So if you hit the weight room regularly with the goal of getting stronger, physical therapy doctor Corey Hazama, DPT, expert at Pelvic Gym, a pelvic health education platform, says properly strengthening and engaging your pelvic floor is just as important as anything else. The muscle group you are training. Below are six things you should know about the pelvic floor and its function if you lift — from how to properly engage your core and breathe during strength training to optimize your effort and avoid injury.
1. First things first: everyone has a pelvic floor
Before diving into the specific relationship between lifting and the pelvic floor, let’s get on the same page about who has the pelvic floor. Spoiler alert: we all are. As Dr. Hazama explains, your pelvic floor is a collection of 14 muscles that stretch from the tailbone to the pubic bone and from the hips like a trampoline or hammock. They are not gender specific.
The only difference between people of different sexes which According to author Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, doctor of physical therapy, pelvic floor muscles support Sex Without Pain: A Self-Medication Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve. For example, if you have a uterus, that would be one of the supporting organs in this muscle group, otherwise the organ lineup would include your bladder, small intestine, and rectum, he says.
2. The pelvic floor is your core
Many people are surprised to learn this, says Dr. Jeffcoat, but this connection helps to understand why lifting can affect the health of the pelvic floor for better or worse.
Whether you exercise in a group fitness class or one-on-one, an instructor has probably asked you to “tie your core” at some point. That’s because an engaged core helps you balance and stabilize your spine as you shift loads, Dr. Hazama explains. If you’re not engaging your pelvic floor muscles in this engagement, you’re not getting the most supportive starting position from your can for the lift. Knowing how to properly engage your core during reps is important. And How to relax it between efforts, she says. further ahead
3. You need to be able to contract your pelvic floor muscles And expand
“Just like we don’t want to walk around all day with our biceps contracted (elbows bent),” says Dr. Jeffcoat, “we don’t want to keep our pelvic floor muscles contracted all the time.
Unfortunately, because many trainers instruct them to keep their core tight while lifting, some people are less fit. comfortable Their pelvic floor muscles. Over time, this results in the pelvic floor muscles being constantly engaged, even outside of the gym. Medically, this is called a hypertonic pelvic floor or non-dominant pelvic floor and often presents with painful penetrative, pelvic floor cramping or pain and urinary leakage during exercise and intercourse.
If you already have (or feel like) an unstable pelvic floor, Dr. Jeffcoat recommends working with a pelvic floor specialist, which you can find through this pelvic floor therapist directory. If you want to avoid this problem, she says you need to learn how to properly use your breath to support your pelvic floor.
4. Engage your core correctly original
Sorry, but clenching your core like you’re pulling on a pair of tight pants (sound familiar?) is not The best way to engage your core is with your pelvic floor when you lift.
Dr. Jeffcoat offers a good, pelvic-floor friendly way to recruit the muscles in your midsection. “Before touching the weight, you want to inhale. Then, exhale,” she says. “Then simultaneously do a pelvic floor contraction and transverse abdominal muscle contraction,” to move your core and pelvic floor into optimal position, she says. To do this, think about the lifting sensation of holding urine while simultaneously drawing your belly button toward your spine. Now, perform the first part of the lift.
Next, you have two options depending on the specific movement, she says. “You can inhale as you return the weight to the starting position, exhale and then repeat for the second repetition, or you can inhale, stop your movement, and then exhale as above as you lower the weight to the ground. “
5. Valsalva maneuvers are *not* your pelvic floor’s BFF
If you’re not familiar: The Valsalva maneuver is a breathing technique that some lifters use before a lift under the mistaken belief that it will increase intra-abdominal pressure and help them lift more. Don’t hate on Messenger, but research shows it’s unsafe, and Dr. Jeffcoat says it’s bad for your pelvic floor.
“You have to breathe through the elevator,” she says. “Repeatedly holding your breath, (doing the Valsalva maneuver) will put you on the fast track to pelvic floor prolapse, urinary incontinence, hernias or hemorrhoids.”
6. Leaking while lifting is not healthy
Over the past few years it has become increasingly common for female Olympic lifters and CrossFit athletes to post photos and videos of themselves maxing out, with pee between their legs and captions normalizing it. But peeing when you lift (or jump rope, tbh) is usually a sign that your pelvic floor health needs a little TLC, according to Dr. Hazama. “This suggests that your pelvic floor is not working as efficiently as it could be,” she says. Or, that you are using suboptimal form.
Her advice: Instead of hiding leaks with black leggings, hire a pelvic floor therapist who specializes in working with athletes. They’ll be able to watch your movement patterns and assess any mechanics that could be improved, as well as offer a series of breathing or PT exercises you can do before your strength session that can keep your pelvic floor healthy for a lifetime. .
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