What is Abdominal Separation and How Can Exercise Help Repair It?

July 17, 2023 in Education

What is Abdominal Separation and How Can Exercise Help Repair It?

what is abdominal separation

If you’ve ever asked what is abdominal separation, you’re in the right place.

Abdominal separation, also known as diastasis recti, is a common yet rarely discussed condition. Although it often arises during pregnancy, it can occur in anyone for various reasons. 

Keep reading to learn more about abdominal separation and how to address it through exercise to restore core function and overall health.

What is Abdominal Separation?

Abdominal separation, scientifically termed diastasis recti, is a condition that occurs when the two long muscles running down the front of your abdomen, known as the rectus abdominis muscles, separate along the midline of your body. The gap created is not a tear but rather a stretching and thinning of the connective tissue (linea alba) that holds these muscles together. 

This situation can result in a protruding belly or ‘pooch’ that doesn’t seem to go away even with focused abdominal exercises.

This separation is typically due to the expansion and contraction of the abdominal wall, most commonly caused by pregnancy, obesity, or performing certain exercises incorrectly. During pregnancy, the growing uterus can stretch the muscles and linea alba, causing them to separate. In cases of obesity, the extra weight can similarly put a strain on these muscles, leading to a separation. Incorrectly performed exercises, especially those that put excessive pressure on the abdominal wall like heavy lifting or intense core workouts, can also lead to diastasis recti.

Exercise: The Role in Addressing Abdominal Separation

Exercise plays an integral role in managing abdominal separation. The key lies in the type of exercise you choose and how you perform it. Certain exercises are specifically designed to rebuild the strength and function of your core muscles without exacerbating the separation.

The main muscle group to target when dealing with diastasis recti is the transverse abdominis. These deep core muscles act as natural ‘corsets’ that support your back and organs, maintaining core stability. When strengthened, they can help draw the rectus abdominis muscles back together, reducing the separation and restoring the function of your abdominal wall.

A well-planned exercise routine for diastasis recti also pays attention to the oblique muscles, pelvic floor muscles, and the multifidus in the lower back. These muscles all work in tandem with the transverse abdominis to maintain core stability, and by strengthening them, you provide additional support to your healing abdominal muscles.

Engaging in the Right Exercises

It’s crucial to perform the right exercises to strengthen the weakened core muscles safely and effectively. 

Remember, performing these exercises with proper form and control is essential, as rushing or doing them improperly could potentially worsen abdominal separation. Consult with a fitness professional if you need clarification on the correct execution. 

Seated Squeeze

Sit straight on a chair, keeping your feet flat on the floor. Inhale deeply, then exhale while pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold for 10 seconds, release, and repeat for 10 reps. This exercise engages your transverse abdominis without putting excess pressure on your separated muscles.

Pelvic Tilt

Lay on your back on the ground, and ensure to keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tile your pelvis upward, and flatten your lower back against the ground. Hold this position for a few seconds and then release. Repeat for 10-15 reps.

Heel Slide

Start in the same position as the pelvic tilt. While keeping your back flat against the floor, slowly slide one heel out until your leg is extended. Slide it back and repeat with the other leg. Repeat for 10 reps on each side.

Standing Leg Lifts

Keep your back straight, core engaged, and stand up tall. Slowly lift one knee to hip height, ensuring that your core remains engaged and your back doesn’t arch. Lower your foot back down and repeat with the other leg. This exercise strengthens the lower part of the abdominals without adding pressure on the separated muscles.

Knee Fallouts

While on the ground, lay on your back and keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Engage your core as you slowly let one knee fall out to the side, keeping the other knee and your pelvis still. 

Slowly return your knee to the starting position, then repeat with the other knee. This exercise is excellent for working your deep core muscles.

What to Avoid During Abdominal Separation

It’s equally important to avoid exercises that can exacerbate the condition, such as crunches, sit-ups, and some yoga poses, like upward-facing dog and cow pose. These can place excessive stress on the weakened linea alba, widening the separation further.

Combining Exercise with a Comprehensive Approach

Combining exercise with good posture and proper breathing techniques can enhance recovery. Ensuring that you breathe deeply and exhale during the effort phase of an exercise can further engage the transverse abdominis, promoting healing and closure of the separation.

Making a Difference: How Exercise Helps in Abdominal Separation

Exercise doesn’t merely strengthen your core; it helps re-establish the mind-muscle connection often disrupted by abdominal separation. Regularly performing the right exercises can help “train” your muscles to realign, reducing the degree of separation and improving core function.

Tracking Your Progress

Monitor your progress by measuring the width of your abdominal separation every few weeks. You should notice a gradual reduction in the gap as your core muscles become stronger, and the connective tissue regains elasticity.

Sustaining Your Core Health: What is Abdominal Separation Management?

Understanding what is abdominal separation is just the beginning; managing it requires consistent effort. Maintaining good posture, adding the proper exercises into your daily routine, and breathing properly can significantly reduce abdominal separation and enhance your overall health.

The Journey to Recovery: Managing Abdominal Separation with Exercise

Addressing abdominal separation is not an overnight journey but one that requires patience, consistency, and persistence. By recognizing what is abdominal separation, selecting the right exercises, and avoiding the ones that can worsen the separation, you can chart your course to better core health and strength.

Remember, every body is different, and while these general tips are beneficial, seeking professional advice for a personalized exercise plan that suits your unique circumstances and goals is crucial. Abdominal separation doesn’t have to be permanent; with the right guidance and exercise routine, you can reclaim your core strength and function. Ready to tackle your abdominal separation with someone who knows exactly how to help you? Reach out to Peak Physique today! We can’t wait to help you reach your fitness goals.

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