AKA - Abdominal MidLine Stretch, Weakness of the
Rectus Abdominis (RA)
Caused by the growing uterus during pregnancy, the RA muscles can be stretched extensively during pregnancy particularly the last trimester. To keep it very simple, in order for the belly to grow to make room for the baby, the tummy muscles which are usually lined centered in the body, can split, causing abdominal separation, which is, yes you have guessed it "Diastasis Recti".
The tummy muscles have many functions, including spine and pelvic stability and spinal movements (flexion / rotation / lateral flexion), and maintaining correct alignment.
Therefore weakened abdominal muscles can be a huge cause of back pain and incontinence and most commonly known of all "mummy tummy"Before returning to exercise it's important to check for Diastasis Recti as the level of separation will determine what exercises and movements are suitable for ALL post natal clients.
A "normal" gap typically measures 2 3 cm wide measured from the Centre of the RA (start above the bellybutton, under the rib cage). A two to three fingers wide gap is considered normal from 6 weeks up to 6 months post natal. The Abdominal area will still be soft and show lack of tension and the client can often experience signs of incontinence and or back pain as a result, in addition to the physical sign of "mummy tummy“.
In order to reduce the gap the RA muscles need to be shortened and re-strengthened similar to pre pregnancy state.
So to start exercises to improve lumbopelvic stability are key, these can be overlooked (considered too basic and irrelevant) not in my book! This is vital, work on the smaller inner unit early on to allow for greater intensity later.
Inner unit muscles need to be reactivated to regain stability in the lumbo pelvic area ( To be clear the tummy muscles are made up of both Rectus ab (RA) and Transverse ab (TA), RA been the six pack and the TA behind these and lower ab area. Running to the lower ab section around the pelvic floor area.
Stability is not about strength its about a certain group working together, efficiently. Those deeper muscles do not necessarily need to be strong, but they do need to be active to be stable.
This is why TA activation is key, it's about a lot more than just squeezing muscles down below and hoping for the best. Squeezing can often be worse as it forces a downward tension when in fact the pelvic floor needs to be lifted back up! If you think about it when giving birth gravity forces downwards, therefore during post natal period re training needs to be done to reverse those effects. So I teach TA activation rather than "squeezing”.
So you can see where this is going, unfortunately you cannot fix "mummytummy" alone from the outset, you have to go deeper into the layers, starting with the inside and working your way back out:
1) Improve lumbopelvic stability - look it up if you don't believe me
2) Reactive TA muscles (for ultimate core restore)
If the inner unit is compromised then its inevitable that movement of the outer unit will have a poor foundation leading to issues such as back pain, incontinence and weakened muscles "mummy tummy".
In the long term such exercises will assist with shortening the overstretched muscles, and taking them back to pre pregnancy length, and improving core strength, reduced back pain, and reduced incontinence.
- Focus on postural alignment /
- TA activation, pelvic floor / core restore,
No Planking /Curl ups / Crunching in the early days, this can cause doming and additional stretching of tummy muscles
I hope you find the above useful and can follow the content, two things to take away from this is that Diastasis Recti is the separation of the abdominals that needs to be measured before returning to exercises. Correctional exercise's and techniques are important to help shorten the tummy muscles for improved functioning and reduced mummy tummy effect!
If you have any questions please do get in touch -