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Many of us read that kegels are essential for tightening our pelvic floor muscles for a speedy recovery postpartum, but there is so much more to the story than a few kegels. Our pevlic floor muscles are a whole group of muscles that are connected to our diaphragm. Many factors in addition to pregnancy and delivery go into weakening the pelvic floor muscles, which means we need to do a lot more than kegels to fix our pelvic floor.
I’ve finally decided to focus on my pelvic floor muscles, three babies late, but better than never. Incontinence while running is not fun as a runner. I’ve never been able to do jumping jacks or sneeze without a bit of an accident, but since I’ve made myself really focus on my pelvic floor strength, things are much better. The good news is you don’t have to suffer embarrassing moments, the bad news is it takes time and the exercises are uncomfortable. Here’s the list of exercises you need to complete and work on a few times a week to really strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.
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Important Note: Attempt to avoid squeezing your glutes at all costs! Your glutes are stronger, and in some exercises will want to take over. If you are having trouble, just squeeze your pelvic floor muscles for short bursts, and slowly hold it for longer without your glutes activating.
Another important note: you need to exhale at any point you are contracting your pelvic floor. It is essential because your pelvic floor muscles are connected to your diaphragm. If your diaphragm is expanded with air, that will push your pelvic floor muscles down. We want to contract them up, so you need to be exhaling to do this.
Bridge With Ball Between Knees:
We used these balls a lot in Pilates classes. They help engage muscles. If you don’t have a small ball that’s not a big deal. The key with these bridges is to exhale as you pull your pelvic floor in starting with a kegal and cinching everything together all the way up your abs, then lift. Your glutes can only activate when you lift, not when you are squeezing through your pelvic floor muscles. Do 10 to 12 and three sets of these as your first move.
This is a simple exercise where you lay on your back with your spine in neutral position. You can tell you are in neutral position by making a triangle with your hands from your hip bones to your pubic bone. That triangle shouldn’t be tilted up or down, but level. Knees are bent and shoulder width apart. Slide one heel on the ground and straighten your leg, then slowly bring it back to bent. The idea here is to strength your muscles by putting tension on them slowly. Keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Don’t let it tilt. Do 10 on each leg.
Now we are turning on our side. Bend your knees, so they rest on top of each other. Don’t let your hips fall forward or backward if possible. Keep them stacked on top of each other. Lift the top knee and squeeze with your hips. Hip strength supports your pelvic floor and is important to maintain for many reason postpartum. Do 10-12 on each side.
These are the most challenging exercises, but very good to practice. Squat down on the wall and practice your breaths and pulling your pelvic floor in as you exhale. You may not even be able to activate at first, and it will take some time to really be able to engage your pelvic floor while you are in a squat position. This can be a marker for you to know if you are getting stronger. Try squating for 15 – 30 seconds at a time to see how you do.
This is by far the hardest one for me as a mom who is constantly holding a baby, and I have been holding someone for over 5 years. As a previous equestrian, I used to have impeccable posture. We weren’t aloud to ride our horses slouched down or hunched over, so I learned to pull myself up, lift my chest and tuck my abs in. There’s a competitive class based solely on the rider’s posture and movement. Your body needs to be in perfect alignment, and I completely and sadly lost all this training through motherhood. I hunch over and let go of my core to hold my babies. You can dramatically strengthen your pelvic floor muscles if you pull yourself up, exhale as you lift your baby and pull your pelvic floor muscles in So hard to practice, but so important. This daily work will really encourage your pelvic floor muscles to activate more regularly.
Since I’ve finally started working on my pelvic floor muscles I’ve had less accidents, been able to do jumping jacks and also pulled my stomach in more. My Diastasis Recti is doing a lot better, with just a bit of a gap left to go, but my small hernia will never totally go away. I have an umbilical hernia from having all my children so close together and never healing my abs.