Part One & Part Two
I was prompted to write this post after noticing a post in my newsfeed from Julie Wiebe PT and her observation that in many of the BEFORE & AFTER photo's courtesy of the Diastasis Healing Community, the women with the 'better bellies' also had flat butts! Some might argue on an aesthetic level, better a flat butt than a poochy belly but on a functional level they probably rate as negatively as each other. Strong, functional glutes have a foundation role in anchoring the pelvis in it's optimal position for Pelvic Floor function amongst many other more visible and invisible jobs.
Incidentally, I think the issue in the Diastasis clients' case is more about an attitude of micro-managing the Diastasis at the expense of creating a truly integrated and functional programme for the whole system. The Diastasis belly is a fundamental part of the global system and even in the restorative phase, isolating it is through immobilization is a move away from true function in much the same way as perpetually performing Kegels in a static supine position are for the Pelvic Floor.
So, as a Post Natal Exercise Specialist I thought I'd present my top selection of highly effective glute-strength/activation moves that challenge in multiple planes, are performed in the mostly standing (most functional) position and are safe for a client with a healing Diastasis.
TOP TIP! Job No:1 - Create some freedom in the 'hips' on a superficial and deeper level. To really activate Glute Max we need to be able to get into hip extension and even into hyperextension to tip the scales for activation. ( This is not the same as increasing lumbar lordosis - watch the vid in Part 2).
Chances are, if you're working with new moms who have been sitting to breastfeed for a large chunk of the day and/or are still sporting the after-effects of the biomechanical/postural changes of Pregnancy, their hips/pelvis will most likely benefit from a little mobilization and freeing up. Also, if the new mom is still walking with a wider foot position and everted feet, you might want to also add a 'release' for her Piriformis if it tests as positive for hypertonicity. Feet locked in eversion because of a too-tight Piriformis have the potential to maintain an anteriorly tilted pelvis in this non-optimal position. So here are my three offerings for 'releasing' the 'hips' in a dynamic, multi-planar, rhythmical fashion. They are all utterly delicious and once you've gone here.....you'll never go back to anything even looking like a static/old skool stretch. PS, simply reduce the range of the last release into the frontal plane (lateral flexion) for the Diastasis client and emphasize the movement of the pelvis into the frontal planes as opposed to arms. If the Post Natal client doesn't appear to move too well into the frontal plane, I would also check for shortness in the Quadratus Lumbourum (QL) that may also be lingering from 'Pregnancy Posture'.
And here is a really KIND way to release Piriformis using Soft Tissue Release (STR) strategy.
Ok, so once the client if moving freely NOW we apply EXERCISE TO STRENGTHEN!
But where to start with Diastasis in mind? Well, if you dig a little deeper than the lastest fitness video/craze and what you were taught all those years ago on your Fitpro or PT course, you'll come across some highly interesting pieces of strength and conditioning research that mostly comes to the conclusion that whilst squats and lunges need to be in your functional performance repertoire, they are not necessarily the moves that fire up the Glutes (Max and Med) maximally under the scrutiny of EMG. Shock horror.....so what else can we do to build a better, functional bum in a way that's safe for a client with a healing Diastasis who needs to be careful of big weights and building pressure against a weakened abdominal wall that she's unable to control.
Here's a few of my big hitters for Glute Med and why they work....
1. Anterior Posterior SL Squat - basically the rest phase of this traditional exercise is taken away so time under tension is increased and a pseudo Pistol Squat is added to the mix. Can be performed on the floor also but Whole Body Vibration (WBV) simply enables and increase of 'load' without adding a typical load such as dumbbells and massively increases rate of muscle contraction so better results in less time.
2. Off-Sagittal Bridge to Leg Extension - the tweaked foot position encourages improved Glute Med activation and the bridge (it could be higher also) is fantastic work for activating Glute Max so killing two birds with one move. Incidentally, 'hip-thrusting' is the holy grail of building a better bum in S&C circles.
3. Mini-Band Lateral Steps & Penguins - Resisted abduction with a straight ahead foot is powerful for Glute Med and the 'Penguins' add a little blitz to the end of the move now the work is isometric.
4. X-Band Stepping - as No: 3 above.
Part 2 - My ULTIMATE, Diastasis safe selection for Glute Max. Hope they help! I Would love your feedback!