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“Five years ago, I developed separated abdominal muscles during my pregnancy with my twin girls. I had a fairly long road to recovery, but I’ve since gotten back into shape and am currently prepping for a fitness competition. For my abs, I typically do weighted crunches on a stability ball, hanging leg raises, and machine crunches as part of my regular routine. I’d love any workouts to help with the abdominal separation and get back to peak shape!”
– Chrissy N., San Jose, CA
Let me start by saying that there are no exercises that help with abdominal separation. Repairing and recovering from this condition, known as diastasis recti, starts and ends with core strength, posture, and alignment. Some of the exercises you are currently doing (such as hanging leg raises and weighted crunches) are actually forcing more intra-abdominal pressure and will only contribute to continued separation.
My advice: Relax and lay off the ab exercises. You’re better off engaging your midsection during other strength exercises. For moves like squats, rows, presses, curls, etc., think about engaging your midsection. This will work the abdominals without causing pressure or protrusion. Focus on flawless spinal alignment and posture. For women who have given birth more than a year ago, choose exercises that don’t “bulge” your belly—in other words, avoid moves that extend your belly outward (for example, leg raises and stability ball crunches), which will inhibit and delay ab muscles returning to normal form.
SEE ALSO: The Eight-Week Cardio Abs Workout Plan
As for the rest of your workout, 55 minutes of cardio a day is excessive unless you have a lot of weight to lose. You’re likely burning muscle along with fat. Cut it down to 40 minutes max of steady-state aerobics, six days a week, while keeping calories and carbs low. On your leg day warm up just 10 minutes on a stationary bike.
Finally, there are a few other tweaks you can make to your schedule. You have shoulders directly following chest workouts. Shoulders are used during chest training, and doing a push after a push is overworking. Since figure competition is judged on shape and taper, your shoulders should take priority over your chest. If you’re doing a five-day split, throw your heavy leg day in the middle, on Day 3. Currently, you have too much upper-body rest between back and shoulders. Good luck in your training.
*Old abs routine (twice a week): Weighted crunches on a stability ball, hanging leg raises, machine crunches, abdominal draw-ins