Advanced Strength Training with a Diastasis Recti

In many cases it can take months to rehabilitate a core. Any separation of the diastasis recti (DR) must be closed and the connective tissue (CT) must be strengthened to support a functional core. The pelvic floor must be activated and strengthened and the multifidus must be stimulated optimally. As you strength train with a DR, you may want to increase the difficulty of your exercises to challenge your increasing strength. There are ways to do this safely and effectively and monitor for any discomfort accordingly, especially in the pelvis.

Base of support
By decreasing the base of support for an exercise, you can increase the challenge of balance. You can accomplish this by using a stability or BOSU ball. Increasing the inflation will result in a smaller base support. You can also change the base of support by moving from a four-point support to a three- or two-point support. For example, to increase the level of difficulty of a hip thrust/back bridge dip, assume a figure 4 position rather than a bilateral position. You can also place the feet closer together, decreasing the overall base of support.

Change the length of the lever
As you increase the length of your lever arm from short to long, you increase the difficulty of the exercise. With the medicine ball throw, throwing from the chest is easier than using a longer lever and throwing from overhead. Minor changes in body position can make a dramatic difference in the level of difficulty by changing the coordination, the effort, or the force required.

Increase range of motion (ROM)
By increasing movements from a smaller range of motion to a larger one, you can increase the difficulty of the exercise. With the depth of a lunge, you can progress from partial lunges to full-range lunges. Resistance should not be added to body weight exercises until full ROM is achieved.

Compound & multiple plane movements:
Add a shoulder press to a squat, a curl to a lunge, or combine hip circles with lunges to create compound movements. This increases the functionality of the exercise and improves the body’s synergy with meaningful movements and controlled form.

Close the eyes
By closing your eyes, you increase the proprioceptive demand of the body; flooding other sensors and receptors positioned to give feedback on changes from the muscle, ligaments, tendons, and joint position. Removing visual feedback overloads your proprioceptive system, forcing those systems to work harder and improve.

Add resistance
You can increase the intensity of an exercise by adding some form of loaded resistance, such as a medicine ball, an external free weight, cable, or elastic tubing.

Change the speed of movement
Changing the tempo of an exercise changes the result. Very slow movements keep the muscle loaded under tension longer and help build strength and stability. Fast dynamic movements tend to build power. The tempo of movement also makes the exercise easier or more difficult.

Interval Training
When perfect form of any exercise is achieved, interval training can be applied to increase intensity. Interval training is based on maximum intensity and maximum reps. Resistance should never be added; body weight is sufficient as maximum intensity will translate into a breakdown of form.

Remember the Weight load restrictions for DR:

  • Lower body weights should not exceed 40 lbs total.
  • Upper body weights should not exceed 12 lbs/side.
  • Weights should be held at the chest in unilateral movements (lunges). This will center the weight and avoid placing too much strain on the pelvic stability control aspect of the movement.
  • LR weights can be held at the side in bilateral positions (squats). The pelvic stability control will be minimized.

Train smart and get strong! The foundation to fitness is a strong automated core, adequate pelvic stability control and functional form through meaningful movements.

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Kate Rita
Kate Rita is a certified Personal Trainer & Pre/Postnatal Specialist and a certified Pfilates instructor. Kate’s mandate is to help moms recover from pregnancy in a safe and effective way, incorporating fitness into the new normal for life.
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