The importance of pelvic floor and how to engage!
I would harbor a guess that almost everyone has heard of ‘doing a kegal’. I would harbor another guess that most of you are doing it incorrectly, if at all. Dr. Arnold Kegal was one of the first to address the importance of strengthening of pelvic floor muscles, particularly in postpartum women. Kegal exercises quickly became popular in people with incontinence issues and physicians and media began to tell ladies of all ages that strengthening the pelvic floor was important.
Here’s the thing: strengthening pelvic floor muscles is NOT just for the ladies, men need this too. It’s also not just for those who have had children or are over the age of 65. Learning how to properly engage pelvic floor is crucial for everyone!
What is my pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor is made up of a series of muscles that support the rectum, urethra and bladder (uterus as well in women). The function of our pelvic floor is not only to help with keeping us continent but also to provide support to our torso and postural muscles. In fact, the pelvic floor is a co-contractor of the transversus abdominis, multifidus and internal oblique who’s role it is to compress the abdomen and provide support and stability to the lumbar spine. The correct timing and firing of these muscles is crucial when dynamically moving our limbs.
How do I find my pelvic floor?
Unfortunately, this is one of those exercises, where pictures and videos do not help. These muscles are so deep and the contraction is isometric (meaning that there is no movement produced). However with a little practice you’ll be a pelvic floor contractor in no time!
Sit cross legged on the floor and lean slightly forward. You should be able to feel your pelvic floor resting on the floor (completely relaxed). If you find it difficult to feel, sit on a stability ball with your feet flat on the floor. The ball will provide a little more biofeedback than the floor.
With your pelvic floor resting on the floor, imagine that it is now an elevator. Where you are now, is the basement. If you were to do a full on Kegal (imagine stopping the flow of urine, without tensing your butt cheeks) that would be the fourth floor. Practice lifting the ‘elevator’ to the first, second, third and fourth floor, then release to the basement. Practice that as many repetitions as you can before fatigue (my guess is it won’t be many). Once fatigue sets in, STOP! Quality over quantity is of the utmost importance, do not practice bad technique.
Once you’ve mastered the levels, try to slowly release back down as well. Play a game such as this one: Basement – First floor – Second floor – Third floor – Fourth Floor – Third Floor – Second Floor – First Floor – Basement. Then you can take it to the next level and skip floors (ie. Basement – Second – Fourth – Second – Basement).
Lastly, work on your muscular endurance. Engage the pelvic floor to the second floor (no higher) and try to hold it there for 10 seconds. It’s a lot harder than it sounds! The first few times you will likely not be able to hold it that long and after a contraction or two, you may not be able to engage at all.
Benefits of a strong pelvic floor
Besides the obvious benefits of urinary continence, a strong pelvic floor can assist in a strong core meaning less lower back pain and strain, improved daily function and sport performance. But if these aren’t motivation enough… here’s the big one… for men and women… improved sexual gratification!!
Start your pelvic floor training today!