Why Do I Get This Bulge In My Abs When I Lean Back?
Updated: Mar 9
"What is this? I get this weird bulge in my stomach when I lean backwards. "
One of the moms I work with asked me this the other day, and she was really confused by it.
She had been told by a doctor that she has a diastasis, but when she tried to check for herself, her stomach was hard with a lump in the middle.
When checking for a diastasis, most people picture abdominal separation as having a gap in your abs that you can stick your fingers into.
But not every Diastasis shows up this way.
If you're not sure if you have a diastasis, the first step is to check yourself for softness in your connective tissue between your 6 pack muscles when they are under load.
But what if your stomach isn't soft but hard and bulges out?
Does that mean you don’t have a diastasis?
If you have a bulge in the middle of your abs when you lift your head (or when you leaning back while standing), then it could still be a diastasis.
It's hard to tell for sure if you don't know what you are looking at and this why so many moms get confused when they test themselves .
Having seen a wide variety of stomachs, both with and without diastasis, while working with moms, I have learnt exactly what to look and feel for.
Lots of the moms I teach to check themselves still feel unsure about what they are feeling with their fingers and ask me to coach them through the check and confirm for them what they find.
Worried it might be hernia rather than diastasis? Click here to learn how to tell the difference
What does the Bulging in your Abs mean?
If you have a bulge in your abs when you lift up into a small crunch, then the pressure in your core is so high and uncontrolled that it pushes out when you lift your head up.
You can clearly see what happened to my diastasis when I overloaded it with a hanging knee lift in the picture above. All the extra pressure that was too much for my core to handle pushed out creating a lump.
A bulging diastasis will be soft and squishy when you lie on your back completely relaxed with no tension in your core.
When you lift your head or lean back while standing (because standing creates a certain amount of core pressure in and of itself) you will see it begin to bulge out.
This high level of core pressure means that you can't push your fingers into your stomach like you see in the classic test for a diastasis.
Check out the photo (below) of one the moms I work with.
She has a “squishy belly” and an aching lower back after the birth of her twins but when I checked her for a diastasis there wasn’t a “gap” to feel.
She creates so much pressure in her core trying to stabilize her hips and lower back, that it actually bulges out and feels like a hard lump when she lifts her head.
She made the classic mistake of lifting her head too high and creating too much pressure when checking for diastasis.
To get a more accurate test of her diastasis, I had to feel down the mid- line of her belly when she was relaxed and get her very slowly to lift her head until I could feel the two sides of her Rectus (6 pack muscles) start to come together.
We then measured the tension in her connective tissue (how deep her diastasis is) and the width of her gap.
If you lift your head too fast or high when you test for diastasis, then you can get a false negative or bulging which makes it easy to think you don’t have a diastasis.
It doesn't look like a bulge - could it be Doming?
Doming is different from bulging and has a distinctive pyramid or cone shape all the way down your abs.
This is your Rectus ( 6 pack ) muscle lifting up and taking over when you lift your head and is another sign of a diastasis.
Doming tells us that your transverse abdominals (your deep inner core muscles) aren’t showing up to do their job.
When you are only using your Rectus muscles, then you are unevenly loading your core so you can’t create the right amount of tension in your connective tissue, which means your diastasis won’t heal properly.
Examples of Doming
Bulging and Doming are both signs of a Diastasis, so if you have these then you will need to do some core rehab work to heal your diastasis and get all your core muscles working together.
Bulging and Doming can also show up during the diastasis and core rehab process.
One thing that I love about Bulging and Doming is that they are really useful for letting you know how your core is loading. They aren't anything to be scared of or freaked out about.
If you are consistently bulging and doming during the day, then that isn't great for your connective tissue's healing, but a few times here and there while you do your exercises isn't going to do you any harm.
If you are doing an exercise that is too much too soon for your core strength, you'll see the bulge or doming come back.
This is a sign that you need to modify the exercise to an easier level, where you have control and spend some more time there building more strength before trying the harder exercise again.
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