Diastasis and Lifting

April 10th, 2014 by Laura

I had surgery and this is no longer an issue. I will keep this page here anyway incase anyone else is googling how others handled training with a diastasis.

After my second baby, I had to have my belly button surgically removed and mesh lodged in its place with a big midline side to side slash. Then I got pregnant with my third baby and was left with old surgical materials poking me through the skin, more hernias and a host of other things along with the diastasis. I had the ab separation for years. It was surgically repaired in January 2016 (along with some other abdominal procedures that take a while to heal, which is why I haven’t been competing or posting much lately).

I was told by my doctor and surgeons that in my case, the connective tissue there was destroyed and the only way to suture it back would be surgically. Given the futile efforts that were put into closing it and the extent of the trauma to that area, this did prove to be true for me. However, some people are able to close the gap on their own.

Transverse Abdominal Work and Splinting
If anyone is reading and looking for a starting point on healing their diastasis, ‘Lose Your Mummy Tummy’ by Julie Tupler helps many people.

And her site:

DiastasisRehab.com

The book title is a little misleading… It sounds like it would be about how to lose fat or get rid of love handles but it is actually all about how to heal split abdominals.

I loved this book and passed on my paper copy to another mom with this problem. She was able to totally fix her diastasis with the exercises in the book. One note on this book is that it is a little outdated (2004) and the author no longer recommends a few of the exercises it. That said, seated/ standing transverse abdominal movements and stomach vacuums seem to work out very well for many, and it encourages constant awareness on how to move in daily life.

Training with Diastasis
As I mentioned, I had many other things going on alongside the diastasis, so I can’t really pinpoint which sort of discomfort came from what. These were some of the adjustments I made that allowed me to continue training.

I had to avoid:

  • Rows where I was facing the ground
  • Planks (front)
  • Push-ups
  • Burpees
  • Anything where gravity pulls my upper abs open (my diastasis was only in the upper portion, my lower abs are intact).

If I did want to perform any of those movements, I could still do some of them while wearing a brace. And of course if you are researching how to work out with a diastasis, you probably already know not to do any crunches or twists.

Binders
Tupler recommends using something to splint the abdominals together during the core moves suggested in the book, and that is something I was been to apply to my training for my sport. It holds my abs in place so they can work together. All surrounding muscles can work more efficiently as a result. When I lifted weights and used a belt, I couldn’t push out against my belt. I’d just brace my abs the best I can while the belt splices them together.

You can splint your abs together with just a sheet or towel. I opted for binders if I knew I would have to lean over for anything. The difference between a binder and a splint is that the binder will compress the abs toward the spine, where the splint pulls them together horizontally. I find that binders also help pull my abs together, keeping everything in the right place so I am less prone to shifting and injury. When using a binder, I never just put it on and then forget about it or rely on it to do all the work. I pay careful attention to my pelvic alignment and practice using my core as a unit when it is all being held together.

image Some binders have wires in them that stab you when you squat. The medical grade binders are gentle to wear but can be cumbersome. I loved the Ann Chery Workout Cincher (to the right). It is workout-specific and comfortable to move in.

Pilates
Pilates movements encourage tightening your ‘inner corset’ and engaging the TVA. Not all pilates moves are ok to do with a diastasis. A qualified pilates instructor can help, but if course if you have diastasis, it probably means you have young kids and getting out for private pilates classes is a pipe dream. A Google search for ‘diastasis pilates’ will turn up plenty of safe options. Any movement where you feel your abs separating more, or protruding, is not ok.

Stomach Vacuum
This was my go-to ab exercise. It can immediately dim the discomfort and pain that spread from the abs to the back. (As I mentioned, I had other things with the diastasis that caused pain. I’ve read that a diastasis on its own is painless, but some affected women have said otherwise.)

After Surgery
After surgery and completing therapy, my abdomen is back to 100%. I am very grateful to be able to get back to training with no restrictions.

I didn’t mention much about pelvic floor here. From what I understand, problems there can be related to diastasis, but the pelvic floor stuff even affects women who have not given birth. My experience was that I had issues while I was pregnant and nursing (I nursed each baby for a year) and after that, things were pretty much back to normal. I’m surprised I didn’t have more problems with that given the state of my abdomen. I still think it is wise to always pee before deadlifts though 🙂

4 Responses to “Diastasis and Lifting”

  1. Charmaine Says:

    Hi, I have just read your article and found it really helpful. I am 7 months post partum and was powerlifting prior to my pregnancy. I tailored my training to accommodate my bump and managed to train until 39 weeks. After my birth my abs have remained separated. I have been working with my osteopath and a trainer the specialises in Diastasis, it has improved but has not come back together. I continue to work on my breathing and TVA but would like to get back to my lifting. When I train at the moment I simply focus on my breathing and breath out with exertion, I have been advised to avoid deadlifting and benching. Which has become really frustrating. I do not think my abs will totally come back together but want to avoud surgery until I have finished having kids. What support belt do you use and would you recommend any other equipment to assist me to get back into lifting? Sorry for the long message but I really want to get back into lifting again!!

  2. Laura Says:

    I liked a cheap-o fabric belt for things like rows, push-ups, and things where my stomach was facing the ground and intestines falling through. It holds things together without any bulk. The Ann Chery Cincher is great, too, but once you’re in it you’re in lol, it takes a bit of effort to get on and off.

    Every case is different.. In my case, I tried rehabbing the diastasis as well and my dr felt that (for me) it was futile. There is no muscle connecting the split abs, hernias popping through and if the connective tissue is gone, there was no way to bring it back on my own. After s long period of trying and no payoff, I said to hell with it and took up powerlifting lol. My obliques got very developed as did my back, but my insides were falling apart and I could not brace. I had a lot of problems with my hips as a side effect. I did have other problems along with the diastasis so I can’t blame all of my symptoms on the diastasis in particular…

    I went to a movement therapist and when he read over all of the things going on in my abs, he said ‘ok we can do x,y and z over and over again and then a series of all of this other stuff…. or you get your stomach fixed and most of this will take care of itself’.

    I actually just had surgery in January and as part of that, my abdominal muscles were sewn back together. I’m back into training now and I can’t believe all of the silly things I put up with for so long with the abdominals. Bracing is no problem now. Most of the things that I fought with before no longer exist. Recovery is no joke but well worth it. I still plan on seeing the movement therapist since I have so many leftover compensatory things going on after having that problem for so long.

    I know most doctors rule out certain exercises or say to stop lifting altogether when things like this happen. After a certain time period, I couldn’t stand it anymore and just went ahead and did what I could do without bad pain. That was my choice, I figured that if things were not going to get better on their own, I wanted to do what makes me happy in the meantime. I’d definitely recommend seeing as movement specialist as they can guide you to move as safely as possible.

    I hope that your abs are able to get back to an acceptable position for you on their own and you aren’t in too much pain right now! Congrats on the little one 🙂

  3. Charmaine Fearon Says:

    Thanks so much for getting back to me. Just to confirm, do you use the Ann Cherry cincher for your deadlifting and squatting?

  4. Laura Says:

    I usually just belt for the squats and pulls. The cincher works for that as well but if you are short waisted, the boning of the cincher can dog into the hips at the bottom of the squat. It is great for everything else though, esp. the rowing and things where you have to lean over 🙂

Leave a Reply