pelvic floor strengthening

Exercise and Your Pelvic Floor

When we move our bodies through exercise, it’s like giving our muscles a friendly handshake, saying, “Hey, let’s stay strong and healthy together!” But did you know there’s a special group of muscles deep inside your body that also love to join the fun? Meet your pelvic floor muscles – the unsung heroes that help keep everything in place down there.

The pelvic floor references a group of muscles that attach to the pelvis and sacrum. Their role is to support the organs above them and assist in bowel and bladder function, sexual function, and birthing babies. They also play a role in supporting the hip, pelvis, and spine and managing pressure with activities such as walking, running or heavy lifting. Having a strong and supportive pelvic floor is essential and can help alleviate all sorts of issues like SIJ pain, leaking, heaviness, and hip labral impingement. 

As a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, I commonly see people diagnosed with urinary or fecal incontinence, bladder, vaginal or rectal prolapse and women who are pregnant and postpartum. Treatment for pelvic floor issues includes discussing lifestyle factors such as exercise, nutrition, sleep and toileting. 

The two most important things to note for a strong and supportive pelvic floor are breathing mechanics and movement variability. As we inhale the pelvic floor relaxes and as we exhale the pelvic floor contracts. It is extremely important to practice diaphragmatic breathing to engage the diaphragm fully as it promotes optimal rib cage expansion and reduces tension in the pelvic floor muscles. It is important when we exercise to pay attention to breathing so we avoid holding our breath. Movement variability includes incorporating a variety of movements into your routine to challenge the pelvic floor muscles. Movements can include dancing, plyometrics (or jumping), sprinting, lifting heavy weights, yoga and pilates.

What specific exercises should you be doing for a strong pelvic floor?

  • Movements that focus on eccentric control i.e. movements that focus on lengthening a muscle, specifically the glutes and pelvic floor in this scenario, will yield greater strength gains. 
  • Movements that focus on thoracic and hip rotation are essential to help load and lengthen the pelvic floor through their full range.
  • Single leg movements will improve hip strength and stability and therefore our pelvic floor muscles. It is especially important training single leg movements when returning to higher impact exercises like jumping, sprinting and running. 

Lastly, proper nutrition is essential for a healthy pelvic floor. Normal toileting includes urinating every 3-4 hours and having a bowel movement 2-3 times a day. Hydration is key throughout the day as is eating a nutritious diet of fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts in order to have healthy toileting.

So, the next time you’re getting ready to move your body, remember to show some love to your pelvic floor muscles too! With the right exercises and a little bit of care, you can keep them strong and healthy, helping you feel awesome from the inside out.