The muscles of the pelvic floor – the levator ani muscles, the coccygeus muscle, and the connective tissue in the region – span the whole area underneath the pelvis and support and protect multiple critically important organs and bodily systems. For this reason, exercises that make the pelvic floor stronger and more flexible can help in improving and preventing various medical conditions.
At JAG Physical Therapy, our pelvic therapy specialists are adept at helping people improve their pelvic floor conditioning. Our guidance and expert therapy has aided pregnant people in staying healthy throughout their pregnancy and speeding up their physical recovery in the postpartum period, allowed people with urinary incontinence, constipation, and other excretory conditions to find relief, restored individuals’ sexual health, and much more. Read on to learn more about effective, everyday pelvic health exercises, or schedule an appointment with us today.
People of any gender can identify their pelvic floor muscles by tensing as if to hold in urination without using their buttocks or thighs. The muscles that contract during this movement are the pelvic floor muscles. Once you find where your pelvic floor muscles are, you can begin to correctly work them using several different forms of exercise, including:
To perform Kegel exercises, you can sit down or lay down, tighten your pelvic floor muscles as much as possible, hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds, and then release, relaxing for 3 to 5 seconds before you repeat the exercise. This is a basic, foundational exercise for pelvic floor health that holds some benefit for all types of pelvic health conditions.
The bridge pose is derived from yoga, where it’s called sarvangasana. This stretch begins lying flat, and is performed by placing feet flat on the floor, keeping the arms parallel to the rib cage either on the floor or with elbows bent 90 degrees, and lifting the hips, raising the lower body while the feet and shoulder blades stay in contact with the floor. Practicing this pose strengthens the entire bodily core – thighs, hips, abdomen, legs, and back – and therefore provides more pelvic support from the area surrounding the pelvis.
Squats should be done with feet shoulder width apart and toes pointed slightly out (not straight ahead). When squatting, you should brace your torso, keep your hips back, and bend your knees, making sure they bend pointed outwards, not inwards. When your thighs are about parallel to the ground, rise back up putting your weight on your entire foot and repeat. Squatting is well-known to be great for general fitness, but it’s also an incredible pelvic health exercise. Whether performed with or without weights, squats help the pelvic floor muscles become both more flexible and more resilient.
The bird dog is considered an intensive exercise and doesn’t need the use of weights to be effective. To practice the bird dog, kneel down with your knees hip-width apart and place your palms firmly on the ground shoulder-width apart. Then, while tightening your abdominal muscles, point one arm straight forward and extend the opposite leg straight back, hold for 3 to 5 seconds, and smoothly return to your hands and knees. Switch to the other arm and other leg for the next repetition, and alternate throughout the set. This exercise focuses on core strength and balance, and is great for the hips, the hamstrings, and the gluteal muscles, all of which support the pelvis.
The split tabletop is another exercise that is performed laying flat, and is a gentle stretch that comes naturally for most people and can be repeated to varying degrees of intensity. In order to perform the split tabletop, while lying supine, lift your legs up with bent knees until they’re perpendicular to your body (forming a 90 degree angle). Slowly separate your thighs until you’re in a straddle position, with legs as far apart as you can comfortably get them. Then slowly pull your thighs back to the center while contracting your pelvic floor and repeat. The split tabletop works the pelvic floor muscles at the same time as the thighs.
Abdominal marches, or supine reverse marching, is an exercise built on a simple, easy-to-learn movement that, with repetition, can always be challenging and build important muscle groups. Begin by laying down on your back and raising your legs up to 90 degrees, with knees bent, as in split tabletop. Then bring one foot down, quickly touch the floor, raise it back up to starting, and repeat with the other foot, alternating sides with each repetition.
Heel slides are a versatile exercise – they can be performed in several different ways, and each variation offers its own challenges. The basic heel slide is done lying down on the floor. Keeping your heel touching the floor, slide one leg backwards as close to your buttocks as possible, return that leg to the starting position with the same sliding motion, and repeat with the other leg. Other versions can be done with pointed toes, seated, on the edge of a chair, or up against a wall.
Happy Baby Pose
Happy baby pose is another common name for a yoga pose, which is known in its original Sanskrit name as ananda-balasana. While the happy baby pose is an effective stretch, it’s also easy and relaxing, and thus is an ideal part of the end of a workout. To assume this pose, lay flat, bend your knees towards your chest, face your soles up and parallel to the ceiling, and reach forward to grab your feet. Spreading your knees apart and holding onto your soles, you can now rock gently from side to side to relieve tension in both your back and your pelvis.
To learn more about how our expert physical therapists prioritize your pelvic health and physical fitness, contact us today, or book your initial appointment with a JAG PT location in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
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