You may have heard the term “pelvic floor” in Pilates training. The pelvic floor is located between the tailbone (coccyx) and the pubic bone, spanning the base of the pelvic bowl.
Pelvic floor muscles are composed of two muscles and are popularly referred to as the Kegel muscles. These muscles support the bladder and bowel for both men and women, as well as the uterus and vagina in females.
In Pilates, the pelvic floor is considered an important part of the deep core. Additionally these muscles provide support for the pelvic organs for both women and men. They are important for the facilitation of birth for female, and proper bowl and sexual functioning.
Both men and women struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction, which can cause bladder, bowel, and sexual dysfunction. If you also struggle with this, Pilates can help.
Pilates for Pelvic floor strengthening
In the Lee Pilates Method, the pelvic floor muscles are part of the foundation for all movement. I train my clients to activate the pelvic floor muscles as they initiate many exercises. I also guide them to co-contract the pelvic floor with other crucial core muscles.
This creates more trunk and pelvic stabilization and prevents back strain during exercises that require a lot of core strength. (Think of planking or lifting and lowering straight legs in ab training). This deep core activation also supports the pelvic organs while stabilizing the spine, hips and pelvis. When the pelvic floor is weakened or de-conditioned, the efficiency and safety of our movement patterns are compromised.
For instance, a weak pelvic floor will compromise the entire core and may affect our balance. The hip joint may become less stable resulting in greater wear and tear over time. The spine could lose both mobility and stability and the internal organs will lack the full support they need.
Fortunately, the Pilates repertoire in both Pilates mat and Pilates equipment incorporates pelvic floor activation as a regular component of training. When practicing Pilates, the pelvic floor muscles will become stronger and more integrated in all movements and by extension for all daily activities.
Pilates Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor can become deconditioned like any other muscle if not used enough. The good news is this condition can be improved upon and even cured. Just like you train any other muscle in your body, you can train your pelvic floor. The first step in strengthening these muscles is to learn how to “turn them on”.
This requires one of the founding principles of the Lee Pilates Method- neuro-muscular reeducation. What does this mean? It means you must learn to connect your brain to the muscle causing it to engage or contract. For best results, start with small and simple, repetitive movements.
Pelvic floor muscle exercises can be performed sitting, lying or standing. Here are a few simple exercises for women and men that only take a few minutes.
1. Before you start, bring your attention to your pelvic floor area. Try to relax your abdominal muscles and breathe.
2. Squeeze and lift slowly, making sure you can fully release each time. When you can lift and let go, hold firmly for 5, building to 10 seconds while breathing normally. Release slowly. Repeat up to 10 times. Relax for 5 to 10 seconds between each contraction. Consider this endurance training for the pelvic floor.
3. Perform quick, short, strong squeeze and lift contractions. Repeat 10 times. Again be sure to release fully each time. Consider this anaerobic pelvic floor training.
4 Remember to squeeze and lift the muscles whenever you clear your throat, sneeze or cough.
Here are some cues for both women and men that may help:
- Pretend to touch the tip of the tailbone and pubic bone together
- Pretend to narrow your sit bones
- Visualize drawing a pearl up the vagina (women)
- Visualize a lift closing and going up (women)
- Imagine you are squeezing to stop from urinating
- Imagine you are contracting to prevent the passing of gas
To begin practice a few times a day. (The exercises only take a few minutes to perform.) Practice for at least three months for best outcomes.
For lasting results, continued practice in pelvic floor recruitment in Pilates and other physical activity is required. If you do not experience relief from symptoms make sure to talk with your doctor or a pelvic floor therapist about the problems you are experiencing.
Your Pelvic Floor is Essential for Optimal Health
While there is nothing to be embarrassed about with pelvic floor dysfunction, it is a sign that there is important work to be done. Fortunately there are many exciting and fun resources available, such as Pilates mat or the Pilates equipment. The Pilates repertoire includes hundreds of exercises designed to strengthen and improve the functions of the core, which include the pelvic floor muscles. Effectively addressing this issue is important for the quality of your movement – and life. If you are struggling with any of the symptoms above, talk to your Pilates teacher, personal trainer, doctor or physical therapist for help or for a qualified referral. Your pelvic floor is a fundamental part of your overall health and optimal functioning.
Want personalized pelvic floor training? Set up a session with me today to get started, get stronger and enjoy the vitality this training can offer you.