How To Improve Your Pelvic Floor Fitness (Free Guide)
Whether it’s recovering from birth, leaking during giggles, or dealing with more serious symptoms below the belt, pelvic floor problems affect many women… often without them even knowing it. There is good news, though: you are not alone, and there is hope.
When it comes to staying fit and healthy, one area that often gets overlooked is the pelvic floor. Yet, keeping this crucial muscle group in tip-top shape is essential for a variety of reasons, from improving bladder control to enhancing intimate health. Today, we’re diving into the world of pelvic floor fitness with 5 simple exercises that you can incorporate into your routine. Whether you’re new to pelvic floor exercises or looking to refresh your regimen, these moves are all about strengthening your foundation—literally!
Disclaimer: All content within this site is not intended as medical diagnosis or treatment and should not be considered a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any health or nutritional information obtained is accurate.
What is a pelvic floor?
Think of your pelvic floor as a hammock. Now picture this hammock holding up your bladder, large intestine, and uterus. It’s a big job, isn’t it?
Located between your pubic bone and tailbone, your pelvic floor is made up of muscles and connective tissues that support your bladder, pelvis, bowel, and uterus. Without it, your organs could (quite literally) fall and not be able to function properly. Besides organ support, your pelvic floor stabilizes your lower back, prevents leakage of urine, contributes to your sexual health, and even pumps blood back up toward the heart.
Functions of the pelvic floor
We rely on the pelvic floor for a number of bodily functions, but its main role is to support our lower organs. By doing this, it keeps our sphincter muscle strong, (we’ll explain in a second), aids in sexual function and orgasm, and offers pelvic stability through the diaphragm.
For starters, your sphincter muscle is what allows you to “hold it in” when you have to go to the bathroom. The ability to activate and relax your pelvic floor muscles helps hold in waste when you need to, and let it out when it’s time to go. So, this a common area of concern for not only women who have had babies: not being able to hold it in, meaning they struggle with urinary leakage.
During sex, the pelvic floor also supports vaginal contractions and reaching orgasm. Fun fact: your orgasms are larger and more powerful when the function of your pelvic floor muscles is optimal.
What causes weak pelvic floor muscles?
There are many factors that can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction or a weakened pelvic floor. Leslie Kremer, DPT, a Doctor of Physical Therapy at Prenatal Postnatal Therapy, lists the following factors that can impair the pelvic floor muscles’ ability to function correctly: pregnancy, obesity, malpositioned pelvic bones, childbirth, traumatic accidents, surgeries, and sexual abuse are some main factors.
Childbirth is one of the top causes of pelvic floor disorders. More so, subsequent births increase a woman’s risk even further. It’s also important to know that even if you’ve had a c-section, you can still experience a weakened pelvic floor.
Common signs of a weak pelvic floor
We know it can be uncomfortable and often embarrassing to suffer from weak pelvic floor symptoms. But it’s important to know how common they are. According to statistics, 1 in 3 women have pelvic floor dysfunction, meaning lack of bladder control, fecal incontinence, and pelvic organ prolapse are a few main issues.
Having trouble understanding what’s happening down there? Kremer lists out some tell-tale signs your pelvic floor might be weak:
- Bladder or bowel leakage
- Urinary urgency or frequency
- Painful intercourse
- Pelvic heaviness
- Pelvic pain
- Lower back pain
- Pain in the hips
5 Exercises for Keeping Your Pelvic Floor Healthy
Pelvic floor exercises
One of the most effective ways to strengthen your pelvic floor is through targeted exercises. Take a look at these powerful movements the Doctors at Livi suggest for keeping your pelvic floor fit.
Kegel exercises are the go-to when it comes to pelvic floor exercises, and for good reason. They’re easy to do anywhere, anytime, and they’re incredibly effective. To perform a Kegel, simply tighten the muscles you’d use to stop the flow of urine, hold for a count of 3-5 seconds, and then release. The beauty of Kegels? No one will even know you’re doing them!
Not only is the bridge pose a fantastic glute workout, but it’s also great for your pelvic floor. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Press your feet and arms into the floor as you lift your hips toward the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes at the top and, more importantly, engage your pelvic floor by imagining you’re lifting a marble with those muscles. Hold for a few seconds before lowering back down.
Squats are a powerhouse move that benefits your whole body, including your pelvic floor. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and as you squat down, keep your weight in your heels and your chest up. The key here is to engage your pelvic floor as you lower down and as you rise back up. Think of it as a subtle lift of your pelvic muscles each time.
This gentle exercise not only stretches your inner thighs but also helps relax and open your pelvic floor. Sit on the floor with the soles of your feet together and your knees dropped to the sides. Holding onto your feet, gently flutter your knees up and down like the wings of a butterfly. For a deeper stretch, you can lean forward, but keep it gentle. This move is more about relaxation and flexibility than strength.
The pelvic tilt is a subtle but effective way to engage and strengthen the pelvic floor and the lower abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Flatten your back against the floor by gently engaging your abdominal muscles and tilting your pelvis upward. Hold for a few seconds, then release. Repeat 10-15 times. This exercise is all about precision and control, making it a great core stabilizer as well.
Just like any other muscle in your body, your pelvic floor can become stronger with exercise. Some women have pelvic muscles that are considered too tight—AKA a hypertonic pelvic floor. In this case, some practices are not recommended. Your personal trainer will be able to create a plan that suits you, as well as recommend the number of sets to perform.
See a pelvic floor physical therapist
Treating your pelvic floor is one thing, but finding the root cause of your issue is pivotal to pelvic floor fitness. Consulting with a pelvic floor specialist is the best way to start your healing journey.
“During your appointments, you’ll be introduced to exercises tailored to enhance the function of both your pelvic floor and core muscles,” Kremer says. Your therapist will use different techniques specific to your body in order to improve muscle function. Every woman is different and has their own unique story. “Suppose you have a history of birth or sexual trauma. In that case, it’s crucial to seek out a specialist with expertise in addressing trauma-affected tissues to achieve optimal results.”
Practice diaphragmatic breathing
You may be surprised to learn that by simply changing the way you breathe, you can actually improve your pelvic floor fitness. According to the National Library of Medicine, there is a direct correlation between the pelvic floor muscles and diaphragmatic breathing.
“Improving your diaphragmatic breath by inhaling into your rib cage with good posture is a great way to start influencing your pelvic floor in a positive way regardless the root cause of your symptoms,” Kremer says.
Here’s how the experts suggest doing it:
- Lie on your back on a flat surface with your knees bent and head supported.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. This will allow you to feel the movements of your body as you breathe in and out.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose so that your stomach moves up, causing only the hand on your belly to rise.
- Next, tighten your stomach muscles and breathe out through pursed lips, causing the hand on your stomach to lower as you exhale.
Diaphragmatic breathing helps your pelvic floor learn to contract and relax more efficiently. Experts suggest practicing this breathing technique for five to 10 minutes about three to four times each day.
Daily activities and lifestyle changes
Fitting in activities throughout the day to improve your pelvic floor fitness can be easy and well worth it. Professionals at Stanford Health Care suggest the following:
- Meditating to relax constricted pelvic muscles
- Decreasing the intake of caffeine and alcohol
- Performing pelvic floor muscle exercises
- Taking warm baths for muscle relaxation
- Drinking enough water and eating fiber to avoid constipation
- Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight
Practice makes perfect
Before becoming a mom, the term “pelvic floor” might have had little meaning to you. But now that you’ve entered motherhood, you might understand why pelvic floor weakness is such a big part of women’s health.
Fortunately, the first step towards pelvic floor health is getting guidance from the right healthcare
provider or pelvic floor physiotherapist, and staying consistent with your regular exercise. Remember, when performing exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor, it’s all about quality over quantity. Pay attention to your body, and ensure you’re using the correct form to avoid strain and maximize benefits. Here’s to a strong and healthy pelvic foundation!