Exercising the pelvic floor muscles

pelvic floorFor many people, pelvic floor muscles are probably the most under-trained muscle in the whole body. It is the most important muscle that needs to be exercised on a regular basis. This applies to both sexes.  In this article I will focus on why its important for women.

In women pelvic floor muscles tend to get weak after child birth, so it is especially important to train them during and after pregnancy.  During pregnancy training the pelvic floor will help the body cope with the weight of the growing baby and assists with labour and child birth. After childbirth it helps the body to get back into shape and resume normal functioning such as exercising the core and maintaining bladder control.

It is useful to know where the pelvic floor muscles are located. This helps when it comes to train them. Pelvic floor muscles in women are a sling of muscles that stretch like a hammock from the tailbone at the back to the pubic bone at the front. In women the pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, the womb and the bowel. The urine tube, which is the front passage and the vagina, which is the back passage, all pass through the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles help with bladder and bowel control and sexual function (continence.org.au).

Why is it important to train pelvic floor muscles?

To maintain proper bowel and bladder control, to avoid incontinence, to assist with pregnancy and following birth, to assist with heavy lifts when training.

What weakens the pelvic floor muscles? 

  • Pregnancy and multiple pregnancies
  • Being overweight
  • Not training the pelvic floor
  • Old age
  • Heavy lifting
  • Coughing /sneezing and not engaging the pelvic floor

How to locate the pelvic floor muscles

The best way to find these muscles is when sitting on the toilet to pass urine. Aim to stop the flow midway and start again. This is only to locate the right muscles. It is not recommended to do this frequently as the bladder may not empty well. If you are doing this you must empty the bladder completely once you locate the correct muscle to avoid any infection in the area.

Pelvic floor muscle training plan 

The below plan is recommended by the continence.org.au and can also be found on their website.

  • Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and your vagina at the same time. Lift them UP inside. You should have a sense of “lift” each time you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Try to hold them strong and tight as you count to 8. Now, let them go and relax. You should have a distinct feeling of “letting go”.
  • Repeat ‘squeeze and lift’ and let go. It is best to rest for about 8 seconds in between each lift up of the muscles. If you can’t hold for 8, just hold for as long as you can.
  • Repeat this ‘squeeze and lift’ as many times as you can, up to a limit of 8 to 12 squeezes.
  • Try to do three sets of 8 to 12 squeezes each, with a rest in between.

Do this whole training plan (three sets of 8 to 12 squeezes) each day while lying down, sitting or standing.

While doing pelvic floor muscle training:

  • keep breathing;
  • only squeeze and lift;
  • do NOT tighten your buttocks; and
  • keep your thighs relaxed

A few good reps are better than many not so good reps, so start slow and build up. Like any muscle with frequent training you will tone and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. If you are unsure of how to locate them or how to train them speak to your Pilates trainer or a physiotherapist.

 

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