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Heal Diastasis Recti With These Proven Training Methods

Heal Diastasis Recti With These Proven Training Methods

“The pain that comes with this condition is ruining my life. I can’t remember the last time I lived a day without having to swallow pain medication. I can’t exercise anymore. I can’t have sex anymore. I can’t play with my kids. This is ridiculous. Nothing I try works to improve this. What am I supposed to do?” – an anonymous post to peertrainer.com.

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis can be considered the symptom of chronic core weakness. Just like core weakness can cause back pains, disc herniations or lead to knee, ankle, or neck pains, it can also lead to diastasis. This happens when the core’s inner unit is not effectively transferring forces; when it is not regulating intra-abdominal pressure effectively. If an excess of pressure is consistently forced into the tendinous linea alba sheath rather than balancing synergistically throughout the abdominal muscles, the forces may be great enough over time to cause a severe stretching. In theory, this can happen to anyone, but especially a pregnant mother who has a fast-growing uterus that requires her core to adapt relatively quickly, potentially stretching the connective tissue.

Who is likely to get Diastasis Recti?

There are two types of pregnant moms who are likely to incur a diastasis stretch of the linea alba. Most common is the woman who is “core amnesiac.” This means that the woman has very little core awareness before pregnancy. The under-activation of the core often means that the diaphragm, pelvic floor, and transverse abdominis do not function with the appropriate tension at the appropriate times, leaving the belly to be overly relaxed. Once pregnant, that lack of core awareness simply perpetuates, and the relaxed belly muscles relax further than they might otherwise. The vast majority of prenatal clients will fall into this category.

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The other common type of diastasis-risk prenatal client is the opposite: instead of a relaxed core, she has a tight or overactive core. This is more likely to be a fitness enthusiast, and sometimes those who have taken their love of abdominal exercises to a level that it may no longer be serving them (Pilates, for example). In this case, your client may have learned to constantly tighten her stomach, and will often be proud of her tight abs. Tight abs are great on the occasions that they should be tight, but not necessarily all the time. The diastasis occurs when this tight TVA is trying to hold back a uterus for nine months. The uterus will win.  As the uterus grows outward, it can force a stretching of the linea alba sheath, and now this “super-fit” woman is surprised to find out that she has diastasis.

Diastasis Recti Fitness Solutions

Pregnancy can often exacerbate previous symptoms or reveal musculoskeletal challenges that are likely to occur years later. This is where misalignments such as pelvic girdle pain, sacroiliac joint dysfunctions, symphysis pubis dysfunctions, sciatica, disc herniations, piriformis syndrome, and many other challenges can arise. They are all symptoms of the “stress” of pregnancy being placed atop an already faulty musculoskeletal alignment.

As a solution that will last a lifetime, have no side effects and require no surgery, a fitness professional can teach specific activations for the inner unit, primarily the diaphragm (DPH), pelvic floor (PF), and transverse abdominis (TVA).

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Getfitforbirth.com teaches the Core Breathing Belly Pump (CBBP). It is defined as, “the rhythmic inhaling and exhaling that maintains activations of the DPH, TVA and PF muscles to dynamically maintain intra-abdominal pressure so that the core may assist in stabilizing, accelerating, and decelerating any exercise.”

Effective prenatal coaching emphasizes a balance between core amnesia and the excessive all-day holding of a super-tight TVA. More specifically, it can be thought of as coaching the natural rhythmic breathing cycle of concentric TVA contraction (on the exhale) followed by an eccentric TVA contraction (on the inhale). The natural rhythmic cycle should be  predominantly powered by the diaphragm all day long, with more activation and tension during the times that are necessary (like during exercise).  Naturally, the core tension would be less aggressive during easier activities of daily life, but still needs to be coached into greater activation in most clients!

The most important aspect for closing diastasis recti is usually that the PF and TVA combine in activation so that the natural corset of the torso wraps the two sides of the rectus abdominis back together, over and over again.  A cue to both “draw in” and “wrap together” helps give your client a sense of what the intention is for the TVA.  The PF can be cued same as a conventional Kegel exercise, just now synchronizing it with the TVA wrap. In many ways, CBBP is similar to other diastasis prevention and treatment techniques, like the Tupler Technique, but is also being regarded as a simple foundational principle because it’s based on something your clients do 20-25,000 times every day: breathing.

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The most important aspect of the CBBP for long-term health and function is that your client can perform a proper diaphragmatic breath, which is unfortunately difficult for the vast majority of pregnant (or non-pregnant) clients. In brief, the first two-thirds of a “deep inhale” should notably enter the ribs, belly and back first.  It is then considered biomechanically correct for the chest and shoulders to rise in the final third of the inhale of a “deep breath,” but not before. After asking just a handful of clients to “take a deep breath,” you will start to see patterns and build your familiarity and expertise in coaching.

Conclusion

If the diaphragmatic breath is not optimal, core activation techniques like the CBBP will not likely be enough to prevent core dysfunction symptoms like diastasis recti.  In the human body, the diaphragm muscle is top of the totem pole. And in most of your clients (often nine out of ten), it will literally need to be trained, like lifting weights.

Helping your clients create a balance of diaphragmatic breathing and core-TVA activation before, during and after pregnancy will help them have optimal core strength while decreasing their chance of having abdominal separation.

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Featured photo credit: urbanbootcamp.files.wordpress.com via urbanbootcamp.files.wordpress.com

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Published on August 16, 2019

15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

15 Strength Training Exercises Specifically for Runners

When you choose the right exercises, and make strength training a priority, it will have a great payoff to improve your running. Studies have shown incorporating a strength training program to your running routine improves running economy.[1]

Here are 15 strength training exercises specifically for runners.

1. Planks

The plank is a very important core exercise that will help give you more control and balance while running. Having a strong core will also keep you more stable and in control if you have to navigate uneven surfaces.

The plank is a simple exercise and involved balancing on your forearms and the tips of your toes, so that your back is “straight as a plank”. You want to focus on keeping your abs tight and imagine sucking your belly button up into your spine to have them properly engaged.

Aim for 30 to 45 seconds for a few rounds. Ultimately, you want to hold them as long as you can with proper form – so every time you perform a plank you want to go a little longer than previous ones.

2. Side Planks

The same concept is applied but you are now engaging your core in a different manner and engaging your oblique muscles too. This time, you are going to lie on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other.

You will lean on your right forearm and lift your hips off the ground keeping your head lined up with your torso and ankles. Keep your other hand on your hip to help ,and control balance, and focus on not moving or swaying. Keep your abs tight to engage them and hold for 30-45 seconds, or longer if you can.

3. Clamshells

For this exercise, you are going to need a simple resistance band. Start with the band wrapped around both legs just below the knee. Your starting position will be on the ground lying on your side with your top hip and shoulder pointing towards the ceiling. Your hips will be on the ground, keep your back straight and your feet together, and lift up with your top knee as far as you can with the resistance.

Pause for a second at the top and lower back down under control. You can do 10 reps on this side before switching over and doing another 10 reps and aim for 2 to 3 sets.

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Clamshells are going to help strengthen your abductor muscles giving you stronger hips and more stability while running.

4. Single-Leg Bridge

You will start lying on your back with your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart with knees bent. You will straighten out one leg so it’s out in front of you in the air and lift your body up by pushing with the leg on the ground.

You want to flex your abs and glutes while pushing upward and try to keep your hips level throughout the motion before returning to the ground. You can also hold your body in the upright position for 5-10 seconds before returning to the ground to get more engagement before switching over to the other leg.

The single-leg bridge will help strengthen your glutes which are crucial for running power and stride strength.

5. Standing Calf Raises

This is a simple exercise but one that is very important for strengthening the calves. The stronger they are, the less fatigue you will experience during running. You will need to find an elevated step or platform for this exercise.

Stand on the platform with your heels hanging off the edge. Find something stable to hold on to for balance and start by lower your heels down until you feel a stretch in the back of your calves. Then, stand upwards like you are trying to see over a fence. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

6. Arch Lifting

You will start out standing with your feet directly under your hips, and this is best done without shoes. You will rotate the arch of your foot upward while keeping your toes and heels in contact with the ground.

Don’t let your toes tighten and you want to hold for a few seconds at the top before returning to the ground. You can do 3 sets of 10 repetitions and this is going to help strengthen the arches of your feet.

The stronger your arches are the better it is to keep your running stride strong and prevent less fatigue in the feet.

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7. Half-Kneel Hip Flexor Stretch

Strong hips are paramount for running and the hip flexors can easily become strained and overused. This exercise will help to strengthen them and provide more power and stability while running. You will start kneeling with one foot forward and the other knee bent underneath the hip.

Keep your abs tight, your back straight, and shift your body weight forward until you feel a stretch in the front of your hips. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds before switching over to the other leg.

8. Alternating Lunges

These are going to develop power and strength in your quads and glutes to help give you a more powerful stride. You will start standing with your hands on your hips looking straight out in front of you.

Step forward with your right leg and lower down just before your opposite knee touches the ground. Then, push through your heel to return to the standing position before performing the lunge with your left leg. Alternate between the right and left leg so that each one has done 10 reps and you can perform 3 sets of this.

9. Jump Squats

These can be done just with your bodyweight and help to develop explosive power in the lower body. The jump squat is handy for when you have to run hills and need more power for harder stretches of your run.

The best way is to start in a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart. You will drive through the heels of your feet and explode upwards. As your bodyweight brings you back to the ground, control your weight as you go back into the squat position to fully engage the muscles.

Make sure not to let your knees move inwards and keep your abs tight, your head up, and your chest out. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.

10. Skater Hops

This will help to build leg and core strength, along with improving balance. You will start standing upright but then bending the knees slight like you’re about to sit down. You will then drive off your right foot, jumping a few feet out to the left.

You will land on your left foot while your right foot swings behind your left leg. Then, drive off the left foot using the momentum of your right foot swinging back to land back on it. You will keep doing these side hops for ten times each leg and the motion should look like a speed skater shifting side to side.

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11. Bulgarian Split Squat

This will be similar to the lunges but, will really ramp up the resistance for the quads and is a great strength training exercise for runners. You are going to need an elevated surface or bench to stand in front of. The starting position will be standing upright with your head up and hands on your hips.

Start with your right foot behind you supported by the bench. You will start by lowering your hips to drops your left leg down to around a 90-degree angle, stopping just before your right knee hits the ground.

Next, push up through the heel until you are back at the starting position and perform ten reps, under control, before you switch over to the right leg. Perform 3 sets of this.

To make this even tougher, you can hold dumbbells in your hands hanging at your sides.

12. Arabesque

These will help in activating and controlling your hips. You will start off by standing on one leg, hands on your hips, and making sure your hips are level and balanced. You can then put your arms out to the side to give you more balance.

Start by tipping your torso forward as your non-weight-bearing leg extends out behind you. You can slightly bend your knee to help with control and you want to have your back and extended leg as level as possible. You should end up basically parallel to the floor with your shoulder, hip, and ankle should be in a straight line.

When you’ve gone as far forward as you can, return to the starting position and perform 8 repetitions before switching to the other leg.

Perform 2 to 3 sets. These are all about quality over quantity so if you can only do 4 or 5, that’s fine.

13. Hip Bridge

This is another great exercise to target the glutes which are the source of your running power. Start by lying on the ground with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Squeeze your glutes and then lift your hips up towards the ceiling.

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Your hips, knees, and shoulders should be in a straight line. Hold at the top for a second and then lower back down under control. Perform this 12 times and then, you can do 3 sets. If these get easier, you can hold a weight across your stomach for more resistance.

14. Push-Ups

A classic exercise, and for good reason. As much as you want to focus your strength training on the lower body, you can’t neglect your upper body. Your arms are helping drive and propel you while running and a strong upper body helps with your overall balance and stability.

You can start laying facedown on the ground with your palms facing downwards and elbows tucked into your sides. Focus on pushing through the heel of your palms upward, stopping just before your elbows lock out. Lower back down under control and stop just before your chest touches the ground.

Focus on keeping the elbows tucked into your side and avoid having them flail outwards. You can perform 10 reps for 3 sets of these.

15. Squat to Overhead Press

This is a full-body motion that works a majority of muscles, builds power, explosiveness, and coordination. You will need two dumbbells and you will start standing, feet shoulder-width apart, with the dumbbells, held up by your shoulders – palms facing forward.

Send your hips back and lower down into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. As you stand up, press the dumbbells overhead and return them to the starting position. Go for 10 reps and three sets.

The Bottom Line

As much as you’d like to, you can’t be running all the time. It can lead to overuse, injuries and burnout. The perfect way to offset this is with strength training, making sure you perform your training with proper form and technique, avoiding mistakes which can lead to injury.

There are many other strength exercises such as the deadlift, which works the back and leg muscles which are vital for running economy improvement and injury prevention.[2] These exercises will make you a more efficient and resilient runner allowing you to improve your distances and times.

Even if you’ve been against strength training for runners, you can see now how it’s necessary in order to improve your overall running ability and performance.

Featured photo credit: Stage 7 Photography via unsplash.com

Reference

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