The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus, small intestine and rectum. Strengthening these important muscles can help prevent incontinence and improve sexual function. Pelvic floor exercises are recommended for people of all genders and ages. Here are 5 simple yet effective moves to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor
A strong pelvic floor provides vital support to your core. Weak pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence, prolapse and sexual dysfunction. Regular exercises to engage and strengthen these muscles can improve pelvic health and quality of life. Try these moves to target a hypotonic (weak) pelvic floor:
Quick flick Kegels
Kegel exercises involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. To do a quick flick Kegel, tightly contract the muscles for 1 second, then relax for 1 second. Work up to completing 10-15 reps, 3 times per day. Focus on good technique over speed.
Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Engage your core and pelvic floor. Squeeze your pelvic muscles as you slowly slide one heel out along the floor, then slide it back in. Repeat 10 times on each side, 2-3 times per week.
Marches (also called toe taps)
Lie on your back with knees bent and arms at your sides. Lift one foot 2-4 inches off the floor, engaging the pelvic floor muscles as you lift. Slowly lower and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating legs for up to 5 minutes.
Exercises for hypertonic pelvic floor muscles
If you have tight or tense pelvic floor muscles, focus on relaxation techniques along with gentle stretches. A hypertonic pelvic floor can lead to pain and muscle spasms. Try these soothing moves:
Happy Baby Pose
Lie on your back and bring your knees above your hips. Grasp the outside of each foot with your hands. Gently press your knees down towards the floor to feel a stretch in your inner thighs. Hold for 30 seconds, breathing deeply.
Sit comfortably and place one hand on your chest, the other on your belly. Inhale slowly through your nose and feel your belly expand. Exhale and feel your belly contract. Repeat for 2-5 minutes to promote relaxation.
Mix up your pelvic floor routine with bridges, squats and yoga poses like Child’s Pose. Aim for a well-rounded approach that includes strengthening and stretching. Consistency is key – try to practice pelvic floor exercises 3-5 days per week.
What are the benefits of strengthening the pelvic floor?
- Improved bladder and bowel control
- Reduced urinary urgency and frequency
- Less urine leakage (stress incontinence)
- Decreased risk of pelvic organ prolapse
- Better support during pregnancy and delivery
- Enhanced sexual pleasure
- Increased core stability
- Improved posture
- More powerful orgasms
Strong pelvic floor muscles offer life-changing benefits for people of all ages and genders. Committing to simple moves like Kegels, bridges and squats a few times a week can drastically improve pelvic health and quality of life.
How do you find the pelvic floor muscles?
Locating and engaging your pelvic floor muscles is the first step towards strengthening this important area. Here’s how to connect with those muscles:
- Try stopping your urine mid-stream – those are your pelvic floor muscles contracting.
- Imagine you are holding in a bowel movement – the muscles that contract are your pelvic floor.
- For females, insert a finger into the vagina and try to tightly squeeze and lift up.
- For males, insert a finger in the rectum and try to lift and squeeze inward.
- Tighten the muscles that would hold in gas or prevent passing wind.
With practice, you’ll learn to isolate and engage the pelvic floor without these cues. Initial feedback helps ensure you are using the right muscles.
How to effectively engage the pelvic floor muscles
- Focus on lifting the muscles up and in, not just squeezing.
- Tighten the muscles sharply and briskly. No need to hold long contractions.
- Relax fully between contractions. Avoid holding constant tension.
- Breathe freely during the exercises. Don’t hold your breath.
- Engage the abs to take some pressure off the pelvic floor.
Is my pelvic floor too tight or too lax?
Pelvic floor issues usually stem from muscles being too weak (hypotonic) or too tight (hypertonic). Here are some signs of a hypotonic pelvic floor:
- Leaking urine when you cough, sneeze or exercise
- Needing to urinate frequently
- Feeling of pelvic heaviness or pressure
- Orgasm problems
And here are some signs your pelvic floor may be too tight or tense:
- Pain during sex
- Pelvic pain or spasms
- Feeling like you can’t fully relax the pelvic floor
If you aren’t sure whether you need strengthening or relaxing exercises, make an appointment with a pelvic health physiotherapist. They can assess your muscles and recommend proper training.
When to see a professional
Consult a doctor, physiotherapist or pelvic health specialist if you experience:
- Incontinence that interferes with daily life
- Pain during sex or difficulty reaching orgasm
- Constant pelvic pain or pressure
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Difficulty relaxing the pelvic floor muscles
A pelvic health assessment can pinpoint muscle dysfunction and guide appropriate treatment. Pelvic floor physical therapy often resolves troubling symptoms through exercise, biofeedback and massage.
Frequently asked questions
What does the pelvic floor do?
The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus (for females), rectum and small intestine. They play a vital role in core stability and continence. Pelvic floor exercises strengthen these muscles to improve bowel/bladder control.
Do people of all genders have these muscles?
Yes, people of all genders have a pelvic floor! These important muscles span the base of the pelvis and are key for bladder and bowel control. Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect anyone, from cisgender men to non-binary individuals.
How do I know if my pelvic floor is weak?
Signs of a weak pelvic floor include leaking urine when you laugh, cough or sneeze, frequently needing to pee, pelvic heaviness/sagging and orgasm difficulties. If these symptoms sound familiar, start doing quick Kegels and make an appointment with a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
How long does it take to strengthen the pelvic floor?
With regular practice (3-5 times per week), most people see improvements in pelvic floor strength and continence within 8-12 weeks. However, lifelong maintenance is ideal for supporting pelvic health. Stay motivated by tracking symptoms and celebrating small successes!
Consistency and proper form are key when it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor. Try out these 5 simple yet effective exercises to take control of pelvic health. With routine practice, Kegels, stretches and other moves can improve bladder control, ease pain, enhance sexual pleasure and support core stability.