The direct effects of a strong, well-functioning pelvic floor go beyond better sex and bladder control. Running, fitness, general activity: Your pelvic floor is tied up in the mix. And keeping these muscles (which stretch between your tailbone, pubic bone, and both sides of your pelvis) in shape is key. You’ve heard about pelvic floor physical therapy after childbirth. But this anchoring, deep-core muscle group is vital to so much of our overall fitness and health beyond postpartum wellness–strength, balance, and power are all results of pelvic floor stability.
“I like to use an analogy of a trampoline and elevator to help people understand how the pelvic floor needs to work,” says physical therapist, Kelly Sadauckas, DPT, OCS, founder of Pelvic Floored. “In my work, I train you to connect with what your body is presently doing, and how you can improve your muscle health and control to allow for better global strength and balance–and yes, less leaks and better sex.”
Dr. Sadauckas says that for 90 percent of clients that she sees, their pelvic floor weakness is actually due to the muscle being held too tight (think: kegel contractions). “If you’re always holding your pelvic muscles in a kegel, then when you ‘need’ more strength from those muscles, like when you cough, laugh, sneeze, or want to jump on a trampoline, they don’t have any reserve energy left…and you leak or feel weak.”
How pelvic floor stability impacts movement
“The pelvic floor is literally the base of our core,” Dr. Sadauckas explains. “Along with our abs and hips, it stabilizes our pelvis for powerful movements–think sprinting, jumping–as well as pliability for allowing complex movements of the back, pelvis, and hips–think yoga and rock-climbing.
If the pelvic floor is dysfunctional for any reason, Dr. Sadauckas says, then your pelvis is not as stable as it could be, and you will be less efficient in all areas of life. “From walking up the stairs, to weightlifting, to attempting to jump or move heavy boxes, if the pelvic floor isn’t functioning well, you will see compensatory patterns of leaning to one side, or having an uneven stride length when running, or observing uneven wear patterns on your shoes or socks,” she says.
4 exercises for better pelvic floor stability
1. Relaxed breathing
Sit on a rolled towel with your legs crossed or long in front of you. Focus on relaxing your belly and pelvic floor, so that with each inhale, your pelvic floor expands down into the towel, then with each exhale, it passively rebounds back up. Continue for one minute.
2. Supported breathing
Still seated on a towel, try to gently engage your lower abdomen while keeping my pelvic floor and neck relaxed with each inhale. Release on the exhale and repeat. Continue for one minute.
Perform kegels (up and down) for one minute.
4. Monster walk
Put a resistance band around your knees, engage your abs, relax your pelvic floor, and lower into a squat position (think half hover over toilet). Hold this squat, keep torso vertical (no sideways tilt or lean), and take five steps to the left. Then, stay low and take five steps to the right. Repeat five times in each direction.
Another great way to train your pelvic floor is Pilates. Here’s a full-body mat workout to get you started:
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