Many people have never even heard of the term “diastasis recti’,” or if they are in the minority that has, they only associate diastasis recti with pregnancy or a complication women experience during the postpartum period.
However, not only is diastasis recti much more common than people think, but it also does not need to be preceded by pregnancy. In fact, many men also suffer from diastasis recti.
In addition to being troublesome or embarrassing from a cosmetic standpoint for some men, diastasis recti in men can also result in functional consequences.
The good news is that there are diastasis recti exercises for men that can help heal damaged abdominal muscles and prevent further damage that can otherwise occur while working out of performing everyday activities.
Best of all, most of the best diastasis recti exercises for men can be performed at home with minimal equipment, meaning that you can get started improving the functional strength and appearance of your abs in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
In this article, we will provide a quick primer on diastasis recti and then share the best diastasis recti exercises for men.
We will cover:
- What Is Diastisis Recti?
- 7 Diastasis Recti Exercises for Men
Let’s jump in!
What Is Diastisis Recti?
Diastasis recti is a medical condition that involves a separation between the right and left sides of the rectus abdominis muscle (your “six-pack” muscles) that run down the front of the stomach.
If you have diastasis recti, the two sides of your abs tear apart from one other, severing the lines alba, which is the thin connective tissue that normally adjoins the right and left columns of the rectus abdominis muscle.
This results in a visible or palpable gap that runs vertically down the center of your abdomen.
Diastasis recti is caused by excessive pressure exerted on the abdominal muscles and an overstretching and resultant thinning of the linea alba.
Diastasis recti is typically a result of the abdominal protrusion or growth associated with pregnancy, obesity, or binge eating disorder, but people with connective tissue disorders can also develop diastasis recti.
Aside from altering the aesthetic appearance of the abs, the abdominal separation associated with diastasis recti in men results in poor support and a lack of unity with the abdominal muscles.
This can cause difficulties performing certain movements, poor posture, low-back pain, hip pain, and compromised athletic and sexual performance.
Let’s take a look at some diastasis recti exercises for men.
7 Diastasis Recti Exercises for Men
Healing diastasis recti can be a long process and isn’t always successful; sometimes, surgery is necessary.
However, depending on the degree of separation and your overall health, consistently performing diastasis recti exercises for men can be an effective route to recovery.
The primary goal of diastasis recti exercises for men is to strengthen the core and encourage tissue healing while reducing the risk of exacerbating the condition by further increasing intra-abdominal pressure.
Certain popular core exercises like crunches and sit-ups can cause more tearing of the linea alba because they flex the trunk, placing additional pressure and strain on the already-severed abs.
Therefore, it’s very important to avoid exercises like these when you have diastasis recti.
Rehab programs consisting of diastasis recti exercises, such as planks and other abdominal bracing exercises, have been shown to reduce the associated abdominal separation associated with the condition while strengthening the core.
It’s advisable to speak to your doctor or physical therapist before starting exercises for diastasis recti, as a medical professional familiar with the condition can properly diagnose you and provide individualized exercise recommendations.
However, if you’re unable to do this or want to learn additional exercises for diastasis recti, you can find some of the best diastasis recti exercises for men below.
These exercises are designed to help you get started healing your abs and strengthening your core while preventing additional abdominal separation.
#1: Blowing Out Candles
Many of the best diastasis recti exercises involve very little movement; rather, the focus is on rebuilding the neuromuscular connection to the abdominal muscles and retraining the core to tighten and draw inwards when engaged.
Because the linea alba is torn with diastasis recti, the core loses its integrity as a continuous, encircling band of connected muscles wrapping around the trunk.
This significantly reduces the effectiveness of the core as a unit.
This beginner diastasis recti exercise aims to retrain the recruitment and activation of the abs and recondition them to perform their inward, constricting motion.
Here’s how to do it:
- Sit or stand tall with good posture, keeping your shoulders back.
- Place one hand on your belly so that you can gauge the activation of your abs.
- Inhale deeply, allowing your belly to expand with your breath.
- Exhale fully and slowly, as if blowing out 100 birthday candles in a single breath, trying to draw out the exhale for as long as you can. Make sure you tighten your core throughout the entire duration of the breath while drawing your belly inwards as much as possible.
When you do this exercise for diastasis recti, it helps to envision bringing your belly button all the way to your spine.
It’s also important to note that you aren’t holding your breath when you try to extend the duration of the breath; you’re just stretching out the time you exhale.
#2: Tummy Tucks
This is another good beginner diastasis recti exercise for men.
Like the Blowing Out Candles exercise, it doesn’t require any equipment and involves very little movement.
With that said, this diastasis recti exercise is a good way to start rebuilding core strength when your abs are weak or don’t seem to be activating as a united group.
Here are the steps:
- Stand so that your body is hinged at the hips and your trunk is parallel to the ground. Your legs and trunk should be at a 90-degree angle. You can hold onto a desk, counter, chair, etc., for balance. Alternatively, you can get down on all fours (hands and knees) if you need an easier modification.
- Relax your abs and let your loose belly hang down towards the floor as far as possible.
- Use your abs to draw in your belly as forcefully and fully as you can, drawing your belly button towards your spine.
- Squeeze your belly in towards your spine as tightly as possible for 5-10 seconds.
- Relax and let your belly slowly drop back down.
- Repeat 15-20 times.
#3: Heel Slides
Heel slides are a simple bodyweight diastasis recti exercise for beginners. The key to this exercise is moving as slowly and controlled as possible.
These are the steps:
- Lie on your back on a yoga mat or towel over the bare floor (no rug), wearing socks to facilitate sliding of your feet.
- Bend your knees to 90 degrees and place your socked feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale, drawing your belly button in towards your spine, then exhale as you slowly slide one foot away from your butt until the leg is fully straight.
- Using your core, slowly slide the leg back in towards your butt until the knee is bent to 90 degrees again.
- Alternate legs, completing 30 reps per leg, focusing on moving as slowly as possible.
#4: Single-Leg Lifts
This diastasis recti exercise challenges your abdominals to stay engaged and control the pelvis while you move one leg at a time. You should keep your pelvis neutral and ensure your abdominal muscles are drawn in throughout the entire movement.
These are the steps:
- Lie on the back with your arms at your sides; knees bent 90 degrees, feet flat on the floor, and toes pointing straight ahead.
- Lift one foot off the floor, straightening the leg, and lifting the foot as high as you can with control.
- Hold for one full breath, and then slowly lower your leg back down.
- Repeat on the opposite leg.
- Complete 20 reps per leg.
This diastasis recti exercise strengthens the lower abs and recruits the deep core muscles and pelvic floor to try and restore function and unity to the abs.
Here again, your focus should be on controlling the movement, moving slowly, and bringing your belly button inward towards your spine.
These are the steps:
- Lie on your back with your arms at your sides.
- Bend your hips and knees 90 degrees so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor with your knees up and your shins are parallel to the ground up in the air.
- Engage your abs to draw your belly button in while you slowly lower one leg towards the floor, maintaining the bend in your knee.
- Gently tap your heel on the ground and then use only your core muscles to lift the leg back up to the starting position.
- Switch legs, alternating sides for 20-40 reps.
#6: Reverse Crunches
After you’ve mastered the marches exercise, you can progress to reverse crunches.
This exercise is very similar, but you move both legs together, which is more difficult for your abdominal muscles because it requires greater core strength and control.
Here are the steps:
- Assume the same position as the marches exercise but slowly lower both legs in tandem toward the ground, keeping your core tight and maintaining the bend in your knees.
- Gently tap your heels on the floor and then use your core to lift your leg back up to the starting position together as one unit.
- Complete 15-20 slow reps.
Planks are a great diastasis recti exercise for men because, as an abdominal bracing exercise, planks build core strength without exacerbating abdominal separation.
Here are the steps:
- Get in a push-up position but place your forearms on the ground with your elbows under your shoulders instead of weight-bearing through your hands. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Breathe in and out as you hold the plank, drawing your belly in as if trying to glue your belly button to your spine. Squeeze your glutes as well.
- Gradually build up the length of the hold, starting with 15-30 seconds initially and progressing to 2-3 minutes.
Proper form is key, though. Make sure to keep your belly button drawn inwards the whole time, or you need to stop the exercise.
Begin with one set of the first five exercises and then progress to 2-3 sets. Then add the more challenging exercises (#6-7).
When you are improving and have clearance from your physician to move on to other plank variations, we have 20 for you right here.