungs, whilst drawing your belly button right back towards your spine. Keep your shoulders down and your neck relaxed.

Now try doing this from all fours.

There are a number of visualisations which may help, (this is where it can be useful to borrow from pilates and yoga as well as restorative core work) :

Imagine your recti (the vertical muscle we’re trying to put back together) as a string attached to your pubic bone. Now use the string to pull your pubic bone towards your belly button.

Imagine ‘zipping up’ the gap from below the belly button, to above.

Whichever works for you, remember to exhale as you draw your abdomen inwards, and inhale as you allow your tummy to expand and your lungs to fill. Don’t raise and lower your chest (it’s all in the belly), don’t hunch your shoulders, and don’t hold your breath!

You will find that as you do this, your pelvis will naturally tilt forward as you contract the transverse muscle.

OK, now add in your pelvic floor exercises (now we’re really multi-tasking!). As you draw in your transverse abdominis muscle, pull up your pelvic floor. Remember, don’t hold your breath, all these muscles work together best whilst breathing 😉

Ready to get really clever? From the all-fours position, put a pillow between your inner thighs, and as you exhale, draw in your belly button and pull up your pelvic floor, squeeze the pillow between your thighs.

Do this 15 times, every day. (That took, what, 5 minutes??) and you really are on your way to repairing a diastasis recti and losing your mummy tummy, ‘muffin top’ or whatever charming term you refer to it as!

Do not, under any circumstances, do crunches or sit-ups post-baby, and certainly not if you know you have abdominal separation.

Any crunching, rolling or jack-knife straining or movement will serve only to widen the gap and make the ‘doming’ or bulging worse. Some pilates moves will fall into this category, so avoid those ones for now. For the same reason, avoid crunches or sit-ups that work the obliques (your waist) in a diagonal direction, until you know you have closed the diastasis gap. These movements are NOT effective diastasis recti exercises and will make it worse!

Strengthening your transverse abdominus and working your pelvic floor as a complete unit rather than separate muscles, will repair a diastasis and close the gap. It will also help alleviate back pain, improve posture and increase pelvic floor control!

If there is extra flab as well (which if you’re post-baby, is a distinct possibility :-)) then in order to see the difference, you will need to address your nutrition, and do some short sharp interval training (circuits) as well.

But your CORE is where you must start – so get belly breathing and ‘zipping up’ and find your pelvic floor… and you have the basis for the post-baby body you’re dreaming of!

  • http://www.pelvicfloorwellness.comorwww.motherscorefitness.com Kim

    Halelujah!! I love it when fitness professionals are talking about diastasis and pelvic floor and I especially love it when they preach the ‘no more crunches’ rule!

  • f_a_ithovercom_e_s

    I am so relieved to know that surgery is not necessarily the only answer. However my stomach is also very loose and ripply around my belly button. Will these exercises help that as well?

    • Anonymous

      It your loose stomach is fat &/or weak muscle tone, then the diet & exercise guidelines of the MuTu System will absolutely help! But if its loose skin only, then exercise won’t help, sorry! :( It WILL improve your posture, strength & muscle tone, as well as drop excess fat, which will greatly improve the aesthetics of your tummy!

  • LucyJ

    I just wanted to add to anyone concerned about loose skin around the belly button area – I have heard of a treatment called CST Collagen Stimulation Therapy. It uses a small derma roller with teeny tiny needles to penetrate the skin and cause it to repair itself and tighten the skin. My local spa centre have seen brilliant results on loose skin especially on the tummy for stretched skin and marks. It’s non invasive and its a walk in walk out procedure so no aftercare is needed. 

  • ela

    I am 9 weeks post partum, I gained quite a bit of weight during my pregnancy and so have a considerable amount of weight to lose around the belly. I dont have a bulging problem (just a flab problem) as far as I can see but having tested myself for abdominal separation I have found a 1 finger gap between the meuscles. the gap is slightly wider just above the belly button. Does this mean I have diastasis and should avoid abdominal exercises or is a 1-1,5 finger gap normal like some suggest? I am really confused and thats why I have been avoiding all exercise apart from the ones you recommend but I dont know for how much longer I should refrain from doing ab exercises.

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      Hi Ela, I’m so sorry I think I missed this question :( Obviously this is some time ago now, but the answer is that you don’t stop doing ab exercises, you just do different ones + get strong again. Please leave a comment to give me an update on where you’re at now + I’ll try to help.

  • Denise

    My baby is 20 months and I have separation. I do work out and do all the no things. Will these exercises help now after all this time?

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      You need to stop doing what makes it worse + start doing what can make it better – then you can always make improvements to your alignment + stability – however long ago you had your baby!

  • daughtersgirl

    I love this site!

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell


  • Jaycee

    Hi Wendy, I never knew what diastasis recti was , but I knew my tummy had a problem from the moment I had my first baby 14 years ago, now 7 kids further I am told by a friend she thinks to have found my problem. When I stand in front of a mirror I can see this wide gab running all the way down from my belly button no matter what I’m wearing. now my question is can this still be fixed? I look as if I’m pregnant 24-7 and all the pains that come with this problem are unbearable. It would really be great to finally tackle this problem.
    Thanks Jaycee

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      There is no guarantee it will completely close up or heal Jaycee, but without question you can dramatically improve the way your midsection looks, feels + functions with the right exercises + the right information. 7 kids? I am in awe… :)

      • Jaycee

        How would you suggest I go about that? Yes 7 :) they keep my husband and I busy , but it’s fun, wouldn’t want to miss it for the world… Only thing is, I know I won’t be able to get my size 10 back, but I would sure like to fit in a nice pair of jeans without looking pregnant. One of the many downsides of this is you start feeling awkward about your body… So as I mentioned would you have any ideas how to go about dramatically improving my midsection?

        • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

          With one of our programs of course! Sign up in the pink cloud for free taster information, browse this website which is PACKED with great, free information, + as + when you feel ready, visit our store + join the MuTu Mamas!

          • Jaycee

            Lol after I asked the question! I took in all the info on your site.
            But thanx I will have a read and try out these exercises you are mentioning above. Which (might I add) seem complicated to do all at once … I’ve tried pulling up my pelvis and tummy and breath but the latter makes everything drop… Am I rambling or making some sense? I will go on until I’ve mastered that, keep you posted as to my progress and we’ll take it from there…
            Thank you!

  • 258cinnamongirl

    Great information…thank you!

  • Angelina

    Since starting this (3days in) I have noticed I’m having a lot of back pain. Is this normal of what could I be doing wrong?

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      Are you following one of our programs Angelina? If so please come to our private support group on Facebook where you will get a tonne of support from the team + form the other Mamas on the program. You can post pics or video or just describe precisely what you’re doing, what doesn’t feel right… + we’ll try to set you right! Or do you mean just the transverse activation exercise above? This is a very subtle breathing + engaging exercise – there is no reason at all why it would cause pain – it is simply about connecting to the core muscles. I can only imagine you are doing the movements way too forcefully – its a very gentle process. Anything that is causing you pain, please stop!

  • Janice

    Does it mean I can’t do crunches at all until the gap is closed? I used to do Bar Method which involves crunches and planks, it sounds like I should stop those. Please advise.

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      Crunches are definitely not recommended with any diastasis, but don’t worry, you can get a strong + stable core, + a flat tummy! without them!

  • Mamaof2boys

    How long after the baby do you have to fix this problem. My son is now 14 months and I am just being diagnosed with this. Can I still fix the problem?

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      Never too late to improve your core or anything else about your body Honey! Just start now :-)

  • Shana

    2 questions

    A) just had an ultrasound which said widest part of the separation is 5cm above umbiblicus. Is that above the belly button? If so
    B) is it unusual for the largest separation to be above the belly button when everywhere else is 1.5-2cm. How does it happen? And what to do to close it.


  • Erin Roberts

    Hi Wendy,

    My diastasis is a 4 finger separation. I have tried “Loose your Mummy Tummy” by Julie Tupler and I can’t even go 2 weeks in the splint. It hurts terribly. Your program sounds very different from hers. She says in order to close the separation you CAN NOT work out while you are trying to close gap. But you do work out while trying to close the gap. Why is that?

    I watched the testimonies but there aren’t really any pictures of the women’s stomach. Does your program close the gap and is it proven to close it?

    I really want my stomach back because it is hard to look at my stomach and it affects the way I feel about myself. I would love to believe this could help but I am a little hesitant.

    Thank you for reading this! Take care.

    Erin Roberts

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      Hi Erin, yes many women have closed the gap using this program. You can see more on the differences between MuTu + programs that use a splint here http://mutusystem.com/mutu-system-tupler-technique-how-do-they-differ.html Only certain types of workout are included in MuTu programs, with very clear instructions as to what should be avoided, as well as how to ensure you are engaging + using your core in an optimal + functional way whilst doing so. This post talks more about when you can ‘go back’ to certain types of exercise http://mutusystem.com/how-long-postpartum-till-i-can-crossfit-plank-run.html You can also see our Pinterest board of success stories here http://www.pinterest.com/mutusystem/success-stories/

      • Miryam

        hi, i have taken your program ,and doing more than 2 weeks each phase, i have finished the whole program and my 4 finger gap is still there, completely no change, i am only 46 kg and have no fat in my belly at all, so this is not a belly due to fat, i have checked and i have the same 4 finger since i started, i am so frustrated this did not work, i am not so worried about not closing the gap if at least i could see my belly flaten, but still looks like if i was 3 -4 mths pregnant

        Also, Erin was asking you why you do not have pictures and you did not answer this, could you show some pictures of women who really got results with you?

  • Asia


    I want to join but one question..I try all these exercises that they say are what heals the mummy tummy, but I don’t feel challenged And I certainly miss my sweat sessions..can I still do running? Or other intense cardio at least? Like the elliptical..and then do this exercise for the tummy?

  • Asia

    Also does the program include lower body exercises like squats and lunges for your legs and butt? or upper body exercises for your arms?

    • http://mutusystem.com/ Wendy Powell

      Yes – all of it :)

  • Asia


    I would love to sign up to a program
    But I don’t know which I need..I used to do Pilates before having a baby and also throughout the pregnancy..I have been working out by running, doing HIIT WITH Jillian micheals DVDs, and also lifting weights and things that I just realize I shouldn’t be doing.. Because of Pilates, I think I have a strong TVA…I could be wrong but my obgyn checked me out and said I have a rectal prolapse..and that the muscle that holds up the uterus is the problem it’s the muscle between the uterus and rectum..my Pilates instructor told me I have a posterior pelvic tilt not so much anterior…makes sense because I have very right hamstrings..probably from running.

    I do get in continence here and there…but i checked and my abdominal separation is maybe a one..my baby is now 13 months old..which program can I sign up for that will help me the most in my situation? Do you think I can use my elliptical? Or walk on an incline on my treadmill for some extra sweating? I do believe the sweating helps me feel better! Lol