Pelvic Floor Muscles and Kegel Exercise
by Geraldine Marques-Frediani, Pilates Instructor
We all have pelvic floor muscles.
They are attached to the inside of the pelvis and form a sling between the legs supporting our internal organs. If they were not there, all our insides would fall out !
The strength of these muscles is reduced in pregnancy and in very obese individuals.
The tone of the muscle also reduces as we get older and gravity begins to take over causing our internal organs to drop and rest on the muscles causing them to weaken. When the muscle is weak, we experience incontinence when coughing, sneezing or jumping.
It is therefore important to regain control of the pelvic floor muscle and there is no age limit when in starting.
In Fitness Pilates, we focus on this muscle while re-educating the other core stability muscles which form the internal corset.
Pelvic floor exercises
Learning how to use the pelvic floor again is an exercise in itself and should be performed as often as possible.
To check the strength of your pelvic floor, next time you go to the bathroom, try and stop the flow of urine half way. The muscle you use to do this is the pelvic floor muscle.
If you find this impossible, you should consult your doctor to check the severity of the weakness as it can lead to prolapse and incontinence in both men and women.
This Kegel exercise will help :
Lie on your back with your knees bent. Relax the buttocks and leg muscles.
Begin to tighten the muscle around the back passage. Don't squeeze the buttocks when doing this.
Try to take this feeling now towards the front : the muscle you rely on when you need to prevent passing urine.
Try to hold this for a couple of breaths and then relax.
Try doing these exercises on a regular daily basis.
You can do them while sitting in the car, standing in line in the supermarket or just watching TV.
Doing these anywhere and anytime is extremely important to our health and well being.
The pelvic lift / elevator
Think of the pelvic floor muscle as a lift/elevator inside the body.
When you engage the muscle, the elevator comes up to the 1st floor. Hold it for at least one breath before relaxing back to the ground floor.
As it gets stronger, it will feel as if it is coming up to the 2nd floor - try not to let it drop back down but release it slowly.
The importance of working the pelvic floor
The above exercise helps us to work the pelvic floor slowly and with control and by doing this, we increase the "slow twitch" fibres. These fibres increase the stamina within the muscle and help to sustain it's strength.
As we age, we fight against gravity but strengthening the pelvic floor and core stabilisers keeps our muscles in place and assists in core strength.
We also use our "fast twitch" fibres in cases of emergency ie when coughing, sneezing, when we slip or jump and these also need conditioning.
To condition them, do the above exercises but quickly like switching a light on and off repeatedly : pulling up and releasing.
Do these anywhere, any time.
Strawberry Kiwi Smoothie
kiwi fruit is packed with vitamin C, which makes this smoothie ideal for breakfast.
Preparation Time : 5 Minutes
Servings : 1
- 1 cup (8 oz.) of apple juice
- 1 container (8 oz.) strawberry nonfat yogurt
- 2 whole kiwi fruit, peeled and chopped
- 10 oz. strawberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar or sweetener
In blender, place apple juice, yogurt and kiwi. Blend until smooth.
Add strawberries and sugar/sweetener. Blend again until smooth and thick.
Nutrition Info - Amount Per Serving :
Total Fat 1 g (0 g. saturated fat)
Sodium 32 mg
Carbohydrates 26 g
Dietary Fiber 3 g
Protein 3 g
Exercise of the Month
Pilates :: Front Support / Plank Pose
Plank is a well-known exercise that we see in both Pilates and yoga.
It is one of the most popular exercises for developing core strength and stability.
While Plank really targets the abdominals and shoulder stability, you will find that plank is an excellent way to get a full body challenge.
In order to do Plank properly there must be integration of all the core stabilization muscles. The arms, glutes, and legs are active as well.
Plank can look like the "up" of a regular push up. But, in most cases, a regular push up entails much more strain in the upper body - especially in the shoulders and neck - than plank in Pilates or yoga.
You may want to begin with a modified version of Plank and work up to the full version, especially if you are weak in the upper body or have neck strain issues. Please see the plank preparation exercise.
You will know you're doing plank well when you have good form, feel your center working, and have good shoulder stabilization yet are not incredibly rigid.
Nota : The name "plank" comes from yoga.
Pilates has traditionally referred to this move as "front support", but that seems to be giving way to the more commonly used term, plank.
Begin on your knees. Place your hands on the floor in front of you, fingers pointing straight ahead. Your arms are straight and elbows are not locked.
Engage your abdominals and lengthen your spine, extending energy through the top of your head and down through your tailbone.
Lean forward to put your weight on your hands. Align your shoulders directly over your wrists.
With your abdominals lifted, extend your legs straight behind you. Keep them together and send energy through your heels.
Your toes are curled under so that some weight is on the balls of your feet.
Without over-tightening, activate your legs (especially your hamstrings) and bring them together, emphasizing the center line. Similarly, activate but do not clench your glutes (butt muscles) - think of pulling your sit bones together.
Breathe deeply, allowing the breath to expand into your lower ribs and back.
Hold your position for three to five breaths.
Take a break and repeat up to five times.
Plank Preparation Exercise / Modification
Place your forearms, parallel to each other, on the floor. Many people find that making a fist with the hands is helpful.
Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.
Your body is in a straight line from the ears, through the shoulders and hips, and to the heels. Do not arch or sag.
Keep the abdominals lifted throughout this exercise. You want to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor as well.
Put some space between the base of your scull and your neck.
Keep your shoulders dropped.
Breathe deeply into the sides and back.
If you start to shake, release the pose, breathe, and start again.
Strengthens the abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor, the gluteal muscles, the legs and the arms.