“Man, I’m needing some direction. I’ve lived a pretty sedate lifestyle and am realizing that’s gotta change as a male at the age of 41. A big concern for me is that I’m quite sure I’m dealing with abdominal muscle separation. Can you point me in the right direction to a video or other material where I could use a kettlebell to reverse and heal this problem?”
The quick answer to this problem. No matter how much I believe in kettlebell training, and no matter how versatile they are, you don’t fix Diastasis recti (abdominal muscle separation) with kettlebells. Kettlebell training is what comes as the natural progression after the problem is fixed without adding load.
Although it’s very common among pregnant women to get abdominal muscle separation men can also get it. In this case, the message came from a male, but the solution to the problem will also work for females. It’s important to note that you want to avoid any forms of straining, i.e. any heavy lifting, hence, no kettlebells. You want to avoid pushing out and focus on pulling in.
What is abdominal muscle separation?
Abdominal muscle separation, diastasis recti, or rectus abdominis diastasis, is the separation of the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle. In men, it can be caused by excessive muscle or fat, an expanded stomach, or a hernia, forcing the abdominals to separate. When it comes to being overweight and sedentary, which in this case is the cause, there is fat pushing out against weak abdominal muscles that then separate.
Abdominal muscle separation prevention
In our case, to prevent abdominal muscle separation the abdominals would have been strengthened before any issues and the weight would have been kept at a normal weight. Sometimes easier said than done. This is the stage at which kettlebells come in and I would recommend some exercises like shown in this video. Of course, if I were personally involved, I would first assess the person to see whether bodyweight exercises would be recommended first.
Note that these exercises are not just targeted at the abdominals but the whole core. For injury-proofing, you do not want to focus on just one muscle group but the core as a whole.
Abdominal muscle separation repair
It should be noted that you are the best person to fix yourself and that you should not blindly follow any instructions or suggestions. What you should do is gently test the waters with common sense suggestions and pay attention to how you feel at all times. Do not keep pushing through when it feels wrong, listen to your body. Following are some solutions and recommendations to repair abdominal muscle separation for men that have been sedentary and are overweight.
- Reduce body fat
- Laying down abdominal contractions
- Standing crunches
- Standing lateral crunches and rotations
Low reps with a lot of time between reps and progressively build up.
Reduce body fat
It goes without saying that it’s key to reduce body fat which will reduce the outward pressure. To do so you need to look at what you eat, or rather how much you eat and/or drink. A great way to cut fat fast is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is great to reduce your hunger and portion sizes. The less you eat, the less hungry you will be, and the less you will want to eat (portion sizes). The problem is, it’s hard to not fall back into that trap of eating for pleasure or boredom. If you create a long-term sustainable plan that will also involve weight training at some stage then all this can balance out and work for anyone. Commitment and persistence are required!
Your plan would need to include:
- Structure and routine
- Entertainment/hobby to stay busy and motivated
- Resistance exercise like kettlebell training
- Healthy eating
- Healthy mind
Gradually increasing your steps to increase your activity and while doing so you are also working on your core. Walking recruits your abdominal muscles. Don’t expect six-pack abs, but it’s certainly a low-impact way to engage the core for someone at the start of their journey.
Laying down abdominal contractions
A great way to work the abdominals is to contract them while laying down. Laying down will be the safest and easiest form of this exercise. As you lay down you want to pull your belly button into your spine and keep your spine flat on the surface you’re laying on. It’s good to be able to visualize your rectus abdominis when you are contracting them.
- Lay down
- Do not push out
- Look at the area you are working
- Visualize the muscles (2 parts on each side and each area of that)
- Pull the muscles down toward your spine
- Keep your spine in place and pushed into the surface you’re laying on
- Release and relax but do not expand
How often should you do it? As often as you can without causing any issues. Gradually increase. Lay off for a while to recover if you feel uncomfortable, try again with a different approach to reps and rest. You know when you’re ready to take it to the next level. Don’t do too much at once and start slow.
Once you feel the strengthening effects of laying down abdominal contractions you can start including a new exercise which is the standing crunch. It’s almost the same as laying down contractions, but this time you’re also performing thoracic flexion (flexion of the spine), AKA crunching. The same concept applies, do not push out, pull in, and pull together. Standing is the progression to laying down. If you progress to doing these laying down at some stage then make sure you are not involving your cervical, keep focusing on the part you feel while doing these standing. Doing these laying down will add more resistance. Remember, no straining.
Standing lateral crunches and rotations
The rectus abdominis are superficial and in the middle, the transversus abdominis are located underneath, the external obliques are on each side, and the internal obliques are underneath on each side. We want to work everything, not just those muscles in the middle. So, a great way to work everything in a low-impact manner is to stand and contract. Perform all actions, flexion, lateral flexion, and rotation. These actions will work the abdominals as a whole. Lateral flexion and thoracic rotation are demonstrated and explained in the video with a kettlebell, start without a kettlebell.