Your pelvis houses some pretty essential organs, including your intestines, urethra, bladder, rectum, and, for women, the vagina, cervix, and uterus. Unfortunately, your pelvic floor muscles get weaker over time and after childbirth, which leads to incontinence and the need to wear pads or adult diapers when sneezing, coughing, or exercising.
Keep in mind that both men and women have the same pelvic floor muscles and, for both genders, the muscles may weaken with trauma and age. Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen weak muscles through pelvic floor training. Here is what you need to know.
What Is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles and connective tissue in your pelvis. These essentially form a basket and contract around the surrounding organs to control essential functions such as urination. The pelvic floor also helps stabilize your hips and trunk.
How to Find Your Pelvic Muscles
An easy way to find your pelvic floor muscles is to lie down on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Then, focus on squeezing as though you are trying to prevent yourself from passing gas or urine. The muscles that you engage in that squeeze are your pelvic floor muscles.
How to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor
Exercising to strengthen the pelvic floor allows you to better control your bladder and bowel. You should talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise plan to ensure you are healthy enough. Talk to your doctor about any chronic pain you might have, as well, such as back pain.
Several exercises can help you strengthen your pelvic floor, including:
- Kegels: This popular exercise involves contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles. If you are new to Kegels, start lying on a flat surface with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Focus on your pelvic floor muscles for a moment and then exhale, pulling your belly button to your spine while you contract the pelvic floor. Hold for one second and then release. Repeat ten times for one set. As Kegels becomes easier, you can do them sitting or standing.
- Heel Slides: This exercise works your pelvic floor and the deeper abdominal muscles. Start by lying on a flat surface with your knees bent. Breathe in, expand the rib cage, and breathe out, allowing your ribs to compress. Draw your pelvis up and lock your core as you push your right heel away from you. Find the furthest place where you can slide your heel while still keeping your core engaged, reposition and repeat. Do ten sets on each side.
- Marches/Toe Taps: Start by lying on a flat surface with your knees bent. Breathing in and out deeply, lift your pelvis, and use your core to keep it elevated. Slowly lift one leg to a tabletop position, then lower. Repeat the movement and alternate legs. If you feel pain in your lower back, stop and re-engage your core.
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