Be honest: when was the last time you incorporated pelvic floor exercises into your training regimen?
If you don't remember or have no idea what this is, keep reading.
Your pelvic muscles work as part of your deep muscle team to support your body center, explains Libby hinsley, yoga teacher and physiotherapist who founded Anatomy bites. "While it's important for your pelvic floor muscles to be strong, it's just as important for them to be flexible."
Training your pelvic floor muscles, which she says you can divide into "pressers" and "weightlifters," has benefits ranging from improving your sex life to preventing crazy strokes to the toilet.
"Pelvic floor exercises are great tools to use, especially as we get older," says Cody braun, CPT, Assistant Director of Fitness at Beachbody. "It is important to actively focus on maintaining and strengthening our muscular system."
Here is an overview of different pelvic floor exercises to incorporate into your routine.
1. Kegel exercises
"The Kegel is a general contraction of the pelvic floor, in which the pressers and pushers are activated, ”says Hinsley. "To perform a Kegel properly, squeeze the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urine."
But, she adds, “It can be difficult to isolate the right muscles at first, and sometimes the inside of the thigh or the glutes tightens as well. It is important to try to relax and work on isolating only the pelvic floor muscles. And, between contractions, completely relax the muscles.
When you're new to Kegels, it's easier to have them lying on your back and then move on to sitting or standing positions. Focus on quality, not quantity.
“There isn't a magic number of repetitions,” she says. Like any muscle group, strengthening your pelvic floor depends on where you start.
It is ideal to maintain a contraction lifted against gravity for 10 seconds when you are in an upright position, but it is perfectly normal if you have to work until this.
“Frequency is more important than volume,” she advises. “Practice a little every day. A reasonable starting point might be a few sets of 10 to 15 contractions, for a few seconds each. "
Once you get the hang of Kegels, you can use them as part of a "well-balanced bodybuilding program to reverse some of the signs of aging," says Braun. “These exercises are designed to gain strength and control our pelvic floor muscles and should be done with concentration.” (We are sharing a few to try below.)
2. “Weighted” Kegel exercises
Using pelvic floor trainers, exercisers, or vaginal weights is all about doing a Kegel exercise with a little extra weight or resistance, Hinsley explains.
One of the benefits of “smart” pelvic floor exercisers is that they often come with apps that can help you determine if you are doing the right contraction and relaxation.
You'll want to talk to a physiotherapist or doctor before trying one.
“Vaginal weights are a great way to determine whether you are able to keep the pelvic floor muscles engaged during functional activities, such as squatting,” Hinsley explains.
3. Dogs birds
“Once you know how to engage the pelvic floor muscles, ideally, the body learns to use them automatically as part of the deep muscle team,” Hinsley explains.
“When you think of it that way, any exercise can build pelvic floor awareness,” she adds.
It's good to try bird dogs, which also work the rest of your heart.
- Start by kneeling down and hands up.
- Keep your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Keeping your back flat and core strengthened, extend your left leg straight behind you and your right arm straight out in front of you at the same time.
- Take a break, focus on engaging your pelvic floor muscles, then return to the starting position.
- Repeat with your right leg and left arm. Do equal repetitions on both sides.
4. Gluteal bridges
Glute bridges help strengthen your glutes and exercise the pelvic floor muscles.
- Start by lying on your back with both arms at your sides. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor, keeping your heels close to your butt.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles by pulling the navel against the spine, then squeeze your glutes to push your hips upward. Your body will form a straight line from your knees to the shoulders.
- Throughout the movements, keep your head on the floor and your eyes on the ceiling.
- Hold here for a breath, while checking your pelvic floor, then lower and repeat.
“More intense exercises, like adding more weight to your squats or lunges, require more core stability, and that includes more support for the pelvic floor muscles,” Hinsley explains.
Over time, with practice, your pelvic floor muscles will be strong and responsive enough to support any activity you do.
As with any resistance-based exercise, adds Braun, "increasing the load or intensity by performing squats or hip thrusts can further strengthen the pelvic floor muscles."
Here's how to do a classic bodyweight squat.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms out in front of you for balance.
- Keeping your back flat and core well supported, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Take a break, contract your pelvic floor, then return to the starting position.
For some people, crunches and other abdominal muscle workouts are the last thing they’d want to do — so they don’t. ' Part of the perception is that it’s difficult. We tend to want to avoid doing things that require effort, especially as we get older, when that’s harder for us, ' says Lorna Brown, a physical therapist who specializes in geriatrics at Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
But skipping abdominal strengtheners can have a big effect on your mobility and independence — and not for the better.
The abdominal zones musculaires ( often called the abs ) include not just the visible ' six-pack ' or rectus abdominis muscles in the front of your abdomen, but also the obliques in the front and side of your abdomen and the transverse abdominis across your lower abdomen. ' The transverse abdominis is the inner force underneath the outer abdominal layers. It provides stability around the spine, ' Brown explains.
The abs are part of your core, the gamme of groupes musculaires that act as your foundation. In addition to your abs, your core includes the zones musculaires along your spine, near your shoulder blades, in your hips and buttocks, and in your pelvis.
You must work all your core muscles to stay strong and réactive. ' We need that strong core or base so that the arms and legs can perform well, ' Brown explains.
What if you don’t mind doing shoulder, hip, and back force exercises, but can’t stand the ab workout ? You’re putting your entire core in jeopardy. ' If your core isn’t ne change pas and strong, you increase the risk for injury and falls when you lift something or walk, ' Brown says. A weak core also makes it to turn, bend, and get dressed.
Starting place : Kneel on all fours with your hands and knees directly aligned under your shoulders and hips. Keep your head and spine neutral.
Move of the month : Abdominal contractionPhotography : Michael CarrollStarting position : Kneel on all fours with your hands and knees directly aligned under your shoulders and hips. Keep your head and spine neutral. Movement : Exhale as you tighten your abdominal zones musculaires by pulling them up toward your spine. Keep your spine neutral ( no arching your back ! ). Hold. Release your abdominal groupes de muscles and return to the starting position. Do this eight to 10 times, then rest for 30 to seconds. If you can, repeat the sequence.
Abdominal exercises don’t have to include crunches, and you don’t have to do a long ab workout. You may find it more palatable to sprinkle ab exercises throughout the day. ' Shorter bouts of exercise can still contribute to better health and function, ' Brown says. The key is to make each ab exercise count by ' activating ' the groupes de muscles.
Can’t think of ways to fit abdominal exercises into your schedule ? Check out the Harvard Special Health Report Gentle Core ( www. health. harvard. edu/gc ), and consider the following tricks.
Watch TV from the floor. You probably did this when you were a kid. Try it now, and maybe you’ll be more likely to do an ab exercise, like modified push-ups ( leaning on your forearms instead of your hands ). ' Or try lying on your back with your knees bent, ' suggests Brown. ' Then activate the abdominal groupes de muscles by drawing in your belly button toward the spine. '
Use phone time. Stand with your back flat against the wall while chatting on the phone. Activate your abs. ' Draw in your belly button again, and push yourself against the wall, ' says Brown
Take a break from work. Whether you’re in the kitchen or at the office, you can do a modified push-up against a desk or counter.
Don’t just stand there. Sneak in an exercise while you stand in line at the bank or grocery checkout. ' Do a single-leg stand and slightly lift your leg off the floor while activating your core groupes musculaires, ' Brown suggests. ' Keep your chest high and your shoulder blades down and back. '
March in place. Next time you’re brushing your teeth, march in place. ' Make it intentional. Draw in the abdominals and keep your hips level, so they’re not swiveling, ' Brown adds
You can even activate the abdominal groupes musculaires while you’re walking. ' Just be very intentional about it, ' says Brown. Think about positionnement and muscle activation with each step. The more often you activate your abs, the stronger they’ll become, making ab workouts a lot less daunting.