Restore Your Core Is Diastasis Recti Preventable?

Is Diastasis Recti Preventable?

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Is Diastasis Recti Preventable? | 5 Ways To Prevent Rectus Diastasis

By Lauren Ohayon 04/10/2021

4 Min Read

There is a lot of information out there concerning diastasis recti and whether or not it is “fixable” injury or preventable like in illness. The answers to these questions can be quite overwhelmingly different depending on who you ask. In this article I hope to answer your most pressing questions.

Diastasis recti is usually not a permanent condition and can often be healed through strategic core rehab. It does take time and it will require hard work and dedication on your end, but it is usually possible to close the gap. Your gap may not close all the way. Diastasis recti is still being researched, however, recent studies have shown that the focus for diastasis healing should revolve around restoring core function rather than closing the gap entirely. Meaning that a small diastasis recti can still be considered totally functional.

Preventing a diastasis is approached in a similar way, but it is not guaranteed to prevent one from occurring. Strategic and intelligent core exercising routines are your best bet to get the strong core you want without causing any injury. One of the main causes of a diastasis outside of pregnancy is improper breathing patterns and cheats in core workouts. 

Exercises and Good Practices for Preventing Diastasis Recti

Diastasis recti can occur in more than two thirds of postpartum women, however, there are some ways to mend the condition and to help prevent its development.

  1. Pregnancy Prehab
  2. Postpartum Rehab
  3. Proper Diaphragmatic Breathing
  4. Practicing Good Posture – relieve intra-abdominal tension
  5. Healthy and Functional Core Engagement and Exercise

Are you looking for safe and restorative exercises to heal your symptoms?

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Are you looking for safe and restorative exercises to heal your symptoms?

Learn more about the RYC program

Testing for Diastasis Recti

If you are concerned you may have a diastasis recti, I recommend getting assessed by a PT or an OT before beginning any diastasis recti specific program; however, you can perform a self-assessment at home. The self assessment can be performed as follows:

  1. Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place one hand on the midline of your core with your fingers pointing straight down on your abs.  
  3. If you need support for your head, place your other hand under your head and neck for support. Slowly lift your head and add minimal pressure to your fingers placed on your core. With no diastasis recti, there is the feeling of a toned wall as you lift your head up. If you feel a gap, or your fingers sink into your core, you likely have diastasis recti. In very obvious cases, you can feel the sides of your core muscles in between that gap on the left and right sides.
  4. Repeat the process for the areas just above your belly button and below your belly button to determine whether or not the diastasis recti is isolated or in your core as a whole.

The severity of a diastasis depends on two factors: deep or shallow and width. A diastasis on 2.5cm or greater (2 or more fingers) is a wide diastasis, but can still be shallow. Typically a gap less than 2.5cm is considered okay- if it is shallow – but you should be mindful of it and consider intelligent core building routines to prevent the gap from widening. 

If your gap is greater than 2.5cm (2 fingers or more), there is a chance that this gap is causing some issues. If you are experiencing any of the following:

  • Bulge in your abdominal core
  • Feeling of an Enlarged Abdomen
  • Pelvic floor issues
  • Abdominal gaping 
  • Pain in your lower back

Look into enrolling into a program like Restore Your Core where I instruct you in correct core building strategies which can help eliminate many, if not all, of your symptoms. Below are a few exercises that I cover in my Restore Your Core Program that help aid in core restoration and strengthening and, though diastasis recti specific, can potentially aid in preventing a DR from occurring or returning.

How Diastasis Recti Develops

There is no one thing that causes a diastasis to develop. A DR can occur for many reasons. One of the most common ways a diastasis recti occurs is through any activity that causes excess pressure on the abs and core. Like a pregnancy, chronic core tension, holding the core tight all of the time, limitations in movement of the torso. 

Regarding pregnancy: 100% of all pregnant women have a diastasis recti: the abdominals stretch to accommodate the growing uterus. A diastasis recti is typically only a concern if your abdominal muscles have not recentered by about 6 to 12 weeks postpartum.

However, you do not have to have given birth in order to develop a diastasis recti. Although pregnancy is the most common cause of a diastasis recti, there are many other factors that play into its occurence. DR affects both men and women and even children equally. Many bodybuilders and athletes have a diastasis recti without even knowing it. Below are several ways a diastasis recti could develop:

  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Frequent or rapid changes in weight
  • Weightlifting
  • Certain core exercises
  • Underlying Abdominal Illnesses (i.e. stomach cancer, or cirrhosis)
  • Obesity

One thing you should keep in mind is that despite the various reasons a diastasis recti could occur, it is not an abdominal tearing. A diastasis recti occurs when the connective tissue between the two sides of your rectus abdominis (6-pack) muscles separate at the midline. This creates a gap in the midline of your abdomen anywhere from the pubic bone to the base of your ribcage. Although in more severe cases it is common for abdominal organs to be exposed, it is uncommon for there to be any organ damage.

Exercises & Good Practices

During your pregnancy, it is important that you consider some form of prehab or exercise routine that aids in maintaining a strong and functional core as your body goes through a major transition. In my program One Strong Mama, we cover many exercises and techniques that assist you in this. Below are a few things to keep in mind during your pregnancy.

1. Practice appropriate breathing patterns

Though this may seem like a simple task, many people do not practice proper breathing patterns. 3D rib breathing, as opposed to belly breathing, helps limit the amount of stress and pressure that you add to your abdomen daily. Inconsistent or improper breathing can add additional pressure to your abdomen causing a diastasis recti. Many people are taught to belly breath, are taught that diaphragm breathing means belly breathing and have excess pressure on their core wall as a result.

2. Practice good posture and free your abs from excess tension

While pregnant, it can be difficult to sit-up straight without straining your abdomen and lower back. The added weight in your belly can also allow for bad posture. When rising up out of bed, don’t sit straight up. This adds unnecessary pressure to your abdomen. When sitting up in bed or trying to get out, try either rolling over on your side before rising or focus on rising using your transverse abdominal muscles (those closer to your pubic bone).

3. Understand a good / healthy / functional core strategy

Approaching strength building and core function routines, it is important to do so smartly. There should be no compromises in exercise. In both One Strong Mama and in Restore Your Core I focus on strengthening your body effectively and efficiently in order for you to be able to workout without any compensation with great results. Click here for a list of tips and tricks to help relieve any symptoms you may have or for exercises to help correct any unhealthy patterns you may be following.

Strategic Core Exercise Has Shown Successful Results

Preventing a DR can be a bit tricky to wrap your head around. A common diastasis recti myth: having a toned, slim abdomen is the primary result of healing. This just isn’t true. Many athletes and bodybuilders have diastasis recti. Having a toned body does not equate to being diastasis recti free or immune. 

The primary focus in healing a diastasis recti is helping prevent you from making common (but harmful) workout cheats and to correct problematic exercises that end up damaging your abdominals rather than promoting core function. The end result is a functional core through intelligent core rehab.

Many methods of avoiding diastasis recti development involve postural awareness, corrective exercises, and a conscious prehab approach during pregnancy. Yet, most of these are important to keep in mind regardless of whether you are male or female, pregnant or not.

  • Understand a good / healthy / functional core strategy 
  • Practice appropriate breathing patterns
  • Ensure your abs are free from excess tension
  • Avoid exercises that increase focalized tension in the abdomen
  • Practice good posture

Although diastasis recti is not completely avoidable in some cases, the list above helps paint a clear picture on how to protect your core while still staying active. The key is to be mindful of your body’s function and how to increase your functionality and build strength without causing harm to your body. It is possible to be active and functional without injury. 

5 Exercises to Help Prevent Diastasis Recti 

Candles / Core Engagement 

Come to sit tall or stand. Inhale and on the exhale, imagine you are blowing out 100 candles. As you blow, you should feel your core tighten and draw inwards. This can and should be practiced whenever working out and managing a load, a weight, a core move. It automates the core and begins to integrate the function of the core to the activity that you are doing.

Seated Side Bend

Sit comfortably. Possibly on a block or some pillows. Hold a yoga strap or belt overhead. Bend your elbows slightly to take the stress off of your neck and shoulders. Exhale, blow candles, tighten your core and side bend right and then exhale to go left. Your core should not bulge, brace or push out as you do these. These are great for upper body mobility, torso length and strength are a great way to work your core without strain.


Sit comfortably. Possibly on a block or some pillows. Hold a yoga strap or belt in front of you. Exhale to blow candles, feel your core tighten and then rotate your chest to the right, come center and then exhale to go left. Your core should not bulge, brace or push out as you do these. These are great for upper body mobility and are a great way to work your core without strain. One of the keys to preventing a diastasis recti is to ensure that your upper body is mobile, supple and strong. 

Side Balance 

For this exercise, you will balance in a supported side plank. Your right knee and right hand down on the mat and your left arm straight up to the sky with your left leg straight on the mat. Use your candles for support as you exhale. This move is great for balance, arm and shoulder strength and a ton of core support.

Opposite Reach

For this exercise, you will come onto your hands and knees and slowly lift the opposite arm and leg. If that is too hard, do just one at a time. As you lift, you exhale and blow candles, feel your core engage and be extra sure not to bear down, brace or bulge your core! Amazing for your shoulders, arms, core and booty. 

For more on these exercises. Click here.

Postpartum Exercises

After giving birth and being cleared for exercise (typically 6 – 12 weeks postpartum), it may be helpful for you to pursue core building exercises. These can either help prevent diastasis recti or help close the gap that may be a result of childbirth. Here are a few exercises that you can do at home.


Candles is another breathing technique that helps with ab contraction while limiting pressure in your abdomen. Inhale normally. On your exhale, release your breath slowly as if you were blowing out a lot of candles. If done properly, you should feel your abdominal muscles contract/respond. 

Tabletop or Reverse Marching

Lie down similarly to that of a diastasis test. Exhale as you would with the candles method. As you exhale, alternate bringing your knees, while still bent, toward your body. 

Goddess Side Bend

While standing with wide feet placement (knees aligned with feet, feet aligned with shoulders), exhale and bend your knees slowly until they are level with your ankles. Make sure you use your heels to stabilize your body. Side bend by raising your arm while maintaining resistance. Repeat side rotations 3x and then return to a standing position.

Goddess Squat Twist

Repeat steps outlined above but place your arms across your chest. While in the goddess position, twist by using your ribcage, not your arms. Repeat side twists 4x and return to a standing position

Lunge with a Twist and Chop

Practice lunging. While using correct posture, bring one leg forward and lift your hands, palms crossed, in front of your face. Then slowly begin to twist toward your forward leg. As you twist toward your forward leg, bring your arms across your thigh in a chopping motion. Repeat while alternating between sides and legs.

To learn more about these exercises, click here

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Exercises to Avoid

There are several daily motions and exercises you should avoid if you have a compromised core. In this case, you want to avoid any exercises or stretches that add additional or excess pressure to your abdomen. A few exercises to avoid:

  • Most Crunches or Sit-Ups
  • Full Push-Ups (they can strain the abdominal muscles)
  • Any exercises that could cause your core to bulge.

I recommend avoiding any flat belly programs that focus on an aesthetic appeal over function. The purpose of these exercises is to strengthen and rebuild your core. Find comfortable movements that prevent your core from pushing out and practice proper breathing techniques. The goal is for healing and function so that you can accomplish the things you love to do without sacrificing your body.

Got Questions ?

Diastasis Recti abdominis is a common and natural effect of pregnancy. When the connective tissue thins to allow the abdominal wall muscles to separate, creating space for the growing baby, in most cases, this will return to normal in the weeks and months postpartum. It doesn’t happen naturally for some women, and they may need physical therapy if they don't heal within 6 weeks to 3 months following delivery. Surgery is usually only considered in extreme cases if the gap does not close within a year of physical therapy.
A great way to prevent exacerbating Diastasis Recti is to avoid exercises that increase intra-abdominal pressure, such as crunches, planks, twists, or heavy lifting. You don’t want to do anything that causes a visible doming of the abdomen.
Yes! Many women and men have completed my program and seen their Diastasis Recti close considerably, if not all the way. It is possible to heal a diastasis without surgery.
Connective tissue is slow to heal. Many men and women can use simple core-strengthening techniques to heal their Diastasis Recti. People working with a rehab program should only consider surgery if they have been working with a rehabilitation program or with a physical therapist to restore function for a minimum of 1 year. Surgery can fail or create other issues if one doesn’t address the underlying problem of excess intra-abdominal pressure.   If the Diastasis Recti persists after one year of therapy, it would be appropriate to consult a surgeon.
The most common symptom of Diastasis Recti is a bulge in the center of the abdomen, especially when you strain or contract your abdominal muscles. 
Medically speaking, a separation of 2 finger widths or more is considered Diastasis Recti.
Diastasis Recti can lead to side effects like poor posture, low back pain, constipation and urine leaking. It may also cause difficulty with breathing or movement.
Belly binding is thought to help close the Diastasis Recti gap by wrapping a binder around your torso. However, wearing a splint or binder won't strengthen or tighten the muscles - but it might provide support for lower back pain and other issues related to pregnancy (or postpartum) and be an appropriate tool in the later stages of pregnancy and early weeks postpartum.
Women often ask me if they should run with Diastasis Recti. They're hoping for a definitive answer, but in my professional opinion, the response is not so simple. If you are well past the eight weeks postpartum, adding in low intensity exercises can be a great way to regain strength. However, this may look different for each person.
If you feel a gap or softness with muscles on either side, you may have Diastasis Recti. If you can feel the tensed muscles underneath your belly, you're probably just dealing with some abdominal fat. The good news is that most cases of Diastasis Recti are temporary (and abdominal fat can be temporary too!).
Water is essential for optimal health. To give yourself the best chance at healing, you need to get into good habits and maintain hydration - and that means hydrating with water! It doesn't all have to be plain water; diluted juices or herbal teas are also encouraged for increased hydration levels.
Diastasis Recti, is not a Hernia. Clinically, a Diastasis can look like an Inguinal or Umbilical Hernia when flexing your abdomen; you may notice a bulge near the belly button.
Diastasis Recti is a condition that develops when too much pressure is put on the abdominal muscles. This can cause the connective tissue between the rectus abdominis muscles to thin and create a bulge or a dip in the center of the abdomen. Depending on the activity and core engagement strategy, you may present with a bulge or a dip.
Digestion issues are a common complaint among those that have Diastasis Recti. Speak to a registered dietician or nutritionist if this is an issue for you.