This is a question I hear time and again; “I get that I can’t do crunches while I have Diastasis Recti, but can I start to do them again when I’ve closed the gap?”
The thing is that crunches are widely perceived to be the only route to flat abs. But you don’t need to do crunches to have a flat stomach – I’m proof of that and so are the thousands of mums who’ve seen great results from MUTU System without a single crunch.
So what do I have against crunches? Basically crunches are to diastasis recti what Kryptonite was to Superman – they are its undoing! It might help you to understand if you visualize your rectus abdominis muscle joined at the breast bone and joined at the pubic bone, but gaping in the middle. You can imagine how any exercise that involves a crunching motion, or positioning your body like a jack knife and forcing it together, will open that gap further. If you look at your body as you do a crunch, you will know if it is wrong… if your abs bulge, or dome, as you do the exercise, that’s not right.
The way you look as you exercise is what you are exercising to look like – so if your abs are bulging or doming as you crunch, then the crunches will not deliver the flat abs you want. Working on stabilizing your core and firming up your midline should be your focus.
So will it ever be ‘crunch time’? For me, it’s a case of “Why bother?” when you can achieve flat abs in a safe way by engaging your transverse abdominis and your pelvic floor and working the whole mid-section as you move around. For example, by squatting, twisting and lunging. Crunches could be dangerous – so why take the risk? Stick with what works + what will never be counterproductive to your goals.
What about a plank?
To plank, or not to plank, is down to the way it feels. There’s no specific measurement that says “You’re ready”. If your diastasis has shrunk from 4 finger widths to 2, that’s brilliant, but that shouldn’t give you a free pass to crunch and plank to your heart’s content. Consider instead the stability of your core and the firmness of your midline – and how your body reacts when you attempt the exercise.
If you try a plank and your core feels firm and engaged, carry on. But if it makes you feel as if your innards are falling out at the front, STOP RIGHT THERE!
The urge to return to traditional ab exercises may be strong when you feel like you’ve come a long way – and that maybe your diastasis recti is ‘fixed’. But be very wary of exercises that increase the intra-abdominal pressure that is the real problem behind the symptom of diastasis recti. Pushing your body too far, or rushing headlong into ‘hard’ ab exercises could be damaging.
MUTU can be a lifelong journey – once you’ve found something that works, why should you stop doing it just because the original problem is resolved? Keep doing MUTU – and apply what you have learned to any “other workouts” you want to do for variety and fun. Don’t unlearn anything – keep respecting your mama body, rather than gambling your progress away.