Inner core exercises can help you feel great about yourself and your body. Core training is not just about your abdominals. Inner core or pelvic floor muscles are often overlooked in general core workouts despite their importance. Inner core or pelvic floor exercises can improve your inner pelvic strength and tone, help you stay confident and dry, reduce back pain and even improve your sex life. Here are 10 great tips for getting the most out of your pelvic floor workout.
1. Body position
The best position for pelvic floor exercises is the one in which you can really feel your pelvic floor muscles working well. This may be kneeling on all fours (great when starting out), lying down, sitting or standing.
2. Body posture
Pelvic floor exercises are most effective when performed keeping an inward curve in your lower back. If you flatten the curve in your low back during pelvic floor exercises you will actually make your pelvic exercises less effective, so try to maintain good posture throughout your exercises.
3. Lift and squeeze
Pelvic floor exercise is not just a squeeze! Correct pelvic floor exercise technique involves lifting and squeezing the muscles around your three pelvic openings; your urethra (urine tube), vagina and anus. If you have difficultly feeling your pelvic floor muscles working, try lifting and squeezing the muscles around your back passage as if trying to stop wind from escaping.
4. Breathe easy
Keep breathing normally throughout your pelvic exercises. Try hard to avoid holding your breath or changing your breathing pattern- if you can’t hold your pelvic floor muscles exercise during a regular breath, it’s going to be near impossible when you sneeze!
5. Strong exercises
To get the most strength possible out of your pelvic floor exercises you need to make every contraction as strong as you can. When first starting out, gentle pelvic floor contractions are appropriate to ensure you have the right technique. When are sure of your correct technique use your best effort with every contraction.
6. Relax and rest
Completely relax and rest your pelvic floor after each exercise you perform. This gives your muscles recovery time, allowing you to use stronger and longer efforts. Rest allows you to exercise your pelvic floor muscles most effectively.
7. Progress your position
The key to most effective pelvic floor exercises is progression. This means progressively training your muscles to work harder in positions where they need to work against gravity. You may start out lying down particularly if your pelvic floor is weak. Over time progress your pelvic exercises into the upright positions of sitting and standing when you can. This way they your muscles will work for you when you need them most.
8. Progress your endurance
Try to contract your pelvic floor muscles for as long as you can, even if this is for 1-2 seconds when first starting out. With practice you should be able to contract your muscles for longer aiming for up to 8-10 seconds at a time. Try to increase the number of repetitions or exercises you perform (ideally 8-12 repetitions, 3 times daily).
9. Vaginal weights
Vaginal weights are great devices designed to help strengthen the pelvic floor. When you find your pelvic floor strength reaches a plateau, consider trialling a pelvic exerciser such as vaginal weights or pelvic exercise balls. Try to choose a set of vaginal weights that allows you to progress your strength with different weights – just like exercising in the gym.
It takes regular exercise, commitmemnt and time…for weak pelvic floor muscles it takes anywhere from 3-5 months to make good strength gains. The great news is that when your pelvic floor is in good shape, doing your exercises a couple of days per week will help you stay in shape.
Michelle Kenway is an Australian pelvic floor physiotherapist and exercise instructor for women. Michelle’s new book, Inside Out – the essential women’s guide to pelvic support teaches you how to get your pelvic floor in great shape and how to perform and select pelvic floor safe exercises for your workout. For further information or to contact Michelle visit www.pelvicexercises.com.au.