Your pelvic floor probably isn’t at the top of your list of “things to strengthen,” if you didn’t recently give birth, but pay attention because pelvic floor exercises for women are important.
“A robust pelvic floor helps prevent incontinence and enhances the stability of your core,” says Rachel Nicks, a doula, certified personal trainer, and founder of Birth Queen, a philanthropic organization that supports Black mothers.
“Many individuals are unaware that their pelvic floor is a part of their core,” says Nicks. “So if you don’t know how to engage your pelvic floor, you can’t accurately plank, do a push-up, or perform any other exercises that rely on core stability.”
What, precisely, is your pelvic floor? Essentially, it consists of pelvic muscles, ligaments, tissues, and nerves that provide support to your bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum, says Nicks. You might not think about it, but it’s extremely important to ensure that your body is functioning properly.
Before delving into how to strengthen your pelvic floor with pelvic floor exercises for women, it’s important to learn how to access and isolate it. If you’re unsure how to do this, Nicks suggests sitting on the toilet because you’re bound to naturally relax in that position. From there, start urinating and then stop the flow. The muscles you utilize to make that happen are what comprise your pelvic floor and should be activated while performing the pelvic floor exercises for women below. Keep in mind that this urination trick is simply a means to become more aware of those hard-to-access parts of your body, and not something you should do all the time, Nicks cautions. Holding in your urine can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI) and other infections.
Once you’ve mastered that movement, you can progress to these four pelvic floor exercises for women that Nicks swears by when it comes to a strong and stable pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women
The Classic Kegel
As a refresher, Kegels involve clenching and relaxing the muscles that make up your pelvic floor. You can do these while lying down, standing up, or in a tabletop position (lying on your back with knees bent at a 90-degree angle stacked over hips), but like any other exercise, proper breathing is crucial. “You want to exhale during the clench and inhale during the relaxation,” she says.
A. Whether you’re lying down, standing up, or in the tabletop position, clench and relax your pelvic floor muscles. Exhale during the clench and inhale when the muscles relax.
B. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
Commence with 4 or 5 repetitions, the objective would be to reach 10-15 repetitions on every occasion, 2-3 instances per day.
This exercise expands on the traditional Kegel but requires you to contract your pelvic floor muscles for up to 10 seconds before releasing. Nicks recommends attempting these after you’ve mastered the traditional Kegel as they are more demanding.
A. Execute a kegel, progressively extending the duration to 10 seconds by adding one second each week.
B. Repeat this 10-15 times per session, 2-3 times a day.
Similar to pulsing during squats or lunges, the objective here is to activate and relax your pelvic floor muscles at the rhythm of an average blink of your eyes. “If you are unable to perform this at a rapid pace, then slow down,” says Nicks. “It is acceptable to gradually work your way up to it.”
A. Engage your pelvic floor muscles and relax at the pace of an eye blink.
B. Perform this 10-15 times, 2-3 times a day.
For the more advanced maneuver, attempt this pelvic floor exercise that requires you to progressively increase the intensity of your contraction and then gradually release. “I typically do this in three stages,” says Nicks. “So, you contract a little bit, a little bit more, and a little bit more until you reach your maximum, and then release in the same gradual manner until you are completely relaxed.” The relaxation phase is usually the most challenging and is demanding for everyone. “Don’t be disheartened, but the more you learn to contract and be aware of your pelvic core, the less unfamiliar these exercises will feel.” (More: These Drills Will Teach You How To Reengage Your Core After Childbirth)
A. Perform a kegel and gradually increase the contraction as much as possible.
B. Gradually release following the same pattern as the contraction, until completely relaxed.
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