Sunday, June 2, 2013

WTFitness: Diastasis Recti

First things first, it's been a while... we should catch up.

I am incredibly pleased to announce that I have signed up for my Health Coach Certificate test!!! I won't say exactly when... I'd like to surprise you all with a post once it's complete. But it is soonish, so stay tuned. (I know, ain't I a stinker??)

I would also like to apologize for the lack of activity around here lately! It's been a busy week at work and I needed to take those precious few hours of spare time to recharge my batteries...and work out of course. ;)

Last bit of "news", I made a Facebook page for this blog! If you'd like to follow posts here that way, just look over in the right hand nav bar and click the super pretty purple button with the sans-serif f on it. Hurray! Easy!

On to what you were promised... diastasis rectis.

Someone messaged me a while back (I'm so sorry it took me this long!) suggesting I do a post on this phenomenon. I'll admit it is one that I've been curious about. I had never heard of diastasis rectis until a year or so ago when I saw an iteration of this photo:

Photo from
I cannot for the life of me remember how I came across it... it must have been a Pinterest thing. At first, I was thinking "wow, what a sweet picture, it's so cool the baby's foot can show up on the belly like that!" followed immediately by "huh... I wonder how it can protrude through the abdominal wall like that." So I asked someone, probably Mary or Lance, what could cause that. Upon hearing "diastasis recti", I immediately googled and came across photos like this one:
At which point, I googled further, saw the words "split abdominal wall", closed my laptop, made myself a cup of tea, and tried very hard to not be angry about never hearing a word about this phenomenon in Human Growth and Development or any science class for that matter.

When I started looking into diastasis recti recently, I was surprised to find photos of men who had the split.

Check out the abs on quadzilla (right) and compare them with the guy on the left, see the split?
So obviously diastasis recti is not solely caused by pregnancy... and if it isn't due to your abdomen swelling to accommodate the growth of a human being.... WTF causes it?!

There are tons of anecdotal answers out there that say, and I am paraphrasing, that your abdominal wall has been split down the linea alba which is the center line down your abs.

After looking through countless mommy blogs which will do all they can to convince you that you need to pay them for their proposed system to cure you of this "problem"... which I found extremely annoying... I decided to take my search to the scientific journals. While "this is what I think happened and how I fixed it" is interesting, I prefer to get my explanations about bodily phenomenon from someone who has made their career studying it.

According to Dr. Daniel Brauman, who has a veritable string of alphabet soup following his name, diastasis recti is not the splitting of the linea alba but is the widening of your entire abdominal wall. Which makes much more sense when you consider what Katy Bowman*, biomechanist and quite possibly the only chick in the universe who can look adorable while holding a pelvis, has to say about the structure of your linea alba in this blog post here which I highly recommend you read if you've made it this far and are still awake. TL;DR?

Your linea alba is a network of connective tissue running between your transverse abs and and obliques
The best way I can think of to synthesize all this is the following: your linea alba is like a corset and when your corset is stretched outward, the laces in front can get a little loose.

Obviously this can be caused by pregnancy. But what about in men? Unless that Absolut ad has come to fruition, and I think we all would have heard of that by now, they don't incubate human beings for nine months.
It turns out that the expansion of the abdomen can be the result of weight gain or really intense abdominal training (years and years of it), this is explained more in this is the blog post by Nicole Crawford of Breaking Muscle, the very same post that lead me to Katy Bowman.

Naturally, the next question is what the heck can you do about it? This is where the information slows to a trickle. According to scientific journals, the only way to fix this phenomenon is with surgery, no surprise there. There are tons of books and programs touted by blogs and websites to help with diastasis recti, but the only way to see information is to shill out some money.

This is where we/I start relying on anecdotal evidence. This is also the point at which we thank the internet deities for the comments section. :)

The comments section on Nicole Crawford's post has a lot of moms sounding off about what helped them heal their tummies. One woman mentions having some insane success with Crossfit which doesn't surprise me, most Crossfit athletes I see have extremely well developed cores. Another few mention planks, an exercise that hits your entire core. Side planks are a plank variation that work your transverse abs and obliques, add a reach through for some added instability and you're going to put your core through its paces.

I found another blog post that contained a few isolation exercises that helped Alysa of inspiredRD with her diastasis recti. 

One thing that I kept seeing in comments was how important preventative exercises were. When I looked for some preventative exercises, I found out that connective tissue strength is increased when muscle strength increases. Why is that good news? Any type of exercise that works the muscles making up your core, especially your transverse abs and obliques, is going to strengthen that network of connective tissue that acts as your corset.

There you have it. A not-so-brief explanation of diastasis recti and what the heck to do about it. Obviously if you recently had a baby and are looking to start working toward your pre-baby belly, you should consult with your doctor and take it slow!

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