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Pull-ups after diastasis recti? AND techniques to improve your pull-up

I posted a video last week of myself doing a pull-up drop set on Instagram and Facebook (find me @getmomstrong).  If you don’t follow, please do!  I post tips and exercises that I am too lazy to put on the blog, so you’ll get more mom strong than you already are if you follow along there!

Pull-ups were one of the last of my “fundamental” exercises to come back after the twins.  I just couldn’t do a pull without arching my lower back, jutting out my ribs, and causing doming of my abdomen.  That worsens a diastasis recti, y’all!   Son of a gun.  It was so frustrating.  My rock star physical therapist advised that I take a step back.  Way back.  “Eccentric. Eccentric. Eccentric,” she advised.  What does that mean?  It means starting at the top of the pull-up movement and practicing lowering yourself down slowly.  I did this in front of a mirror and would stop the movement as soon as my core protruded.  I’d regroup, engage that core, and start at the top.

Crossfitting mamas–give up that kip.  Practice strict, mindful pull-ups until you know for certain you can keep your core intact through the whole movement.  As for me, I don’t kip anymore.  I simply can’t keep my core engaged as I am arching my back in the kip swing.

It takes a crap ton of patience. It sucks.  But you know what? I’m stronger now than I was before.  I know how to use my transverse abdominis like a boss.  My pelvic floor physical therapist told me this would be the case.  She told me that if I took a step back and learned to do a pull-up with proper form, I’d improve.  I did.  I have.

Diana, this elusive PT I’m always talking about, paid me a visit at my home gym earlier this week.  We are participating in a cool study that teaches new moms proper posture and then evaluates their pelvic health through a comprehensive survey (more on this later!). Obviously, we are hoping that women report better pelvic health and fewer complications postpartum.  It would be so great to make pelvic floor physical therapy the status quo for new moms, wouldn’t it?!!  Anyway, we got our nerd on and made a number of videos to help you gain strength and improve your core.

Check out this video. Please let me know if you have questions.  Are there any exercises you’d like us to demonstrate?  Shoot me an email or leave a comment!



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4 Comment

  1. Muscles and Mini-me's says: Reply

    Wauw, Great tip Ashley and Diana. I will really have a go at this! If done negative reps before in Bodypump, but had never heared of eccentric training before and its benefits. I also noticed i couldnt do pull-ups anymore postpartum. I just thought i got weak, but didn’t know my diastasis was (part of) the problem. I have been doing them more during the week, where i’m able now to do four (still very weak hahaha). I have actually never checked if i was doming (maybe i am). I feel that i am really arching like you also mentioned and have to really work hard on staying engaged. Hope i haven’t ruined my diastasis progress with this 😉 So thanks for the tip. I’ll know what to pay attention to now!! You are still an inspiration for me. I’m almost 10 months postpartum now and just can’t keep focused on healing my diastasis and doing my exercises with everything going on in my life. So it always encourages me to see you exercising. Have you healed your diastasis all the way now?

    1. Thanks for your feedback. Try a pull-up in front of the mirror, or have someone place their hand on your stomach as you pull. We arch because it takes so much core strength and our bodies compensate. When I get tired, I still have to fight the urge to arch. It is hard to dedicate time to healing DR. I found that even more important than doing healing exercises, was changing the way I walk and move. Have you ever looked up Katy Bowmen? Google her! She helps with posture. My gap is still about two fingers wide. I think I will always have it. What has changed though is my connectivity tissue beneath (in other words, I can’t stick my fingers in as deep). And I was a four-finger gap to start, so two feels pretty awesome. I am able to use my transverse abdominis even though I still have the gap, so I feel very strong and “normal.” That said, I stay away from traditional abs, and it is a daily thing to be mindful of my condition as I lift my kids, move the laundry, get out of bed, etc. Keep with it. I was still a hot mess at 10 months post-partum! It takes time.

  2. Erica says: Reply

    This was really helpful- thank you!! I just had a hernia surgery to repair the hernia I got during one of my pregnancies. After 4 pregnancies, diastasis recti, and a hernia, my core has been compromised and I’m only now realizing how to properly engage everything! I noticed that pull-ups are one of the hardest exercises for me to maintain core integrity, and I stumbled across your page as I was looking for tips. This gives me a really concrete plan to work towards doing full pull-ups while properly engaging my core. I don’t want a repeat hernia!! Thank you!

    1. Yes! Pull-ups take so much core strength and management of pressure. You don’t even realize it until the postpartum phase! Glad you found this useful!

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