Often, when we think of strengthening our bodies, we imagine lifting weights or intense cardiovascular exercises. However, some of the most crucial muscles are hidden deep within our anatomy and play a vital role in various everyday functions. One such group of muscles is the pelvic floor, and today we’re diving into the world of exercises designed specifically for it.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a hammock-like structure of muscles that stretch from the pubic bone in the front to the base of the spine at the back. It acts like a sling, supporting vital organs like the bladder, bowel, and uterus (in women). These muscles play a pivotal role in urinary and bowel functions, pelvic health, and sexual health.
So, What Exactly Are Pelvic Floor Exercises?
Pelvic floor exercises, popularly known as “Kegels,” are workouts aimed at strengthening the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises are often associated with women, especially post-childbirth, but they are beneficial for men as well.
The primary action in pelvic floor muscle training involves squeezing and relaxing the muscles, akin to the sensation of stopping the flow of the urine stream midstream. Over time, with regular training, these muscles become stronger, just like how your biceps would after repeated lifting.
Why Are They Important?
The benefits of a sturdy pelvic floor go beyond childbirth recovery and relate to many health topics:
1. Improved Bladder Control: As age catches up, or sometimes post-surgery, the strength of the pelvic muscles can wane, leading to urinary incontinence. This can be in the form of stress incontinence when urine leaks when you do things like sneeze or urge incontinence which can cause leakage. Regular pelvic floor muscle exercises can reduce or prevent this entirely.
2. Enhanced Sexual Function: A toned pelvic floor can lead to increased sensitivity during intercourse, leading to improved orgasms.
3. Support during Pregnancy: These muscles bear the brunt of pregnancy, supporting a growing baby. Strengthening them can help reduce the strain, potentially leading to a smoother childbirth and recovery.
4. Reduced Risk of Pelvic Organ Prolapse: The pelvic organs can, over time, sag into the vaginal wall in women. A strong pelvic floor offers better support to these organs, reducing the risk of prolapse and muscle dysfunction.
5. Better Bowel Function: Strengthening the pelvic floor can also assist in bowel control, reducing the chances of bowel/fecal incontinence.
While the concept of pelvic floor exercises sounds simple, like any exercise regimen, it’s crucial to ensure you’re doing them correctly. The key is to focus on the right muscles. It might be beneficial to consult with a women’s health physical therapist or a specialist initially to identify weak pelvic floor muscles and receive guidance on proper techniques for muscle contractions. Focusing on the correct muscles with interventions is key.
Remember, consistency is vital. Just like you wouldn’t expect six-pack abs after a week of crunches, it takes time to notice the benefits of pelvic floor exercises. However, with patience and dedication, the results can be life-changing.
Whether you’re looking to improve bladder control, enhance sexual health, or prepare for or recover from childbirth, pelvic floor exercises have a myriad of benefits. Dive in, get started, and discover the strength from within.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
These are simple exercises designed to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, offering benefits like improved continence, better posture, and even enhanced sexual health. If you’re keen on giving your pelvic floor some love, check out these top 8 exercises.
1. Basic Kegel Exercise
Let’s kick things off with the foundational move.
How to: Imagine trying to stop the flow of urine or prevent passing gas. That squeeze you feel? That’s your pelvic floor working.
Do: Hold the squeeze for a count of 5, then relax for another count of 5.
Reps: Start with 10 repetitions, gradually working up to 30 reps a day.
2. Deep Abdominal Strengthening
Deep abs are connected to the pelvic floor. Strengthening them can offer bonus benefits.
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Inhale deeply, allowing your belly to rise. As you exhale, draw your belly button down towards your spine and simultaneously do a kegel.
Do: Maintain a count of 5, then relax while inhaling.
Reps: 10 repetitions should do the trick.
3. Pelvic Tilt
This is a yoga favorite and an excellent way to engage both the core and the pelvic floor.
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Tighten your pelvic muscles (like in a kegel) and push your lower back into the floor. Your hips will slightly lift off.
Do: Hold for a few seconds, then slowly return to the starting position.
Reps: Aim for 1015 repetitions.
Yes, the good old squat is a hidden gem for the pelvic floor!
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lower your body as if sitting in a chair. Keep your back straight and ensure your knees don’t go past your toes.
Do: As you stand up, engage your pelvic floor muscles.
Reps: Start with 10 squats and build up as you get stronger.
This exercise, famous in the Pilates world, is terrific for stability and pelvic floor strength.
How to: Begin on all fours. Tighten your pelvic floor, then extend one arm in front and the opposite leg behind. Ensure your back remains straight.
Do: Hold the position for a few seconds, then switch to the other side.
Reps: 10 repetitions on each side should suffice.
Give your glutes and pelvic floor a simultaneous workout with the bridge.
How to: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. As you engage your pelvic floor, lift your hips towards the ceiling. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
Do: Hold the position for a count of 10, then lower.
Reps: Aiming for 1015 reps would be ideal.
7. Wall Sit
It’s not just a leg burner; it’s great for the pelvic floor too.
How to: Stand with your back against a wall. Slide down until your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle, like you’re sitting in an imaginary chair. Engage your pelvic muscles.
Do: Hold as long as you can, working your way up to 60 seconds.
Reps: Start with 2 or 3 repetitions.
8. Leg Lifts
Last but not least, leg lifts can be surprisingly challenging for the pelvic region.
How to: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Engage your pelvic floor muscles, then lift one leg off the ground.
Do: Hold for a count of 5, then switch legs.
Reps: Try for 10 lifts per leg.
A Few Tips to Keep in Mind
Consistency is Key: Like any muscle workout, the more you do it, the stronger those muscles become. Dedicate a few minutes daily for these exercises.
Quality Over Quantity: It’s more beneficial to do fewer repetitions with proper form than rushing through many.
Seek Expert Medical Advice: If you’re unsure about your technique or have concerns, it’s always a good idea to consult with a physical therapist who can offer guidance tailored to you. Also, these experts may use techniques like biofeedback as a way to show you the correct muscles to recruit.
There you have it—the top 8 exercises to keep that pelvic floor in tip-top shape! Whether you’re recovering post-pregnancy, looking to improve bladder control, or just wanting a more stable core, these exercises can be game changers. So, why wait? Begin your journey to a stronger pelvic floor today. Remember, like any workout, listen to your body and make modifications as necessary. Here’s to strength from within!
Remember, with any exercise, it’s essential to ensure you’re using the correct technique. If ever in doubt or if you experience discomfort, it’s a good idea to seek guidance from a professional. Happy exercising!