What is Diastasis Recti and How Does it Affect Exercise?

Diastasis recti is a common pathology that we can suffer, sometimes without even realizing it. However, it's important to treat it to prevent associated problems.
What is Diastasis Recti and How Does it Affect Exercise?

Last update: 19 April, 2020

Diastasis recti can affect anyone, regardless of gender or age. Since it affects an area that’s involved in numerous activities of our daily lives, it can be quite limiting. Let’s see what this condition means, why it happens and what adverse effects it can have on our lives.

What is diastasis recti?

This pathology consists of a separation of the rectus abdominis muscle due to a failure of the connective tissue that holds it together. The rectus abdominis is a part of the abdominal muscles.

Under normal conditions, the connective tissue keeps it in its usual position; it holds it in place and allows it to carry out its function normally. This connective tissue is what we know as the linea alba, which is the front central stripe of our abdomen.


As we’ve said, diastasis happens when this tissue doesn’t work properly. The main causes of this are sedentary lifestyle, bad postures, pregnancy or surgeries in that area.

In the case of a sedentary lifestyle and poor posture, diastasis happens because the entire abdominal wall is weak. When it happens because of pregnancy, the growth of the belly stretches the connective tissue, and it can be hard to recover. The estimations are that more than 60 percent of pregnant women suffer from diastasis recti.

Lastly, when it happens due to surgery is because cutting or damaging the connective tissue can make it lose its ability to hold the structures together and give in.

What are the effects?

If you have diastasis recti, the first things you’ll notice are balance problems. It’ll be difficult for you to maintain the posture; your body won’t be able to stabilize itself correctly, which will lead to back problems. Also, you’ll probably suffer from digestive problems of various kinds.

A pregnant woman doing core exercises to prevent diastasis recti

These effects, especially the first one, have a great effect on the person’s ability to exercise. It’s vital that the rectus of the abdomen performs its function correctly when contracting because it’s a great stabilizer of the body and an essential component of the abdominal waist.

Therefore, if the abdomen rectus separates when it contracts, it loses functionality. And since we use our abdominal muscles in practically all exercises, precisely because of this function, it’ll prevent us from doing them correctly.

What is the cure for diastasis recti?

To recover from diastasis recti, we must work on our breathing, posture, pelvic floor and core. It’s important that we do this with exercises that don’t increase the pressure on the abdominal area.

For example, we should never do crunches or similar exercises. On the other hand, hypopressive exercises will most definitely have a positive effect. Activating the transverse muscle of the abdomen will be our great ally in this recovery.

We must avoid making efforts in our day to day where we hold our breath or have to carry heavy loads. Following this logic, it’ll also be important to treat constipation in case it appears.

Efforts to defecate also increase pressure on this area of the body. If we have intestinal transit problems, spending long moments of the day making continuous efforts is detrimental to this pathology.

Belts are also available to help put the muscles in place and allow the connective tissue to recover. However, you should only use them as a supplement. In other words, we can’t depend solely on them to recover.

An illustration of diastasis recti corrected by surgery

We can use them to get extra support in conjunction with an exercise program proposed by a physical therapist or doctor. However, it should never be the only measure we take, as it can create dependency; this doesn’t help to work out the real cause of the problem.

It’s definitely necessary to strengthen the area carefully; it doesn’t matter how much we artificially join the rectus abdominis. As a last resort, there are surgical procedures to join the muscles together in very severe cases, as shown in the image above.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • F. Xerfan, L. Masako, P. Bins y C. Ghelfond. Rectus Diastasis Corrected with Absorbable Suture: A Long-Term Evaluation. Aesthetic plastic surgery. 35, pages43–48(2011)
  • J. Akram y S. Matzen. Rectus abdominis diástasis. Journal of plastic surgery and hand surgery. Vol 48, pages 163-169 (2014)
  • F. Nahas, L. Ferreira y J. Mendes. An Efficient Way to Correct Recurrent Rectus Diastasis. Aesth. Plast. Surg. 28, 189–196 (2004)

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.