Pelvic Floor – how to strengthen it & why you should!

We hear lots about the pelvic floor in relation to women’s health, but did you know men have a pelvic floor too? Also did you know the pelvic floor isn’t one muscle – it is made up of a number of muscles including superficial and deep transverse perineal, ischiocavernsous, bulbopongiosus, lavator ani, coccygeus & Obturator internus.

Did you also know that poor pelvic floor function is linked to –

  • Increased incontinence of both the bladder and bowel – often linking pelvic floor disfunction to irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Increased urinary tract infections.
  • Physical problems such as back and hip pain.
  • Sexual disfunction including erectile disfunction, painful intercourse or reduced sensation and ability to orgasm.  

As a muscle group the pelvic floor has a lot to offer but it is often worked ineffectively or completely forgotten during physical activity. So here is what you need to know to work your pelvic floor efficiently….

Start off by checking you are working the correct muscles; when you engage your pelvic floor you should feel the muscles squeeze and lift.

If you are unsure…. Next time you are on the toilet try to stop yourself mid urine flow as you do this you should feel the squeeze and lift sensation I mentioned. Use this method to understand which muscles are needed but don’t do it too often as it can cause problems with bladder emptying if you keep stopping/starting. 

Once you understand which muscles control the bladder we then need to bring in the ring of muscle around the anus (back passage). To do this find a comfortable position sitting, laying even standing is ok (in the long term you want to be able to engage the pelvic floor in all these positions). Keep the buttocks, thighs & stomach muscles relaxed (this is harder to do if you are standing). Start by squeezing the ring of muscle around your anus. Be aware of keeping the buttocks relaxed. Then engage the muscles that stopped the flow of urine. The upper abdominals should remain relaxed you may feel a light tightening of the lower abdominal muscles which is ok as they will be working with the pelvic floor. Hold the muscles in for a count of 8 (you may need to build up to this!)

Practice this squeeze and hold doing a set of 8-12 repetitions. Do up to 3 set at least once per day.

You should also practice squeezing and releasing – this is the same as above but you do not hold the contraction. Repeat 8-12 times -3 sets at least once per day.

Once you have mastered this it’s time to start moving…. 

Pelvic tilt – Start laying on your back with your legs bent feet flat on the floor. Your spine should be in a neutral position. Engage the pelvic floor and allow the back to roll down onto the floor. Avoid pressing into your legs and feet it should feel like you are zipping up your trousers. Unzip and return to neutral. Repeat 8-10 times. 

Pelvic clock – this exercise is the follow on from the pelvic tilt. When doing this exercise imagine a clock on your pelvis – 12 is your naval 6 is your pubic bone. Engage and tilt the hips as above this bring you to 12 o’clock then roll the hips back, go past neutral allowing the pubic bone to point down and the back to arch away from the floor (stay within a comfortable range for your body). Start of by rocking between 12 & 6. As you get used to this move start to move between 3 & 9. You are not trying to lift the hips off the ground simply focus on contracting the muscles at the side of the waistline to shift the body weight. 

Once you have mastered 12, 6, 9 & 3 you can work in other number combinations such as 7 & 5; 10 & 2 and then the whole clock going from 12 to 1, 2, 3, 4 etc or reversing 12, 11, 10 and so on. 

Leg lifts/Toe taps – from your neutral position with your pelvic floor engaged. Draw your navel toward your spine feeling the hips gently tilt towards the floor and your bottom rib press down – this is imprint. Place one hand on your abdominals between your pubic bone and navel. Slowly lift your left leg up until your knee is above your hip – lower down and repeat on your left leg. The muscles under your hand should stay engaged keeping you in imprint. Repeat 8 times on each leg.

Pilates is a great way to focusing on your pelvic floor during movement. If you think this is something that you would benefit from why not get in touch or try a class soon.

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