If you suffer from urinary incontinence, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help retrain your pelvis to reduce leaks and accidents, as well as mitigate other side effects that could come with it. There are a variety of reasons your pelvic muscles could weaken, from the aging process to childbirth or even catastrophic injury.
Exercising can drastically reduce your symptoms of incontinence and other pelvic conditions, and incorporating small tasks into your daily routine will improve not only your muscles, but your overall quality of life. Studies have also shown that pelvic floor strengthening can help prevent pelvic organ prolapse, which can cause painful symptoms down the road.
These essential exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles are simple and easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Bridge exercises are most commonly associated with your glutes and hamstrings, but when executed properly, they also target your pelvic floor. To do a bridge, lay with your back flat on the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be flat, and your arms should be straight along your sides, palms down. Inhale, and then raise your hips off the floor until your body is in a straight line from your torso to your knees. Pause for a few seconds, and then slowly return to the starting position.
The goal is to use your hamstrings and glutes to lift your hips while the rest of your body stays still. Try to do three sets of 10 to 15 reps. If this is too much at first, start out with just two sets of 10.
You can perform bridges with or without weights. Those who need a moderate to light workout can stick to the basics, but if you are physically active and want a bit more of a challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand while you perform your bridges.
Since squats are focused on the buttocks, they also target your pelvic muscles. However, only certain types of squats will give you the pelvic strengthening action you need. Narrow, more shallow squats are better for targeting your pelvic muscles, while wider squats can make it more difficult for your pelvis to contract, thus reducing the impact.
To properly perform a narrow squat, stand with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight and leaning slightly forward, bend your knees and slowly lower your buttocks toward the floor. Your knees should always be in line with your toes, and you should feel like you’re sitting on an imaginary chair. Slowly return to your starting position and repeat. Aim for a total of 10 reps at a time, in as many sets as you can do. Make sure you rest between sets.
3. Bird Dogs
Most notably used in yoga and Pilates, bird dog exercises target a wide range of muscles, including your pelvic floor. It’s particularly effective for your back and abs, but can also work your glutes and hips.
Start out on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your wrists under your shoulders. Make sure you keep your head down so that your back and spine stay straight. Your head should stay down throughout the entire exercise. Keeping your abs, back, and pelvis tight, raise your right arm and left leg at the same time until they’re both straight. Once they’re straight, hold the position for up to five seconds and then slowly release. Repeat the same motion with your left arm and right leg.
Continue alternating between sides for a total of ten reps – five on each side. Aim for three sets, but if it takes time to get to that point just take it slow.
4. Tabletop Splits
A classic component of any Pilates routine, tabletops can become another secret pelvic booster when you add a split. This move has an added bonus of helping you tone your abs and core, so you’ll feel this more in your abdomen when you’re done.
To perform this exercise, begin by laying on your back with your spine flat and your legs in the air, knees bent at 90-degree angles so your shins are parallel to the floor. Use your abs to balance as you slowly split your legs outward. Go as far as you can while still remaining comfortable, and then return back to the starting position.
Try to aim for three sets of 10 to 15 reps, but like the rest of these exercises, start out with just two sets of 10 if you need to start on a lighter note.
Kegels are one of the best exercises you can do to help improve your pelvic floor muscles. Additionally, since they are so discreet, you can do them just about anywhere, at any time – even while you’re at work. Try them while you’re brushing your teeth, making dinner, or while you’re watching television. You don’t even have to put your glass of wine down.
To locate your pelvic floor muscles, just stop urination mid-stream. The muscles you contract to do this are your pelvic floor muscles, and to perform kegels, you’ll do the same contracting motion. Simply contract and hold them for about 5 seconds at a time. Do these in reps of 10, about three times a day.
You can also try doing rapid kegels. These are quick squeeze-and-release motions that use the same form as kegels, but faster and without waiting for the contraction. These can be done in sets of up to 20 reps.