Spoiler alert: The remedy for improving your pelvic floor function and healing incontinence often lies far beyond an isolated Kegel exercise! Let’s ditch the “Kegel marathon”.
Here at Our Fit Family Life, we’re revolutionizing pre & postnatal fitness by giving you all the cues to simply and effectively improve your core and pelvic floor function!
Knowing the Basics
As we saw last time, the pelvic "floor" is an appropriate name because it’s situated at the bottom of the pelvis, and closes off the opening that would otherwise allow the pelvic and abdominal contents above it to fall through! It’s a system of muscles, ligaments, tissue, and nerves that form a support for your bladder, uterus and bowel. (click here to read more about pelvic floor muscles function)
Note that even if you can’t see your pelvic floor, you can consciously control and exercise those muscles, just as you would any other muscle.
Women’s pelvic floor
As women, our pelvic floor is weaker than men’s because ours is pierced by the vagina. Plus, our pelvic floor is subjected to much more stress, especially during pregnancy and childbirth. Once becoming a Mother, regardless of how you gave birth, your chance of developing urinary incontinence increases. Your whole core needs to be re-strengthened with postnatal exercise and then proper function need to be maintained.
Including pelvic floor muscle exercises in your daily routine helps prevent and manage incontinence, and can make sex more pleasurable!
Healthy pelvic floor function is the foundation for your entire core.
How to do Pelvic Floor Exercises
How to strengthen pelvic floor muscles?
Where to start?
Logically we’d start with the pelvic floor, right? Well… not exactly. Pelvic floor exercises start with proper breathing! Our breath is what connects our whole core: pelvic floor, diaphragm, and deep abs and back muscles.
Pelvic floor exercises– Step 1:
Make sure your breathing pattern is correct
· Find a comfortable position
· Place one hand on your abdomen, and one on your chest.
· After an exhale, start to inhale normally as you allow your diaphragm to fill your abdomen in the every dimension: front, sides and back. You should feel the hand on your stomach rising and the hand on your chest should barely move, but your ribcage expands laterally.
Imagine the air travelling: it goes through your nose, down to your lungs, abdomen, and then lastly into the pelvis as it softens the pelvic floor.
· Then exhale and feel the hand on your abdomen falling as the air escape from your mouth.
All of this movement is JUST breath so make sure that you don’t force the inhale or exhale. It should happen naturally.
Pelvic floor exercises– Step 2:
Activate your pelvic floor
Let’s turn this same breathing technique into an exercise that will help you create more awareness in your pelvic floor and core unit. This is the basis of pelvic floor exercise.
- Inhale gently as you practiced previously
- Then start the exhale by squeezing your pelvic floor (by closing the urethra, vagina and rectum). Squeeze from:
Front to back: think about drawing the pubis and tailbone together
Side to side: think about drawing your sit bones together
And then bring this all together, drawing the 4 corners together and LIFT.
Once again, this has to be done on the exhale.
- Relax on the inhale and repeat
Pelvic floor exercises– Step 3:
Emphasize the action of the core
Now let’s add a resisted exhale to emphasize the action of the pelvic floor and entire core.
You’re going the do the same:
Inhale gently, filling your abdomen in the all dimensions
Squeeze and bring the 4 corners together
Exhale and and lift your pelvic floor while doing a hissing sound “Sssss”.
Relax (pelvic floor muscles + abdomen) on the inhale
You may feel that the strong “Sssss” helps lift your pelvic floor and start to engage your deep abdominal muscles as if you were zipping up a corset around your torso.
Picture the exhale and core engagement moving up your core with the active exhale.
Imagine a compression going from:
Side to side: your hip bones draw in towards one another
From bottom up: your ab midline wraps from your pubic bone to your sternum
Pelvic floor exercises– Step 4:
Exercise in different positions
To maximize the benefits of your pelvic floor muscle training, exercise in different positions to work on every dimension of your pelvic floor.
Some positions may feel more challenging because you can't feel the pelvic floor engaging as much as others. This can stem from personal preferences, but it also depends on the nature of the positions. It's important to not confuse “easier” with “more effective”.
Make Pelvic Floor Exercises a Routine
Here are some ideas for fitting pelvic floor exercises into your schedule
Women often lack pelvic floor awareness. That’s why it may be challenging at the beginning and you may not be sure if you’re doing everything properly BUT the more you practice it, the more awareness and activation you’ll develop.
This breathing technique can be used:
throughout your day (laying in bed, watching TV, waiting in line at the super market, at a red light in your car, at work…)
or added to an exercise to optimize your workouts
Hundreds of exercises used in our Mommy Body Bliss Series are based on this technique! So, whether you’re thinking about having a baby, are pregnant, trying to flatten your post pregnancy belly, or trying to get stronger while maintaining a healthy pelvic floor… there is a Mommy Body Bliss Program for you!
Knowledge and raised awareness about the pelvic floor are key to prevent and/or improve pelvic floor function issues.
Women do not have to live with pelvic floor issues just because they became Mothers. Most of us can make huge improvements and regain ab and pelvic floor muscles function by performing these regular pelvic floor muscle exercises. Pelvic floor exercises should be part of our daily life, whether it’s to re-strengthen or maintain a healthy function!
Sadly, out of embarrassment, shame, or fear, too many women give up doing what they love and try to ignore symptoms as long as they can before seeking help becomes unavoidable.
We shouldn’t be shy talking about the pelvic floor and our “private” problems. Better yet… we should all know how to prevent these issues in the first place! That’s why pelvic floor exercises should be one of the first pregnancy tips given to expecting Mamas.
It’s time to give our pelvic floor and breathing the attention they deserve and acknowledge their fundamental role, to live an active pain-free life to the fullest!
Find more example pelvic floor exercises for women here
Pelvic floor muscle problems are diagnosed by specially trained Doctors and Physiotherapists using internal and external “hands-on” or manual techniques to evaluate the function of these muscles.
Please remember that I offer online fitness programs. They should not be used as a substitute for hands on personal attention from a Doctor or Physical Therapist