We’ve picked five of our best exercises for diastasis recti that will mindfully reconnect your whole core muscle system.
From the MUTU breath, Heel Drops and the Lamp-Post Pee to the High Kneel Squeeze and the Squat and Squeeze – these exercises are ideal for restoring your core and reducing a diastasis recti.
Watch the videos, follow the instructions and start incorporating them into your diastasis recti workout routine today.
What is diastasis recti?
Diastasis recti happens when the midline six-pack muscles at the front of your abs separate to make room for your pregnancy. This is perfectly normal.
The gap may narrow naturally in the weeks and months following birth, or sometimes the separation. This can cause a lack of stability and function, as well as a tummy that appears to pooch out.
You can have a strong and functional core with a small gap, so it doesn’t need to close up entirely. But if the gap is 2-3 fingers or more wide, then a DR may cause instability, or a tummy you don’t love the appearance of.
If you’re unsure whether your symptoms are DR you can check your self for diastasis recti at home safely with this test.
Before getting started
The best exercises for diastasis recti begin with mindful reconnection of your whole core muscle system.
Your ‘Core’ means your deep transverse abdominus muscle, your obliques and your rectus abdominus – the vertical one at the front midline of your stomach.
Your Core also includes your diaphragm under your ribcage, the multifidus muscles of your spine, and your pelvic floor at the base. These muscles form a cylinder shape of vital muscles that comprise your core musculature or trunk.
IMPORTANT: Healing diastasis recti is not just about “core-specific” exercises.
We are not spot-treating an isolated part of the body. We are focusing on the entire system and how the core is performing in that dynamic system.
As you are doing these exercises, keep in mind what your focus is: your core.
To restore your entire core muscle system and narrow a diastasis gap, you don’t need to do more or harder ab exercises. You need to do different ones.
How to do our favourite diastasis recti exercises
1.The MUTU Breath™️
This is the starting point for everything. The perfect way to connect mind to muscle and kickstart a mindful reconnection of your entire core muscle system.
How to do the MUTU breath:
- Start with a connecting MUTU Breath.
- Sit in a comfortable position, cross legged on a pillow or block, on a big pilates ball, or lay down on your back.
- Place a hand on your lower stomach to bring in a tactile connection.
- Take a couple deep breaths to relax and centre.
- Drop your ribs and your shoulders.
- Exhale and as you are exhaling focus on lifting your pelvic floor, feeling that gentle tension in your core as you do.
- On your next inhale, focus on relaxing your body (no tension anywhere!)
- Repeat for 5 cycles of breath.
2. Heel Drop
Heel drops are one of our best-loved abdominal exercises that we include on our workout program. This key core recovery exercise can help narrow your diastasis recti, build pelvic floor strength and increase core strength.
How to do a heel drop:
- Lie on your back on the mat.
- Place the pillow under your upper shoulders and head and feel your ribs settle down towards the floor.
- Your knees should be bent up and your feet flat on the floor.
- One first and then the other, bring your knees in towards your chest so they’re resting at 90 degrees. There should be no strain at all to hold them there so if your abs are straining to hold them in position, bring them in a little closer.
- Now exhale as you draw your abs inwards and slowly drop one heel to touch the floor.
- Rest your heel on the floor as you inhale, then exhale and bring it back.
- Breathe in to the back of your rib cage, then exhale and engage as you drop the other heel slowly.
- Rest and let go and breathe in.
- Then exhale, engage and bring it back.
- Keep going, moving slowly with your breath. Always moving on the exhale, resting on the inhale. Your lower abdomen should draw gently in as you exhale and engage. If it bulges outwards at all, stop, regather and try again.
- Remember, always inhale and relax as you rest. Exhale, engage as you move.
- Keep going in time with your own breath.
- Do 5-8 drops on each leg, nice and slow.
Heel drop modifications
We’re often asked for modifications for the Heel Drop based on mom’s fitness levels, physical condition or specific needs.
Here are some ideas from certified MUTU Pro and Doula, Heather:
3. Lamp-post Pee
This exercise kind of looks like the movement of a dog relieving itself at a fire hydrant or lamp post (lol). It’s incredible for engaging the core, improving your posture and enhancing balance.
How to do the lamp post pee:
- Come onto all fours in a tabletop position.
- Keep your shoulders over wrists, hips over knees, and check-in that you are maintaining a neutral spine.
- Inhale, center yourself, and get ready to begin.
- Check that you are not holding tension in your body- jaw, neck, and glutes are big culprits for this!
- Exhale, gently engage your core and lift one knee just off the floor. It only needs to come just off the floor for your core muscles to start working to stabalize you.
- Make sure that as you lift your knee off the ground that you are not tipping to the opposite side. Stay level and use your core to stabilize you as you lift the knee out. No rocking or swaying.
- Inhale and release engagement as you lower your knee back down. This is a controlled lower that is timed and connected to that inhale, don’t rush.
- Repeat for a total of 10 reps, alternate the knee you lift, 5 lifts on each knee.
4. High Kneel and Squeeze
This one’s awesome for engaging the deeper core muscles, and improving pelvic floor control.
It’s a beneficial for healing a diastasis recti but also for any moms working on their core and pelvic floor health more generally.
How to do a high kneel and squeeze:
- Grab a small pilates ball, a pillow or a child’s soccer ball – anything will do so long as you can hold it between your palms and it’s got some ‘squidge’.
- Hold between your palms in front of your chest.
- Now kneel up high so you’re not sitting on your heels.
- You’re going to exhale and engage your deep muscles and pelvic floor as you squeeze the ball between your palms.
- Each time you inhale, release the pressure on the ball and fully relax and open.
- In your own time, to your own breath, squeeze, exhale, engage pelvic floor and core.
- Inhale, release and fully open.
- Feel your pelvic floor draw up inside as you squeeze on the ball and exhale.
- Everything relaxes as you inhale. And relax.
5. Squat and Squeeze
Squats engage the entire core, including the transverse abdominis, which wraps around your abdominal area.
When performed correctly, squats can help strengthen the core muscles, promoting better support for the abdominal wall and reducing the separation between your ab muscles.
As with all these exercises focus on form and proper technique.
How to do a squat and squeeze:
- Keep hold of your small ball or pillow and hold it at chest height like for the last exercise.
- Check-in with your shoulders- make sure they are relaxed and not lifting up towards your ears
- Inhale and squat. As you lower into your squat think of sitting back into a chair- use your glutes!
- Keep your knees and toes tracking in the same direction and don’t let your knees go over your toes.
- Exhale and push through to standing as you gently squeeze the ball/pillow.
- Keep the majority of your weight in your heels, this will keep the work where you want it- in your backside! Feel how that gentle squeeze on the ball increases the activation in your core.
Repeat for 5 reps, going at a pace and squat depth that feels good for you.
So there you have it, five diastasis recti exercises you can feel safe and confident doing at home.
You can sprinkle these into your workout routine, or you can do all five in a row for an awesome diastasis recti-focused core workout.
Diastasis Recti Exercises FAQs
How can I test myself for diastasis recti?
Checking yourself for abdominal separation is easy to do at home following this simple diastasis recti self-test.
When testing for diastasis recti symptoms you are assessing not only the width of the gap, but also the depth or ‘squidgy-ness’.
Both these measures, along with other symptoms or feelings to watch for, will determine the severity of your diastasis, and what you can do.
Are all diastasis recti exercises performed laying down?
No definitely not. Notice how these diastasis recti exercises are *not* all lying on your back!
You went from sitting or back-lying, to all fours, to a high kneel, to standing. We need to move in a functional, load bearing to restore and strengthen our core and reduce a diastasis recti
How should engaging your core feel?
Engaging your core is probably one of the most misunderstood muscle actions.
When you engage your transversus abdominis (sometimes referred to as your TVA muscle – this is the muscle you’re trying to isolate when engaging your core) you will feel a tensing of the broad flat muscle under the pads of your fingers.
If your stomach pooches or pushes outwards, or if you’re holding your breath or anything is pushing away – then you’re working the outer abdominal muscles and your transversus abdominis is not doing its thing.
For more on how to correctly engage your core read this.
What exercises should I avoid with diastasis recti?
The following exercises require caution if you have diastasis recti:
- Straight leg lifts or holds whilst lying on your back
Standard crunches, sit-ups or full planks are often not recommended for exercising with diastasis recti.
This is because the way a crunch is usually performed may have the effect of increasing intra-abdominal pressure.
This means pressure inside that pushes your organs outwards, against or through the gap, and/or downwards onto your pelvic floor i.e. directions you really don’t want your organs forcefully heading.
These exercise movements simply place excess load on the front of your abs and the gap.
For more on how to introduce crunches and other ab exercises into your postpartum workout read here.
How can I incorporate these exercises into my daily routine?
Incorporating exercises into your daily routine is one of the hardest challenges for many moms.
Three tips we find really useful:
- Make it easy. First of all make it easy for yourself and don’t overcomplicate things. MUTU system is designed for moms to do at home in as little as 12 minutes per day, around your busy schedule. You need minimal equipment and most things can be found around the house.
- Build a habit. Use your journal and tick days off as you go, to encourage formation of an exercise habit
- Get organised. Don’t wait for “spare time” to fit in your exercises. In motherhood this is often a myth. Set points in the day that are specifically allocated for your diastasis recti exercises. This could be nap time or when your other half gets in from work. Whatever it takes, assign that time – you deserve it.
Read more about incorporating exercises into your postpartum routine and finding motivation here.
Is it too late to heal my diastasis recti?
Your postpartum recovery doesn’t have an expiration date!
It’s never too late to strengthen, restore and reconnect those muscles, and really start to feel stronger, more stable and symptom-free again. We have moms in our community whose children have long flown the nest. MUTU is designed for every mom, no matter when she had her babies.
For more on how to heal a diastasis recti years later read here.
What are the benefits of MUTU in healing diastasis recti?
If you are looking for exercises for diastasis recti from a credible source, we’ve got you covered! In a 2018 survey of 906 MUTU customers, 94% of women reported an improvement in signs and symptoms of diastasis recti.
NHS Trials Show Diastasis Recti Exercises Results from MUTU
MUTU’s diastasis recti exercise programme was trialled and proven in a 2020 ‘Lockdown’ MUTU System trial with NNUH NHS Trust. 87% of trial participants felt and saw noticeable improvements in signs and symptoms of diastasis recti in just 3 weeks of MUTU, and this increased to 90% at 6 weeks.
Why is MUTU System so effective?
First, we teach you to FIND and connect with your deep core muscles.
Then we teach you how to ENGAGE your transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles effectively and correctly, not only when you exercise, but also during every-day movements like lifting, sneezing or twisting. This is a natural, reactive movement which you won’t always have to do consciously!
But to re-conenct, to realign and to restore, we isolate at first… and then progress quickly to functional movement.
Then we STRENGTHEN the deep core in a way that will draw your rectus abdominis muscle (the six pack, outermost one, the one that has separated) back in together, helping to pull your belly back in… flatter and stronger.
These are not isolated ‘ab only’ exercises! The most effective way to get your body to the aesthetic and functional place you want it… is with whole body movement, gradually adding load (weight / body weight) to challenge and strengthen, and listening to your body signals as you go, to back-up, or move on.
TL;DR? Watch the video below for a taster of proven diastasis program MUTU System, plus a demo of the first two exercises!
Who is MUTU System for?
MUTU System is for women who want their bodies to look, feel and function better after having a baby. Even if it’s a long time since having a baby.
They want a core and a pelvic floor that work, that feel right and that do their job.
It’s for women who want to lose weight after childbirth and keep it off. It’s the definitive, medically endorsed Mummy Tummy Workout System with diastasis recti exercises, created by postpartum fitness expert, Wendy Powell.
An international best-selling, industry acclaimed, award winning, holistic, realistic and supportive exercise and recovery program for Moms that truly works. A proven, truly effective, tried and tested solution for ‘mummy tummy’, diastasis recti, pelvic floor weakness and core that isn’t as functional or strong as you’d like it to be.