You have probably heard it so often that you have grown accustomed to it: proper technique and form during a workout are crucial. When it comes to working out, quality is more important than quantity. Your weightlifting form, your running technique, the way you jump or stroke - it may seem uncircumstantial, but your workout form and technique marks the difference between optimal performance and getting injured. The importance of safety when exercising is undisputed.
While exercising is one of the key fundamentals to healthy living, it can also harm you if you are not careful. Without realising it, you may be causing damage to another set of muscles each time you engage in your workout routine. One of the overlooked parts of the body when exercising is the pelvic floor. We dive into how exercise affects your pelvic floor and how you can avoid weakening this set of muscles.
What is a Pelvic Floor?
A pelvic floor is a group of muscles found in the floor (the base) of your pelvis (the bottom of your torso). It serves two primary functions: to act as a support for the abdominal viscera (internal organs), and carries a continence mechanism to the urethral, anal, and vaginal orifices. Simply put, it determines your control over your bowel movements.
Pelvic floor problems may occur from an early age or after certain life stages, such as pregnancy, childbirth, or menopause. A weakened pelvic floor can also come about as a result of age, weight, and surgery like post-gynaecology surgery and post-prostate surgery. Unfortunately, certain exercises also fall into this list of contributing factors.
Avoid Risky Exercise
Unfortunately, if you are looking to achieve pronounced abs, the set of vigorous abdominal and core exercises that you engage in may cause detrimental harm to your pelvic floor. Risky exercises tend to put excessive pressure on the abdominal cavity, straining the pelvic floor muscles and lead to the prolapse (dropping) of the organs in the pelvic region. This does not limit itself to intense core exercises either; other high-impact exercises such as weightlifting, running, and intense cycling will have the same effect.
Pelvic-Friendly Exercises to Try
Fortunately, there are exercises that bear little to no risk of causing damage to your pelvic floor, with some even strengthening the pelvic muscles! Some of these pelvic-strengthening exercises include:
Kegels: Kegel exercises focus on tightening and holding the muscles that control urine flow. To perform this exercise, start by sitting in a comfortable position and visualise your pelvic muscles. Tighten these muscles as much as possible for 3-5 seconds and release them before resting for a few seconds. It should feel as though the muscles are lifting up as a result of the squeezing. Repeat this process up to ten times.
Squeeze and Release: This exercise employs rapid movement that helps the pelvic floor muscles to respond quickly. Similarly, sit in a comfortable position and squeeze your pelvic muscles as quickly as possible and release them without trying to hold the contraction. Rest for a few seconds and repeat this exercise 10-20 times per set, thrice a day.
Bridge: The bridge exercise works to strengthen both the derriere and the pelvic floor. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Ensure that both feet are flat on the floor, hip-width apart and have your arms by the sides. Contract your butt and pelvic floor muscles, and lift your hips several inches off the ground. Hold this position for 3-8 seconds before resting for a few seconds. Repeat this up to 10 times per set, for three sets.
Do note that whilst these exercises are indeed pelvic floor friendly, you will also need to consider the number of repetitions, intensity, length of rest, activation of your pelvic floor muscles, and your fatigue level. Do not hesitate to tweak the exercises to better suit your ability and comfort level.
Pelvic Floor Exercise Techniques
It is entirely possible to get an effective workout and reach your fitness goals without having to put your pelvic floor at risk. The key is to incorporate a few techniques that will help to protect your pelvic floor muscles. Here are a few ways you can modify your current workout exercises:
- Engage your core muscles internally rather than externally.
- Reduce the level of your tummy muscle exercise programme.
- Avoid breath-holding by exhaling with effort.
- Maintain good posture and form.
Put Your Pelvic Floor First
When it comes to exercising, most people will have the same goal: to be healthy. When pursuing your health and fitness goals, it is important to bear in mind not only your external muscles, but the muscles that are also hidden from view.
Take a proactive first step to protecting and strengthening your pelvic floor today! At Anya Active, we champion pursuing your health and fitness goals in a safe and effective manner. Engaging in pelvic floor exercises, or any workout for that manner, can be challenging, and you probably do not want uncomfortable or ill-fitted sportswear to add to the problem. As such, we wish to support you in your fitness journey by providing you with a wide range of quality yet affordable women's activewear that is designed to make physical activity more enjoyable for you. Take a look at our online catalogue of ladies sportswear to find your next workout attire or visit our store in Singapore to try it in-store.