You may need to strengthen your pelvic floor as part of some injury rehab, as part of your post partum recovery or for continence problems – one of the best ways to begin the road to recovery & full core restoration is by doing Kegels but how do we progress from there?
First let’s look at why the pelvic floor plays such an important role in our core restoration. Strengthening your pelvic floor will underpin any fitness goals you have, be they running, fat loss or just daily life. It’s worth noting that 48% of primiparous women & 85% of multiparous women experience some degree of incontinence also worth noting is that incontinence is the second most common reason after dementia for admission into assisted living. So pelvic floor exercise is crucial!
Initially & in fact after any injury the first place to start rehabbing a muscle is by being able to isolate the area in the first place. If your brain can’t access the neural pathway then moving on to a more complex movement will retard healing. So this is where a traditional Kegel (think, stopping flow of urine) is very helpful, a basic switching on & switching off of the muscle. Doing this will also help promote blood flow to the healing tissues & therefore aid the restoration process. If you find you can’t feel anything or you’re at all concerned get a proper exam by a women’s health physio who will be able to tell what’s going on.
This protocol will work well for that initial 6 week period post partum – you should feel the muscles getting stronger & easier to contract. Make sure you fully relax the pelvic floor between contractions as having a hypertonic or too tight muscle isn’t helpful either! Use your breath & visualisations to help you maximise the connection – so as you exhale, squeeze, as you inhale, relax. You can see from the diagram above how the pelvic floor muscles lie across the bottom of the pelvic cavities & this should give you an idea of what you are trying to access & also how important it is to have some muscle tension supporting the bladder, vagina & bowel.
Progress it by using pelvic floor activation as you lift & move, this is a key part of your on-going restoration. If you can protect the pelvic organs using the pelvic floor muscles as you add load (baby, laundry, you, buggies etc) you will prevent that added intra-abdominal pressure causing further stress on the pelvic floor leaving yourself vulnerable to pelvic organ prolapse or stress incontinence. This in turn will further strengthen the muscle’s function.
Note: Whilst I’m fully aware that men have pelvic floors too (!) this article is geared more toward women – hence the references to wombs & vaginas etc!