10-step guide to strengthening your pelvic floor

The pelvic floor muscle group runs all along your core, from your stomach to your back and serve to support your bladder and bowel control, as well as your pelvic and sexual organs. Like any muscle, they can become weaker over time, so it’s important to be mindful of the need to train and strengthen them. 

What is the pelvic floor?
Pelvic floor muscles form the base of the group of muscles commonly called the ‘core’. These muscles work with the deep abdominal (tummy) and back muscles and the diaphragm (breathing muscle) to support the spine and control the pressure inside the abdomen. The pelvic floor muscles play an important role in bladder and bowel control, supporting the pelvic organs and sexual function in both men and women.

Exercising for good health
Exercise plays a huge role in your health as it improves your physical fitness and mental wellbeing. Resistance training strengthens and tones your muscles and plays a key role in keeping your bones strong. One size does not fit all when it comes to exercise and your exercise program needs to be tailored to suit your needs.

Here is a 10-step guide to putting your pelvic floor first:

 

  1. Avoid heavy lifting
    Keep your weights within a manageable range. Never lift heavy weights that make you strain or hold your breath. Avoid lifting weights from ground level. Aim to lift from waist height instead.

  2. Use your pelvic floor muscles
    Activate your pelvic floor muscles prior to and during resistance exercises. The goal is for your pelvic floor to be working immediately before and as you lift/lower/push or pull any load.

  3. Lift with good posture
    Maintain the normal inward curve in your lower back during every lift/lower/push/pull exercise you do, regardless of whether you are sitting, standing or lying on your back. 

  4. Exhale with every effort
    Never hold your breath or pull your tummy in strongly during an exercise. This increases the downward pressure on your pelvic floor. Breathe out with every effort, whether it is a lift, push or pull. 

  5. Choose supported positions
    Your pelvic floor will be under less strain if you perform your resistance exercises sitting or lying down wherever possible. Sitting on a Swiss ball is an excellent option.

  6. Keep your feet close together
    You will find it easier to activate your pelvic floor muscles by keeping your feet close together. If you are performing a standing resistance exercise keep your feet no wider than hip width apart. 

  7. Strengthen gradually
    Start using light resistance and pay attention to performing the exercise correctly to reduce your risk of injury. Gradually increase your resistance when you are confident of your technique. 

  8. Take care when fatigued or injured
    Your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles may not work as effectively when you are tired, unwell or have lower back pain. This may make you more prone to symptoms and injury. Take a break and return to resistance training when you have recovered.

  9. Rest between sets
    Rest for a couple of minutes between each set of exercises you perform. This gives your muscles (including your pelvic floor muscles) time to recover before your next lift.

  10. Avoid aggravating exercises and machines
    Listen to your body when exercising. If your symptoms are worse with a specific exercise, modify it or leave it and perform another exercise to strengthen the same area instead.

Speak to an exercise or continence professional if you experience any pelvic floor problems when you exercise. For further information ring 1800 33 00 66 or visit pelvicfloorfirst.com.au