At the Core of It: Why Fixing Abdominal Separation needs a Broader Approach
Hello again! In my last blog post on abdominal separation back in January (wow that seems ages ago!), we explored what it is and how to do the ‘Rec Check’. I thought it may be helpful to quickly chat about why, as a postnatal fitness specialist, I favour a whole body approach to address abdominal separation, as I also favour for pelvic floor dysfunction.
When it comes to fixing abdominal separation, I wish I could say: “Here’s a program of 4 exercises for you. Do them every day for the next month and get back to me.” Sadly, a quick-fix is likely not the solution. Aside from exercise there are many other factors to consider. Focussing solely on your mid-section and training just your abdominal muscles in an effort to ‘fix’ any problems there is what’s called ‘spot reducing’. Put simply, ‘spot reducing’ is where you focus on just one muscle group, one body part, or just one area of your body and then solely work on it.
And if you’re doing sit ups - whilst you suspect that you have abdominal separation - that’s not the answer. In fact, sit ups will make abdominal separation worse. The human body is made up of hundreds of muscles and bones; and if the muscles in your body can find an easy way of doing something, then they will. And they’ll do it over and over and over again until a nice little ‘muscle imbalance’ has found its way in there.
Consider your habits as a new mom:
How do you think the following everyday ‘mommy movements’ affect your overall alignment?
always holding baby with your dominant arm
winding baby over the same shoulder all the time (did someone say colic?)
sitting slumped-over whilst feeding baby…for hours and hours and hours (I hear you mamas - check out locally made Luna pillows if your nights are anything like mine with my youngest…..)
propping baby up on one hip
pushing a stroller uphill with your arms out-stretched and shoulders lifted….
baby-wearing for long periods of the day
These things ALL create muscular imbalances.
If even just one of your muscles is tight, weak or stretched, doesn’t it make sense that other muscles will try and compensate? And they do. There are many reasons why postnatal women suffer with abdominal separation after birth.
But - hooray - there are many ways of helping to improve abdominal separation.
Education is fundamental particularly when it comes to discovering the ‘cause and effect’ of abdominal separation – and all of your other postural traits.
Here are some points I consider when treating you for abdominal separation:
Is this your first/second/third/fourth baby?
Do you suspect you had abdominal separation that went untreated if it’s not your first baby?
What exercise did you do prior to getting pregnant?
How’s your posture right now?
Can you breathe correctly?
How is your ‘core’ strength?
What muscles are really tight for you?
Which muscles dominate your entire system without you realising it?
What tasks are you doing with a newborn that might be exacerbating your abdominal separation?
Is your pelvic floor okay, or do you need help with that too?
Can you see what I mean?
Assessing, treating and rehabilitating abdominal separation needs to move away from just doing tummy exercises in isolation. I endorse a whole body approach – even more relevant when you consider that 66% of women with pelvic floor dysfunction also have abdominal separation.
It needs a broader, full-body approach to get your system working and functioning in a more optimal way.
What’s also encouraging is that there’s a 7 Steps to Fixing Abdominal Separation method that I follow for clients with abdominal separation. It’s based on a whole-body, ‘everything working as one, proper unit’-type system.
Please visit my previous blog post ‘At the Core of It: An Overview of Abdominal Separation and the Rec check’ from Jan 13, 2019 for more details on abdominal separation, and how to check yourself for it.
Hugs, Sarah x
Sarah Pearce BSc FCMI
Postnatal Fitness Specialist, ‘Diastasis Detective’ and Nutritionist, UK REPS and Guild of Pregnancy and Postnatal Exercise Specialists
*With HUGE and sincere thanks to Claire Mockridge for the use of her course material in this blog post.