Alignment, Diastasis Recti, and What a Setback Can Teach You

Last week I ripped open my diastasis recti.


I’ve spent years working on my alignment and learned how to move in a way to protect my core.  I’ve healed a four finger abdominal gap and found my functional core strength. I’ve even been able to go beyond healing and have been training for my own athletic interests. I was feeling strong, confident, and smart on all of this.

But then I tried to bring my pull up progression to the next level and didn’t pay close enough attention to my rib alignment. While trying to engage my lats to lift my body, I allowed my ribs to thrust forward. Rib thrust + extra load = diastasis recti*.


One of the things I love most about restorative exercise is that it teaches you to move safely. This often means smaller, slower, more careful, and more precise movements, all of which train you to move from a place of better alignment reflexively. At the same time, one of my goals this year is to use the principles I’ve studied for so long and apply them to more athletic training. This time, unfortunately, I pushed it too hard and injured myself.


Because this was an acute injury, and not something that developed slowly over time, I had inflammation and pain that has served as a great tactile cue to when I’m rib thrusting or loading my core inappropriately. The first day I couldn’t handle any strength training without significant pain, so I just rested and focused on my alignment. The pain forced me to notice when I thrusted to get a glass of a high shelf, or when I sat up in bed by leading with my ribs. I even found that I had to breathe differently in order to avoid the pain; I suddenly had newfound motivation to initiate my breath with more of my ribs than ever before!


Once the initial inflammation went down I was able to resume my movement practice in earnest. Only now, in order to prevent further injury, I had to re-examine the foundations and reduce the load. Instead of push ups I’m doing half planks and really focusing on my alignment. Instead of pull ups I’m doing supported hangs and really working on my alignment. I’m finding ways to appropriately use my rectus abdominus to stabilize my rib cage in my hanging, as well as when I’m working on my thoracic back bends.


Katy Bowman often says that alignment is learned in layers, and progression is consequently non-linear. As frustrated as I’ve been to have reopened my DR, I remain grateful for this opportunity to deepen my understanding of key elements of this work.


*Maybe. This movement pattern is very common in people who develop a DR, but not everyone who moves in that way will have a DR.

Leave a Reply