So if you regularly hit the weight room with the goal of getting stronger, Corey Hazama, Ph.D., Physiotherapist, DPT, an expert at Pelvic Gym, a pelvic health education platform, says that properly strengthening and engaging your pelvic floor is just as important. important like any other. muscle group you are training. Here are six things you need to know about your pelvic floor and its function if you’re lifting weights, including exactly how to strengthen your core and breathe while strength training to optimize your efforts and avoid injury.
1. First things first: everyone has a pelvic floor.
Before we delve into the specific relationship between weightlifting and pelvic floor, let’s get on the same page about who has pelvic floor. Spoiler alert: all of us. As Dr. Hazama explains, your pelvic floor is a collection of 14 muscles that stretch from your tailbone to your pubic bone, and from hip to hip, like a kind of trampoline or hammock. They are not sex specific.
The only difference between people of different sexes is which organs that support the pelvic floor muscles, according to Heather Jeffcoat, Ph.D., DPT, author of Painless Sex: A Self-Treatment Guide To The Sex Life You Deserve. For example, if you have a uterus, that will be one of the organs that supports this group of muscles; otherwise, the organ lineup will include the bladder, small intestine and rectum, she says.
2. The pelvic floor is part of your core
Many people are surprised to learn this, says Dr. Jeffcoat, but understanding this connectivity helps uncover why lifting can affect pelvic floor health for better or worse.
Whether you work out in a group or individual fitness class, chances are you’ve been told by a trainer to “strengthen your core” at some point. That’s because a compromised core helps you keep your balance and your spine stabilized when you transfer load, explains Dr. Hazama. If you don’t include your pelvic floor muscles in this engagement, then you won’t get the most supported starting position possible for the lifts. It’s important to know how to engage your core correctly during reps, Y how to relax between efforts, she says. Later.
3. The pelvic floor muscles must be able to contract Y section
“Just as we wouldn’t want to walk all day with our biceps contracted (elbows bent),” says Dr. Jeffcoat, “we also don’t want to keep our pelvic floor muscles contracted all the time.
Unfortunately, because so many trainers instruct people to keep their abs tight while lifting weights, some people become less fit for relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this can lead to your pelvic floor muscles being constantly engaged, even outside of the gym. Medically, this is known as having a hypertonic pelvic floor or non-relaxing pelvic floor, and is often accompanied by painful pelvic floor cramps or pain during exercise and intercourse, and urine leakage.
If you already have (or think you have) a pelvic floor that won’t relax, Dr. Jeffcoat suggests working with a pelvic floor specialist, which you can find through this directory of pelvic floor therapists. If he’s looking to avoid this problem, he says he needs to learn how to properly use his breath to support his pelvic floor.
4. Engage your core properly it’s key
Sorry, but squeezing your torso like you’re putting on a tight pair of pants (sound familiar?) It is not the best way to engage your core, including your pelvic floor, while lifting.
Dr. Jeffcoat offers a better, more pelvic floor-friendly way to recruit your midsection muscles. “Before you touch the weight, you want to inhale. Then exhale,” she says. “Then, simultaneously perform a pelvic floor contraction and a transversus abdominis contraction” to get your core and pelvic floor into the optimal position to move, she says. To do this, think of the lifting sensation of holding in urine while at the same time drawing your navel in toward your spine. Now, she performs the first part of the lift.
Next, you have two options, depending on the specific move, she says. “You can inhale as you return the weight to the starting position, exhale, and then repeat a second rep, or you can inhale, pause your movement, and then exhale as above as you lower the weight to the ground.”
5. Valsalva maneuvers are *not* your pelvic floor’s best friend.
In case you’re not familiar: The Valsalva maneuver is a breath-holding technique that some lifters employ before a lift under the false impression that it will increase intra-abdominal pressure and help them lift more. Don’t hate the messenger, but research shows it’s not safe and Dr. Jeffcoat says it’s bad for your pelvic floor.
“You have to breathe through the elevator,” she says. “Repeatedly holding your breath (doing the Valsalva maneuver) will put you on the fast track to pelvic floor prolapse, urinary incontinence, hernias, or hemorrhoids.”
6. It’s *not* healthy to leak while lifting weights.
In recent years, it has become increasingly common for Olympic lifters and CrossFit athletes to post photos and videos of themselves at their best, with a puddle of urine between their legs and a caption normalizing it. But urinating while lifting (or jumping rope, TBH) is usually a sign that your pelvic floor health needs a little attention, according to Dr. Hazama. “It suggests that your pelvic floor isn’t working as efficiently as it could,” she says. Or, that she is using a suboptimal form.
His suggestion: Instead of hiding leaks with black leggings, hire a pelvic floor therapist who specializes in working with athletes. They will be able to look at your movement patterns and assess any mechanics that could be improved, as well as offer you a series of breathing exercises or PTs that you can do before your strength sessions to keep your pelvic floor healthy throughout your life.
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