Remember back in June when I posted about being so over my diastasis? Well, it’s still there. Mostly because I didn’t do the exercises I said I was going to do. Yep, even fitness professionals get lazy sometimes.
There was a little more to it than that though. For one, I strained my neck during the first round of exercises. Then, I got some feedback about my post that led me to talking to various experts about different opinions on the best way to heal a diastasis. Apparently, not everyone is in line with the Tupler method. I took some time and talked with a few experts, including Helene Byrne of BeFit-Mom.
She comes from a fitness background and is passionate about the fact that the Transverse Abdominus (TvA) must be trained properly for healing to happen. Because of this, she advises against splinting without properly training the TvA and works with clients to properly engage these muscles during training sessions. She says that the real secret to flat abs is to train the TvA first.
In sports and fitness training, what you practice is what you get, i.e., muscle specificity theory. If you allow the abs to balloon during exercise, that is what you are unintentionally training your abs to do. (Yikes!) More importantly, expansion of the abdominal wall worsens abdominal separation and contributes to many postpartum problems, such as lower back pain, pelvic instability, postural problems, and urinary stress incontinence.
Lack of strength and functional control in the TvA is the most common pitfall for all new moms. Most women, who have tried to recondition their abs the traditional way, with lots of crunches, end up with unsatisfactory results. Their abs grow stronger, but never flatten. Their bellies, particularly below the waist, protrude and stay round.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking for a strong core, not a round belly! So how do we do this According to Helene, it all begins with the belly scoop.
Practicing the belly scoop along with isolation exercises as often as possible is the key to healing from the inside out.
The isolation exercises are similar to kegel elevators. Only to train our TvA, we will be doing a front to back elevator instead of up and down. We do this by pulling our bellybutton back towards the spine. Floor 1 is where the muscles are barely engaged, floor 6 means the bellybutton is pulled back as close to your spine as possible.
Try this exercise in a few different ways:
1. Pull the bellybutton towards the spine as far as you can and hold for 30 seconds. Release and repeat.
2. Engage the bellybutton a little bit (floor 1), bring it back halfway (floor 3), then bring it back all the way (floor 6). Bring back to 3, then back to 6. Go back and forth 25 times. Over time, work up to 50-100 repetitions.
3. Pull the bellybutton to floor 5. Hold for 30 seconds, then pulse back to floor 6 as many times as possible. Rest.
You can do these exercises anywhere! Make sure you are sitting up with good posture and a neutral spine, then do them in the car. Practice at a stoplight. Do them while you’re on the computer, or while you’re watching a movie with your kids. Just do them!
I promise, this time I will do them with you. If you will be doing them too, leave a comment (make sure to fill in your email address in the comment form) and I will send out a weekly email so we can encourage each other. Are you in?
Some of your questions from the last post answered:
Is it too late for me? My kids are older! It’s never too late to heal your diastasis by strengthening your Transverse Abdominus. Yay!
How often can we do these exercises? Do we need a day of rest in between? The belly scooping and isolation exercises can be done every day, even multiple times per day. The only reason to wait would be if you were too sore to complete the exercises safely.
When can I start doing crunches again? You can start slowly adding in other abdominal exercises like the crunches and planks when your diastasis measures less than two fingers wide. If at any time you feel your abdomen protruding out instead of lying flat while performing the exercises, stop!
I’ve done these exercises for months and haven’t seen any results, why is that? It’s possible that you aren’t engaging and relaxing the correct muscles. Make sure you aren’t activating the glutes while performing the exercises, and make sure to master the belly scoop.