‘Building core strength’ is a common goal for our patients but few of them are referring to the strength of their pelvic floor. Most people are familiar with ‘core’ exercises which target their abdominals, glutes and lower back muscles – like side planks, bridges and deadlifts – but don’t think of training the pelvic floor specifically, although it actually forms an important part of your core.

Your core a bit like a box, with your pelvic floor being the bottom. If you lift a box and one of the sections is weak, the rest of the box has to bear more of the load. So having a responsive and reliable pelvic floor helps support the function of the other muscle groups in your core (abdominals, glutes and lower back muscles), which will reduce the load on your spine. A good pelvic floor response also prevents urinary incontinence, helps treat prolapse and can help men reduce the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

Your pelvic floor is a muscle, so can be trained like any other muscle in your body. So how do you ‘find’ your pelvic floor muscles and strengthen them?

How to ‘find’ your pelvic floor muscles:

Your pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles stretching from your tailbone at the back, underneath and forwards to your pubic bone at the front. Most women are taught to practice their pelvic floor muscles by imagining they are stopping themselves from urinating, but this largely activates the front part of the pelvic floor and not the back part.

Instead, imagine lifting a marble gently up your back passage, then draw in the muscles of your vagina and finally imagine stopping yourself from urinating. Relax and let go completely, feeling it drop again.

Using this method – working from the back to the front of your pelvic floor – means that all parts of your pelvic floor are trained, not just the front.

How to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles:

Exercise 1: Hold and breathe

Place your hands on your lower ribs. Lift and draw in your pelvic floor using the ‘back to front method’ above, as hard as you can. Relax completely. Now draw in your pelvic floor using about half the effort and hold. Breathe into the base of your ribs, expanding your ribcage into your palms. Keep gently holding your pelvic floor for three to five breaths.

Exercise 2: Tighten your pelvic floor and deep abdominals, hold and breathe

Draw in your pelvic floor using half the maximum effort and hold. Gently draw your tummy in away from the line of your trousers and hold. Breathe into the base of your ribs, holding both your pelvic floor and deep abdominals, for three to five breaths.

Exercise 3: Lift and relax

Breathe out and draw in your pelvic floor using half the maximum effort. Breathe in and relax completely. Repeat 10 times.

Exercise 4: Lift quickly and relax

Draw in your pelvic floor as quickly as possible. Relax completely. Repeat 10 times. This is a fast ‘twitch’ of your pelvic floor (like a sneeze) and doesn’t have to be your maximum effort.

When to see a women’s pelvic health physiotherapist?

As with all exercise programmes, an individualised programme designed for your specific pelvic health needs is the most effective. In fact, for some individuals, other types of pelvic floor exercises may be more appropriate than strength training. This is where a physiotherapist who has specialist training in pelvic health can help.

If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

The Physiofit Team