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Best Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women
What are the Functions of the Pelvic Floor?
When you hear pelvic floor, you might immediately think of Kegel exercises, recommended for enhancing sexual response and preventing incontinence. While these aspects of pelvic floor strength are certainly important, they don’t represent the whole picture.
The pelvic floor forms the base of the whole abdominal cavity, providing support for all the internal organs including the intestines and bladder. The pelvic floor musculature is also integral to stabilization of the core.
The core is the center of gravity of the body from which all movement originates. The pelvic floor forms the base of the core.
What Muscles Make Up the Pelvic Floor?
In women, the pelvic floor is structured like a sturdy hammock. The muscles originate on the pubic bone toward the front of the pelvis and insert into the coccyx, the pointy bone at the end of the sacrum.
The main mover, referred to as the levator ani, is actually composed of two muscles: the pubococcygeus muscle and the iliococcygeal muscle. These muscles encircle the anal canal, urethra, and vagina, providing support for these structures. The supporting player is the coccygeus, a small fan-shaped muscle.
Core Strength Benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises
Proper tone of the pelvic floor contributes to intraabdominal tension, which results in better support for internal organs and greater core stabilization.
The pelvic floor is part of the deepest part of the core musculature, called the local stabilization system. The local stabilization system of the core provides the basis of support for the whole movement system.
Stabilizing and strengthening the deep core muscles is akin to laying a solid foundation when building a house. An improperly laid foundation will cause problems further along in the structure, while a well-laid foundation provides a sturdy platform for further construction.
Sexual Benefits of Pelvic Floor Exercises
A toned pelvic floor does indeed provide sexual benefits in women, including heightened vaginal stimulation and stronger, easier-to-achieve orgasms. Performing the best pelvic floor exercises for women described below will help you build a stronger, thicker, more toned vaginal wall which will help you enjoy a more satisfying sex life.
Problems Associated with a Weak Pelvic Floor
A weak pelvic floor may lead to inadequate support for abdominal organs, unstable core musculature, incontinence of body waste, and lowered sexual response.
Pelvic Floor Considerations During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, the pelvic floor is working overtime to support the growing baby and cope with increased intraabdominal pressure. Additionally, the pelvic floor muscles house deep nerve endings that provide feedback to the nervous system for efficient pushing during labor. Misdirected signals from an un-toned pelvic floor can lead to unnecessary vaginal tearing and hemorrhoids.
A toned pelvic floor will also be better able to fight incontinence before, during, and after delivery.
For these reasons, it’s especially important for pregnant women to focus on strengthening the pelvic floor.
Exercises for Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
Strengthening the pelvic floor is quick and easy, requiring no equipment. There’s really no good excuse not to exercise your pelvic floor!
The best exercises for the pelvic floor are commonly referred to as Kegels. Kegels were invented by and subsequently named after a gynecologist named Arnold Kegel.
You can perform these exercises anywhere and anytime, sitting, lying, or standing. You can even do them in public and no one will notice! So you remember to do the exercises, it’s best to set yourself a schedule. Perform this short exercise sequence three times daily for maximum benefits. Once you have achieved good tone in your pelvic floor after several weeks, you don’t need to do them as often.
- Focus on isolating the muscles you use to stop the flow of urination and those you use to keep from passing gas. Slowly tighten these muscles as much as you can.
- Hold the full contraction for five seconds, then slowly release.
- Repeat at least five times.
- Again, focus on isolating the muscles you use to stop the flow of urination and those you use to keep from passing gas. This time, contract the muscles as fast as you can at least five times.
Repeat the sequence of slow pull-ups and fast pull-ups for five minutes. Perform the whole sequence again at least twice more during different parts of the day, for a total of three sets.
TIPS for the Best Pelvic Floor Exercises
- Perform the exercises in different body positions, such as while standing, sitting, or lying down to challenge the muscles in different ways under different gravity conditions.
- Time your sessions to coincide with other activities you do daily at around the same time, such as while brushing your teeth, commuting to work, standing at the sink washing dishes, etc.
If you want to get fancy, there is even special equipment designed to enhance your pelvic floor workouts, including cones, balls, and weights. Click here to learn more about specialized pelvic floor workout equipment.
Best Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women: References
1. Clark, M.A., Lucett, S.C., and Sutton, B.G., (Eds.). (2012). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
2. Patient.co.uk, (2012). Pelvic floor exercises. Patient.co.uk, http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Pelvic-Floor-Exercises.htm
3. Tortora, G.J., and Anagnostakos, N.P. (1987). Principles of Anatomy and Physiology. New York: Harper & Row.
4. Campbell, M. (2012). What are the benefits of pelvic floor exercises? Livestrong.com, http://www.livestrong.com/article/393373-benefits-pelvic-floor-exercises/