Yes, You Need to Work Out Your Pelvic Muscles—Here’s Why
Turns out, the most important muscles in your body might be ones you can’t even see. Learn why your pelvic floor is so important, and how to strengthen it with these four easy exercises yourself.
Arms on Monday, legs on Wednesday and yoga on Sunday—you’ve got your workout plan down to a science. But chances are, there’s a major muscle group you’re missing, one you use dozens of times throughout the day but never actually see with your own eyes.
That would be your pelvic floor, aka those all-important muscles responsible for supporting your core, controlling your bladder and bowels (cute, eh?), and (cue to the good stuff) intensifying your pleasure during sex.
Now that you’re paying attention, learn more about why it’s so important to exercise these muscles, plus how to strengthen your pelvic floor at the gym, at home or anywhere else you feel like working out (no one will know!).
Pelvic Floor 101
Just like your six-pack and obliques, pelvic floor muscles are a crucial part of your core, stabilizing your body when you run and helping you balance when you’re in yoga class (or just pulling on your jeans).
“They play an overall role in your central stability,” explains Erin Conroy, a physical therapist and owner of Chicago’s West Town Physical Therapy. “For everyday activity, your pelvic floor muscles need to be on—firing and in control.”
Specifically, pelvic floor muscles support your internal organs, stabilize your posture and control your breath, especially important for your workouts. “Your pelvic floor works directly with your diaphragm,” says Conroy. “If someone can’t control their pelvic floor and they’re lifting weight overhead, they can lose that stabilizing pressure and experience leakage.” Definitely not the look you’re going for when you wear your favorite workout leggings.
Benefits of a Strong Pelvic Floor
Improved fitness, less constipation and better sex are three big benefits of strengthening your pelvic floor.
Meanwhile, weak pelvic floor muscles are commonly associated with constipation, painful sex and lower back pain, but those conditions can be reversed with a few simple strengthening exercises. “Common does not mean normal,” says Conroy. “These conditions can be helped by rehabbing and retraining pelvic floor muscles.”
Your Pelvic Floor Strengthening Plan
Repetition exercises are the quickest way to get your pelvic floor muscles in shape. These four moves build strength in subtly different ways:
● Hard Squeeze: Do one maximal contraction (the hardest you can possibly squeeze) with your pelvic floor muscles. If you need a visual of what that looks like, Conroy tells her patients to “close the holes!”
● The Endurance Squeeze: Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for as long as you can, eventually working up to 10 seconds. Build up to 10 reps.
● Quick Flicks: These super-short repetitions involve contracting and releasing muscles in quick succession. Do one set of 30 without stopping.
● Controlled Contraction: To do this slow and steady move, “think of your pelvic floor muscles as an elevator that’s slowly rising,” says Conroy. “Contract as you imagine the elevator rising one floor, then contract more as your elevator goes to the second floor. Once you reach the top, you’ll come down one floor at a time by controlled releasing.”
It might sound simple, but like any new workout, it’s best to begin with just a few days a week. It doesn’t take a ton of time and you can even do the moves during other activities, like when you’re holding a pose in yoga class (you’ll never think of Warrior II the same way again). Bottom line: “Pelvic floor muscles are like any other muscle,” says Conroy. “Just because they’re in a sensitive area that some people associate with taboo topics doesn’t mean they aren’t regular muscles.”
Now that your pelvic floor is in top shape, how about the rest of you? Check out these easy ways to take basic moves to the next level.