Hey, Fit Mamas, are you headed out to a fitness class this week or tuning in to a You Tube video? If so, what do you do when the instructor calls for the class to do sit ups? Or Russian twists? Or a deep yoga back bend? Unsure? This post is for you.
One of the many things I teach my postpartum clients is how to identify whether an exercise is safe for them or not. If a postpartum woman starts exercising and takes a class, be it yoga, boot camp, PiYo, or whatever, it is important to be able to substitute exercises that are safe for those that might put her at risk of widening her Diastasis Recti.
If you’ve been reading my blog over the past couple of weeks, you know about the transversus abdominis: the muscle that’s key to bringing the abs back together after a baby. Well, one guideline I share with women to judge whether an exercise is safe or not is to have them ask themselves, “can I hold in my transversus?” If the answer is no, then the exercise might not be for them at that time. Or perhaps never.
What’s challenging here is that one exercise, say a push up, for example, might be risky for one woman, but safe for another. This is going to depend upon where she is in her postpartum fitness journey and how much strength she has regained in her core. I have one client who has worked up enough transversus strength to safely do wall push ups, another who can do them at her kitchen countertop, but another who is still working on building up that baseline. For her, doing push ups before her core can support her body would only make her diastasis worse. Instead, I have her doing seated transversus exercises against the wall and seated or lying chest presses (see photo below). So, unfortunately, there is no cut and dry list of “safe” exercises that can be substituted for “risky” ones because safe and risky will depend on the woman.
There are guidelines, however. [You can read them in this post.] By following the guidelines, you can, at the very least, attend a class and know which types of exercises should be avoided. There are very few group classes offered that are strictly “diastasis friendly” or diastasis safe. Inevitably there are a few movements in any group class that might cause you to pause and wonder if they are safe for you. In that case, see if you can hold in your transversus muscle. If the answer is no, or if you are unsure, ask the instructor for an alternative move or make up one you know is safe.
In my classes, I always offer diastasis safe options for my postpartum clients, but not all instructors understand diastasis recti or know what alternatives to offer. Precisely for that reason, you should continue to educate yourself on what’s happening in your body. In addition to the vast amount of information you can find on the web, I recommend Julie Tupler’s book “Lose Your Mummy Tummy” as a great place to start understanding your postpartum core. And as always, you can contact me for more details or to ask a specific question about your unique situation, or attend one of my classes for a diastasis friendly workout!