When you think of working out, the last thing that comes to mind might be strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. But it turns out these muscles play a pretty significant role in how our bodies function.
A recent study found that nearly one-third of women have some sort of pelvic floor disorder. With these numbers, we simply can’t ignore these inconspicuous muscles. Let’s talk about what the pelvic floor is, why it’s important, and how to strengthen it.
Understanding Our Pelvic Floor
What are your pelvic floor muscles?
Your pelvic floor muscles are nestled right below your core and play a vital role in supporting your large intestine, bladder, and reproductive organs. They stretch from your pubic bone to your tailbone and reach to both sides of your hips.
Here’s a little trick to feel these muscles at work: Imagine you’re sitting on the toilet and you make a sudden stop midstream. You should feel your muscles squeeze and lift–these are your pelvic floor muscles. They help control your bladder and bowels, allow blood flow and vaginal contraction during sex, and aid in vaginal delivery during childbirth.
Why does your pelvic floor strength decrease?
Over time, our pelvic floor muscles can weaken or relax. When this happens, it can lead to pelvic floor disorders such as:
- Incontinence: Struggling to control when you urinate or pass a bowel movement.
- Pelvic organ prolapse: When unsupported pelvic organs, like your uterus, bladder, and rectum, start to fall out of place. They can even protrude through your vagina or anus, requiring surgery to fix.
A few causes of weakened pelvic floor muscles are:
- Injury or trauma, including childbirth or surgery
- Overuse (repeated heavy lifting, chronic coughing, constipation)
- Hormone changes during menopause
Weak pelvic floor symptoms
You may be wondering if you are at risk. Look out for these symptoms that might suggest a weak pelvic floor:
- Frequent urge to go to pee, with the need to “force” it out
- Chronic constipation, or straining to have a bowel movement
- Leaking stool or urine when sneezing, coughing, or any activity that puts pressure on your core.
5 Simple Exercises To Help Regain Pelvic Floor Strength
Try these exercises daily for a couple of months, and you should feel a noticeable difference in bladder control and sexual pleasure.
Kegels directly target your pelvic floor muscles. It’s an easy exercise that has major benefits.
How to: You may have already performed a Kegel when you were finding your pelvic floor muscles a few paragraphs ago. If not, here’s what to do: Imagine you’re on the toilet and suddenly stop midstream. Hold it for a few seconds, and that’s a Kegel!
Practice this throughout the day–sitting, standing, laying. Hold the Kegel for 5-10 seconds. Take a 10 second break, then do it again. Try 10 reps 2-3 times a day.
P.S. Don’t make a habit of doing Kegels while urinating—it can lead to a UTI.
Squats not only target your pelvic floor, but also strengthen your hips, legs, and obliques. They’re also an excellent way to sneak a little calorie-burning cardio into your day!
How to: Place your feet hip-width apart. Keep your toes in line with your knees as you squat down with a straight back. Slowly stand up keeping your legs and glutes tight. Try 10 reps and increase as you get stronger.
Proper form is important with squats. Bad form can lead to knee pain and injury. If you need guidance, watch an online video like this or chat with a professional trainer.
Bridges strengthen your glutes and core in addition to your pelvic floor muscles. With proper form and consistent work, it can also lead to reduced back pain.
How to: Lie on your back. Bend your knees, placing your feet right below your knees and arms by your side. Contract your glutes and slowly lift your hips in the air. Hold for around 10 seconds. Then, release your hips to the ground with control. Try 10 reps and increase as you build strength.
Squeeze and release
This exercise is similar to the Kegel, but it targets the “fast-twitch” muscles in your pelvic floor. You can do them at any time or any place, so aim for 2-3 sets per day.
How to: Find your pelvic floor muscles and contract them as quickly as possible. Release just as quickly, and rest for 5-10 seconds. Do this 10-20 times throughout the day.
Pilates for pelvic floor
Pilates is a great exercise option your pelvic floor will love! The focus on breathing and controlling small movements will have your muscles feeling powerful.
Moves like ‘dead bugs’ and ‘Pilates planks’ target your pelvic floor and core. We recommend checking out your local Pilates studio or finding a pelvic floor Pilates video on Youtube.
Benefits Of Having A Strong Pelvic Floor
Stronger pelvic floor muscles mean improved bladder control and more self-confidence for you to live your best life! Other benefits of a strong pelvic floor include:
- Better posture with less back pain
- Reduced risk of prolapse
- Improved recovery after childbirth or gynecological surgery
- Increased sexual sensation and orgasmic potential
Just as a sturdy foundation is essential to support a building, the pelvic floor plays a crucial role in supporting the human body. Without a strong foundation, everything else is at risk. So, let's make sure to give our pelvic floor the attention and care it deserves!