Do you have diastasis recti following the birth of a baby? Or maybe you feel the effects of an abdominal separation, like back pain, core weakness, incontinence, or even a “mummy tummy”? 

A separation of the rectus abdominis muscles is quite common. Even though there is some spontaneous healing after birth, studies show nearly two-thirds of women still have some separation six months after giving birth

So is there a diastasis recti workout? Or some “go-to” diastasis recti exercises?

First, Check for Diastasis Recti

Before we get into how to fix it, assess yourself with a diastasis recti self-check. (Many doctors don’t check at your postpartum follow-up.) It’s important to understand how wide and deep your muscle separation is.

Breathing to Strengthen Your Core

The first step in healing diastasis recti is breathwork. Your core is a pressure system. How you breathe matters. 

As you breathe in your diaphragm flattens, gently pushing air down into the lungs. Your pelvic floor relaxes. As you exhale, the diaphragm recoils and the pelvic floor gently lifts. 

Thanks to the pressure to be skinny, to bounce back, to suck in, etc., many women end up breathing improperly. This impacts the core muscles and pelvic floor.

Fortunately, you can start practicing diaphragmatic breathing any time after birth.

Aim to work on core breathing for about 5 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. This will help rewire your brain, so proper breathing becomes automatic.

Diastasis Recti Exercises to Avoid

Generally, with diastasis recti, you should avoid movements and core exercises that are hard on your midline. Sit-ups, crunches, prone planks, and Russian twists put a lot of pressure on the abdominal wall and the core’s connective tissue (the linea alba). They may even worsen the separation.

Avoid these movements until your core is rehabbed. They’re not off-limits forever, just until you’re better able to manage pressure!

Best Exercises for Diastasis Recti

Healing your core means strengthening your transverse abdominis (TVA). These are the “corset” muscles that wrap around your core and hold everything together. The following exercises target these deep core muscles.

Remember, everyone is unique – listen to YOUR body throughout your diastasis healing journey.

Once you’ve hit at least 6 weeks postpartum and have your doctor’s ok to begin working out, add these exercises into your routine.

Aim to complete a couple of sets of 10 reps for each side:

Diastasis Recti Exercises for Beginner/Newly Postpartum Bodies

1. Pelvic Tilts

  • Lie on your back, with your feet on the ground and legs bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Inhale through your nose, down into your rib cage.
  • Exhale audibly out your mouth while you gently tilt your pelvis back.

pelvic tilts exercise

2. Heel Slides

  • Lie on your back with a neutral spine, then extend one leg out. 
  • Inhale through your nose, down into your rib cage. 
  • Exhale as you slide the heel back in toward your body. Alternate legs.

heel slides exercise

3. Knee Roll-Outs (a.k.a. Leg or Hip Openers)

  • Lie on your back with your spine in a neutral position, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale through your nose into the body as you slowly lower your right knee to the floor. You should feel your abdominal muscles activate.
  • Exhale as you bring the knee back up, pulling your pelvic floor and belly up and in.
  • Relax and repeat 5-10 times before switching to the other leg.

knee rollouts exercise

4. Bridges

  • Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Inhale through your nose down into your body while your back is on the ground.
  • Exhale out your mouth as you rise, lifting your butt off the ground and squeezing your glutes at the top. (Don’t overextend at the top or arch your back!)
  • As you relax down, inhale and reset.

bridge exercise

5. Cat Cow

  • Get on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders, hips and knees aligned.
  • Inhale through your nose into your body as you let your tummy relax, looking toward the ceiling.
  • Exhale audibly as you press your palms into the floor, round upper back, and tuck your pelvis.
  • Relax and repeat.

cat cow exercise

Here is a great diastasis recti workout for beginners:

Diastasis Recti-Safe Exercises for Intermediate Levels

Once you’ve mastered the beginner exercises and feel confident managing core pressure, add in the following:

6. Bird Dog

  • Get on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders, hips and knees aligned.
  • Inhale down into the body as you gently let your tummy relax. Lift your left leg and right arm away from your body center.
  • Exhale out your mouth as you extend the opposite arm and opposite leg. Be sure to keep a neutral spine. Alternate arms and legs.

bird dog exercise

7. Heel Tap March (a.k.a. Heel Drops)

  • Get into a starting position on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Your back should be flat against the ground. As you inhale, feel your ribs expand with air.
  • Exhale audibly, drawing your core tight and pelvic floor up. With control lift your leg and return the heel with a tap to the ground.

heel tap march exercise

8. Quadruped Extensions

  • Get onto all fours, and drop to your forearms.  
  • Inhale through your nose while all four limbs are down.
  • Keeping your knee bent, exhale as you extend your foot straight up toward the ceiling. Your hips and shoulders should remain in place, parallel to the floor.
  • Repeat with the other side.

quadruped extensions exercise

9. Dead Bug Prep

  • Begin lying flat on your back, march your legs up one at a time. With knees bent, inhale through your nose and down into your body.
  • Exhale as you extend opposite arm and leg (e.g. left leg and right arm)
  • Switch sides and repeat.

deadbug prep exercise

10. Modified Forearm Side Planks

  • Lay on your side, legs stacked and prop yourself up on your elbow.
  • Inhale through your nose, down into the body to set your core.
  • Exhale as you lift your hips and hold, keeping bottom knee bent and on the ground. As you advance further, keep both legs straight out and lifted when you raise your hips.
  • Use little exhales to prevent bearing down on your pelvic floor. 
  • Hold for a few seconds and try to build up over time. Repeat on the other side. 

modified side planks exercise

Here is a great diastasis recti workout for intermediates:

Give Yourself Time

Remember, it takes time to heal. Almost everyone experiences some level of diastasis recti during pregnancy, and most don’t fully heal on their own. Take care of your amazing body and rebuild your core strength!

And of course, if you are in pain or need specific guidance, seek help from your doctor or a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor health.

Need Help Healing Diastasis Recti?

For more postpartum-friendly exercises, check out the Strong Like A Mother (SLAM) program. It helps you build total body strength, while healing your core and pelvic floor.