Our Favorite Way To Improve Your Pelvic Floor Health

Our Favorite Way To Improve Your Pelvic Floor Health

Maintaining a healthy pelvic floor is so important for your overall health. Learn how standing up straight and improving your posture can help keep your pelvic floor healthy.

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Could Kegels Actually Hurt Me?

Could Kegels Actually Hurt Me?

You’ve seen the claims. A stronger pelvic floor! Fewer Leaks! Better Sex! The kegel craze is hot right now and for good reason. Kegels can do all of these things and we’re a big proponent of doing them for maintaining good bladder health and a healthy pelvic floor. But before you jump on the kegel bandwagon, read this post. Because while kegels can be super effective for all the reasons listed above, they can sometimes cause problems in women who have certain conditions.

Many women suffer from a weakened pelvic floor, the series of muscles and tissues that form a hammock at the bottom of your pelvis, and are responsible for holding many of your organs (including your bladder) in place. A weakened pelvic floor can be caused by many factors, but pregnancy, childbirth, and aging are all high on the list.  This laxity in the pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence, or even pelvic organ prolapse if not treated properly.  And a great way to treat it (most of the time) is with kegels.   

But not everyone has a weak pelvic floor – some women experience pelvic floor tension, which prevents the pelvic floor muscles from contracting or relaxing at a normal rate, again making them weak, but in a different way.  This can lead to things like constipation, painful intercourse, or the inability to empty your bladder completely.  

People with pelvic floor tension are advised NOT to do kegels, and if you think about it, it makes sense. Trying to tighten something that is already too tight can make your problems worse.

So, how do you know if you should be doing kegels or not?  Our best advice is to see a physical therapist specialized in women’s health.  A trained PT can give you a thorough evaluation and can determine if you have a pelvic floor that’s too tight or too loose.

An added bonus is that if your PT finds you’re a good candidate for kegels, they’ll be able to show you exactly how to do one – something that is actually somewhat difficult for many women.  And, if you’re advised NOT to do a kegel, they’ll be able to help you learn how to relax your pelvic floor and will show you exercises to help with that as well.

It’s also worth noting that while kegels are great for many people, they also aren’t the end all be all move for your pelvic floor. Your muscles are all connected, after all, so concentrating just on kegels won’t be as effective as if you worked your entire core, glutes and thighs. 

Want to find a PT in your area? Try our Specialist Locator

Ask The Expert: Should Men Do Kegels?

Should Men Do Kegels?

Question: I hear about kegels for women all the time, but what about men? Can kegels benefit men too?

Expert Answer: Absolutely!  Kegels are an important part of a woman’s workout routine to prevent or manage bladder leaks, but they are just as important for men. In men, kegels can help with fecal incontinence, overactive bladder, urinary retention, erectile functioning and even orgasms.  Interested in seeing the benefits for yourself? Here’s how to do them:

How To Do Kegels For Men

There are two types of kegel exercises that you can do to strengthen and tone your pelvic floor muscles.

Long Contractions.  

Long Contractions work on the supportive strength of the muscles. To perform a long kegel contraction, tighten your pelvic muscles and hold for 5 seconds. This may be difficult at first – don’t worry if you can’t hold the contraction for the full five seconds. With practice you’ll be able to work up to this.

Overtime, work your way up to 10 seconds per contraction. Be sure to rest for 10 seconds in between each contraction – knowing how to relax your muscle is as important as the contraction.

Short Contractions.  

Short contractions work the fast twitch muscles that work quickly to stop the flow of urine and prevent leaks. To perform a short contraction, tighten your muscles quickly, then release, and repeat.

When Should I Perform Them?

Like any muscle, you don’t want to do too much too soon. Aim for 5 reps of both short and long contractions, 3x per day on your first day. As you gain more confidence and strength, work your way up to 10 reps, 3x per day of each.

Continue practicing kegels and you should see improvements in 3-6 months. And, if you find that you need some help with kegels, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to provide you with more personal instruction, which may include biofeedback therapy.

Good luck!

Why A Healthy Pelvic Floor Is Important

Why A Healthy Pelvic Floor Is Important

Why A Healthy Pelvic Floor Is Important

Why The Pelvic Floor Is Important

If you follow along with NAFC on a regular basis, you know how much importance we place on maintaining a strong and healthy pelvic floor. It’s a vital part of maintaining continence, alleviating symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and even reducing lower back pain. And don’t get us started on the benefits a strong pelvic floor has on sexual intercourse. It’s no wonder we focus so much on this magic group of muscles!

The pelvic floor is essentially a web of muscles that acts kind of like a basket holding up some pretty vital organs: the bladder, bowel and uterus.  When these muscles become weakened – from things like childbirth, heavy lifting, chronic coughing; basically anything that puts a lot of pressure on it - it can cause a loss of bladder or bowel control and can increase the risk of prolapse.  Weak pelvic floor muscles can also put strain on other muscles (the pelvic floor is connected to many other muscles in the body!) causing them to work overtime to make up for the lack of support in the pelvic floor. This imbalance can cause pain in other areas of the body too (lower back pain or hip pain for instance).

For these reasons, it’s important to make sure you’re incorporating pelvic floor and core exercises into your workouts each day. And don’t worry – the workouts don’t have to be long or strenuous. But just like every other muscle in the body, they need attention in order to maintain the strength needed to function properly. 

So, how do you get a strong pelvic floor? Some simple, daily exercises are all you need. We’ve teamed up with the folks at Carin to help you get started. Read below for information to how NAFC readers can get a free Carin Wearable Set

What is Carin?

Carin’s smart underwear is a new way to not only measure and manage leaks, but also to improve your pelvic floor strength so that you can get on with your life and eliminate those pesky leaks all together. It’s the only wearable pelvic floor exerciser on the market – painless, noninvasive, and high-tech. 

Carin Smart Underwear Set

Carin Smart Underwear Set

What’s Included in the Carin Smart Underwear Set?

Carin comes complete with a unique pair of highly absorbent underwear that can manage any leaks you may have. The set also comes with a sensor that snaps in the underwear, detects your body movement and monitors leakage. Finally, the Carin app helps you track your leaks and also sets you up on a daily workout plan to help you get stronger and manage leaks.

Carin Sensor

Carin Sensor

Carin App

Carin App

How Does It Work?

The Carin exercise program contains two parts: a weekly measuring routine and a daily exercise routine. The Carin smart underwear is worn for at least 24 hrs. with the sensor snapped in. This is the ‘measuring day’. The sensor will detect the body’s movements and track any leakage that might occur. Based on leakage, the app will then begin to recommend specific exercise routines to help you strengthen your pelvic floor in an effort to reduce leaks. There is a weekly plan of video exercises ready for you to do for 10 minutes each day. 

After the second time of wearing the smart underwear, an intelligent algorithm calculates progress made within the Carin app. The app shows the impact of exercise by counting the reduction of leaks.  80% of women using Carin have reported seeing progress between 20% to 100% in as little as 4 weeks!

 


See Carin In Action

Want a sneak peak of what to expect with Carin? Watch the video below!

Six Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

6 Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

6 Things To Try Before You Visit Your Doctor For Incontinence

Whether you’ve just started experiencing bladder leaks, or have been dealing with them for a while, knowing how to manage incontinence can be difficult.  And even if you’ve scheduled an appointment to see your doctor, there are things you can do before speaking with him or her to start treating the problem.

This week we’re focusing on management techniques that don’t require a visit to your doctor. NAFC has a great guide on the website that will walk you through the steps of management and things to try to control bladder leaks. Check out all the steps below:

Step 1: Finding products to help you stay clean and dry

Step 2: Assess Your Condition

Step 3: Measure Your Pelvic Floor Strength

Step 4: Pelvic Floor Exercises

Step 5: Develop A Voiding Strategy

Step 6: Get Professional Help

It is possible that by performing the steps above, you may be able to reduce or even eliminate your symptoms on your own. At the very least, it will give you some good information to share with your doctor and your initial efforts will help them to get you on a course to a successful treatment plan.

Stay with us this week as we provide more tips on how to manage bladder leaks! 

Access the full guide above here, or download our printed brochure with the above tips from our Resource Center!

Men And Kegels - The Ultimate Guide

Men's Ultimate Guide To Kegels

Kegel exercises have long been associated with women – something that they do during pregnancy and post childbirth to tone up their pelvic floors and prevent or ease incontinence symptoms. But Men, if you haven’t tried kegels, you’re truly missing out. Not only can they help ease bladder leakage if you have it, experts claim that they can also give you a stronger erection and orgasm. Want to learn more? Keep reading.

What are Kegels and what muscles do they work?

Kegels are basically the contracting of the muscles in your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is comprised of a tightly woven web of muscles, located in the base of the pelvis between the pubic bone and tailbone. These muscles have three main functions:

  1. They help support the pelvic organs such as the bladder, the intestines and the rectum.

  2. They help control bladder and bowel function and can prevent or ease symptoms of bladder leakage.

  3. They are involved in sexual functionality.

As with any other muscle in the body, if they get weak, they can no longer perform their job. These muscles can naturally stretch and become weaker over time, but with proper exercise they can remain strong to ensure good sexual and bladder health and function.

How do kegels benefit me? 

Kegels can address a number of issues that men may face related to their bladder or bowel.

Bladder Leaks. 

Urinary incontinence is a condition that affects as many as 15% of men aged 15-64, and may be caused by a number of health conditions. The most common cause of incontinence in men is due to problems with the prostate, but other conditions can affect bladder function as well. Incontinence in men can range from a small amount of leakage after urination, or more substantial leaking when performing physical activity or placing stress on the bladder (laughing, coughing, working out, lifting heavy items).  A Kegel regimen can help to tone these muscles to prevent the leaks from happening.

Fecal Incontinence.

As with urinary incontinence, weakening of the pelvic floor muscles can also affect the anus and rectum, resulting in loss of bowel control. But, kegel exercises can help to tone and strengthen this area up as well to prevent bowel leakage.

Overactive Bladder.

You’ve probably seen a million pharmaceutical commercials for what’s known as Overactive Bladder – the urgent and frequent need to empty your bladder. When you have an overactive bladder, the muscles of the bladder contract involuntarily, creating an urgent need to urinate. Performing kegels can help improve control of these muscles, improving, or even eliminating the chance bladder leakage.

Urinary Retention.

Ever had difficulty starting a stream of urine? How about a weak flow, and the feeling that you need to urinate again right after you’ve finished? It could be urinary retention, which is usually caused by a blockage in the urinary tract, or nerve problems that interfere with signals between the brain and the bladder.  Bladder retraining is one method that can be used to help fix this, but kegels can also help the nerves and muscles used in emptying the bladder to work better.

Erectile Functioning.

Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, can be caused by many physical conditions (heart disease, diabetes), or can be the result of surgery (like prostate removal) or trauma. The good news is that you don’t have to resort to medications to treat it – kegel exercises can help strengthen your muscles in your pelvic region and regain normal function. In men, kegels specifically help strengthen the bulbocavernous muscle.  This is the muscle that is responsible for erections, contractions during orgasm and ejaculation, and emptying the urethra after urination. Studies have found that regular practice of kegels can keep this muscle strong, and if you’re experiencing problems, kegels may improve your symptoms.

Ejaculation & Orgasm. 

Again, this goes back to the bulbocavernous muscle – the stronger the muscle, the stronger the contractions you’ll have during orgasm. Enough said.

How do I do a kegel?

First, you need to locate the right muscles, which is often the hardest part. The next time you’re urinating, try stopping the flow mid-stream. If you can do that, you’ve found the right muscle. (But don’t do this on a regular basis – this should only be done when trying to locate the correct muscles.)

There are two types of kegel exercises that you can do to strengthen and tone your pelvic floor muscles.

Long Contractions.  Long Contractions work on the supportive strength of the muscles. To perform a long kegel contraction, tighten your pelvic muscles and hold for 5 seconds. This may be difficult at first – don’t worry if you can’t hold the contraction for the full five seconds. With practice you’ll be able to work up to this.

Overtime, work your way up to 10 seconds per contraction. Be sure to rest for 10 seconds in between each contraction – knowing how to relax your muscle is as important as the contraction.

Short Contractions.  Short contractions work the fast twitch muscles that work quickly to stop the flow of urine and prevent leaks. To perform a short contraction, tighten your muscles quickly, then release, and repeat.

How Often Should I Do Kegels?

Like any muscle, you don’t want to do too much too soon. Aim for 5 reps of both short and long contractions, 3x per day on your first day. As you gain more confidence and strength, work your way up to 10 reps, 3x per day of each.

It may take time to see changes, but consistency is key here. Continue practicing kegels and you should see improvements in 3-6 months. And, if you find that you need some help with kegels, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. They will be able to provide you with more personal instruction, which may include biofeedback therapy.

Is a Pelvic Floor Exerciser For You? Read Our Thoughts And A Review Of Three Popular Products That Claim To Improve Pelvic Floor Strength

Is a Pelvic Floor Exerciser For you?

We’ve all heard the age-old advice that doing kegels are good for us.  And for the majority of people, they are. Kegels, when done along side other workout moves, can help tone and strengthen the pelvic floor, making things like bladder leaks and incontinence less likely.  And if that doesn’t mean much to you, consider this: experts say that a stronger pelvic floor can help make orgasms more intense, heightening sexual sensation.

The problem many people face is doing kegels correctly. The nature of kegels makes it hard to know if you’re tightening (and releasing!) the right muscles.  That’s where kegel exercisers come in. This new-ish breed of exercise equipment helps you to know exactly how you are performing in the kegel department. 

Here’s a overview of three devices that are currently on the market:

Elvie

Elvie is a popular device that allows you to literally do your pelvic floor workout anywhere. It’s the smallest kegel tracker available and uses a combination app to track your progress. Elvie is made up of medical-grade silicone and has multiple sensors that measure force and help you see your efforts on screen, so women can visualize their kegel exercises in real-time. Elvie even corrects your lift technique, as 30% of women push down which can lead to damage. There are three levels – beginner, intermediate, and advanced. When you first set your Elvie up, you’ll run through a series of tests to gauge your strength, and then will begin advancing through the different levels as you progress, making the tool fun and challenging.  Each work out only takes 5 minutes, and as you move up in levels you unlock more games and challenges.  Elvie is priced at $199 and can be ordered online through the product’s website.

PeriCoach

PeriCoach is an FDA-cleared medical device coupled with a smartphone app to guide women through pelvic floor muscle exercises.  The exercise programs ques the user to squeeze and relax against the PeriCoach, providing real-time feedback and guidance for proper contractions of the muscles through displaying activity on the smartphone app. The app also offers a bladder diary to record such things as leaks and pad usage, this information along with exercise history allows the user to see progress over time. PeriCoach real-world user data has demonstrated that the product improved incontinence symptoms in more than 75% of users. Additionally, the PeriCoach user may connect with a doctor or PT and share their exercise data.  PeriCoach is available for $299 USD at http://www.pericoach.com.  

Yarlap

Yarlap is another pelvic floor exerciser, but this one does much of the work for you. It’s an FDA cleared pelvic floor stimulator that instructs your pelvic floor muscles to gently contract and relax in order to show you how a Kegel exercise should actually feel.  The difference between Yarlap vs. Elvie and Pericoach is that the Yarlap does the workout for you. It uses a technology called AutoKegel, which perfomrs the Kegel exercises comfortably, correctly, and easily to help you regain muscle tone.  Yarlap consists of a probe, which is inserted into the vagina, and is attached to a display unit, which you can program based on your needs. Yarlap is priced at $299 and can be purchased at http://www.yarlap.com.

A word of caution when considering an electronic device for kegels:  Kegels aren’t for everyone, and for some women who have pelvic floors that are too tight, they can even be harmful.  It’s just as important for the pelvic floor to be able to relax as it is for it to be able to contract, so use these devices with caution, and, preferably, with the guidance of a physical therapist specialized in the pelvic floor.  And, because the pelvic floor connects to many muscles in the body, they shouldn’t be done in isolation. It’s important to strengthen your entire core to ensure that everything is working together, and one muscle isn’t overly taxed during your day-to-day activities.  This is where a trained physical therapist can really help customize your workout. If you need help finding a physical therapist in your area, check out our Doctor Finder Tool.

Have you ever tried a pelvic floor exerciser? What were your results? 

Incorporating pelvic floor exercises into your general workout routine - 3 best moves to add now.

3 Pelvic Floor Exercises to add To your workout routine now.

A guest blog written by Michelle Herbst, PT

Pelvic Floor Exercises, or Kegels, is the contraction of the muscles between the pubic bone and tailbone. When a pelvic floor exercise is performed, the person should feel a gentle tightening and lifting sensation in the lower abdomen and perineum. The pelvic floor muscle contraction is complete when the muscles relax and let go of the contraction.

Please keep in mind these tips when performing a pelvic floor exercise to protect yourself from undue harm. One, you must be able to maintain your breath and therefore be able to inhale and exhale while performing a Kegel and avoid breath holding or bearing down. Two, your muscular effort should be around 75 to 80 percent. If you are exerting 100 percent effort, you are likely using the pelvic floor muscles and many other muscle groups as well.

There are many variations and progressions of a Kegel exercise.

Here are 3 ways to incorporate pelvic floor exercises into your daily routines.

Exercise One: Kegel Progression

The pelvic floor muscles are made of two muscle fiber types – fast and slow. Therefore, Kegels can be progressed by varying the hold time and intensity of the muscle contraction. One of my favorite progressions is simply lengthening the hold time followed by a few quick pelvic floor contractions. For example, a Kegel can be held for 5 seconds followed by 5 quick contractions. This Kegel Combo can be done in any position – seated, standing or lying down. It can be done to the beat of music while seated at a stop light or at the end of a cardio or lifting session when you are your mat working the abdominal exercises.

Exercise Two: Kegel with Breath Work

Yoga is the all the rage and you my find your zen when performing a Kegal with breath work. While your yoga instructor is cueing you in inhale and exhale think about what your pelvic floor. Typically, during focused breathing such as in a Yoga Class, there is always slight tension on the pelvic floor. However, you further engage the pelvic floor muscles when you forcibly exhale. During this type of exhalation, the pelvic floor muscles tighten further along with our deep abdominal muscles to push the air up and out of our lungs. Try it. It may transform your yoga practice.

Exercise Three: Kegel with Plank

Plank. It is a much loved and hated exercise. It is a great way to fully engage our core. And, to reap the benefits of the plank - you must focus on the pelvic floor. If your wrists and feet can tolerate a full plank – go for it! If you need to modify, do a half-plank on your knees. Or, try a wall plank by standing with your feet an arms-length away from the wall and placing your hands on the wall.

Here are a few head to toe cues to get you planking.

When in plank, the hands are stacked under the elbows and shoulders. The chin is slightly tucked lengthening the back of the neck. Your shoulder blades are pulled down and back towards the spine. The chest opens and the pelvis is slightly lifted. Your legs are hip width apart. In full plank, your ankles are 90 degrees as you weight bear through the toes. Now, draw your focus to your pelvic floor muscles.  When you tighten the Kegel muscles, you may feel like your tailbone lift up and in. Hold your plank and breathe. Smile too – you just may enjoy how strong you feel.

 
Michelle Herbst, PT

Michelle Herbst, PT

 

Pelvic Floor Exercises Specifically For Men

Pelvic Floor Exercises Specifically For Men

Pelvic Floor Exercises Specifically For Men

A guest blog written by Michelle Herbst, PT

As a physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation we are referred to as women’s health physical therapists. But, this a little of a misnomer as men have pelvic floors and can have concerns too. In my experience, men participating in pelvic floor rehabilitation make the best patients. They are engaged, compliant and determined to positively affect their condition.  

Kegels for Men:

Kegels for men can help with erectile dysfunction and urinary and fecal incontinence. They are most effective when performed in a consistent, specific manner and progressed slowly over time. Here are a few ideas and tips for men to consider when performing kegels.

A kegel is a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. It feels like a gentle pulling up and in of the pelvic floor followed by a relaxation of the entire muscle group. The kegel contraction begins with a slight lift of the tail bone moving forward as a gentle tightening of the muscles between and tail bone and pubic bone. Lastly, the lower abdominals contract slightly. Then the muscles gently release or relax. There may be a feeling of a reversal of the contraction sequence.

There is no need for weights as our body weight and gravity provide resistance. The contraction is a sub-maximal in effort. If kegels are performed too hard and too fast the result may be muscle soreness and aggravation of symptoms. Performing a submaximal contraction is key and mild muscle soreness may be expected.

Avoid breath holding when kegeling. Repetitive contraction of the pelvic floor while holding the breath could aggravate prior back injuries or make pelvic floor symptoms worse. Normal breathing is the standard when kegeling. Your face should not be turning red. After normal breathing while kegeling is mastered you can further enhance the kegel during exhalation. A long exhalation during a kegel - such as you would blowing out a candle - can allow you to improve muscle performance. Here, give it a try: gently tighten the pelvic floor – take a deep breath in and slowing exhale like you are blowing out a candle while holding the kegel muscle contraction. Then release.

Kegels should be progressed gradually and can be progressed by increasing the hold time and number of repetitions. For example, when you first begin kegeling, you will want to measure how long you can hold the muscle contraction before the muscles ‘give away’ and release the kegel. If you can hold one kegel for 3 seconds, without breath holding, use that as your benchmark for holding time.  Next, work your way up to 10 contractions of 3-second holds. Repeat another set of 10 later in the day. Eventually you may work up to completing multiple sets of 10, 3 to 5 times per day while advancing the kegel-hold time to 10 seconds. And, please remember to relax between each consecutive kegel to avoid moderate muscle soreness.

Try kegeling in different positions. Use the above suggestions of progressing the kegel hold time and repetition and apply to your place in space. The combined effect of body weight and gravity can increase the resistance and difficulty of the kegel. For example, if you have been performing your kegels while lying down, try to perform them in a seated position, followed by standing and during your daily activities.

Lastly, consistency and patience are key. If you don’t take your medicine you will not get well. Continue to perform your kegels daily while your symptoms are improving and to maintain your gains. Be creative and patient with progressing kegels. Depending on your starting point it may take weeks or months to progress to performing multiple repetitions in functional positions. Do not give up too soon. Kegels - they are not just for women and can greatly improve a man’s overall health and quality of life. Give them a try.

 
Michelle Herbst, PT

Michelle Herbst, PT

 

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy And Beyond

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy

Preparing Your Pelvic Floor For Pregnancy

A guest blog written by Michelle Herbst, PT

Congratulations! As you prepare for your baby there is a lot to think about. Doctor’s appointments. Baby showers. Child care. Nervous talks with the Dad-to-be. And, don’t forget - YOU. When you start sharing your news - everyone will give you advice. Some stories will be embellished for the good and others will be overstated for how difficult their pregnancy was. But, keep in mind - this is your experience.

Realistic Expectations:

Some Moms-to-be have problems with leakage. Others do not. A positive pregnancy test does not mean you will develop incontinence or a prolapse - which is a descent of the pelvic organs into the vaginal canal. But, normal changes during pregnancy and the process of labor and delivery can set up the conditions for incontinence and prolapse to occur.  

So, here is my advice as a Mom and a physical therapist for preparing your mind and body for your big day.

Kegel:

You will read about these. Your OB Nurse will ask, ‘Are you doing Kegels?’ But, why are Kegels so important during pregnancy?

Performing Kegels during pregnancy can help you prevent or manage bouts of leakage, and will also help you tune in and tone the muscles that will help push and slide your baby out of the birth canal. Here are a more few reasons why Kegels are so important:

-        To establish a mind-body connection of how the kegel muscles feel when activated.

-        To help create stability of spine and pelvis as your baby grows.

-        To prepare for the arrival of your baby and protection of your pelvic organs during delivery.

Labor can be quick or long. Labor can be easy or difficult. You do not get to choose. But, with preparation of your mind and muscles, along with the skills of your birthing team, the end result will be you holding your precious new baby.

Thoughts on Kegels during Pregnancy:

Think of the pelvic floor as a muscular sling that is tethered between your pelvic bone and tailbone. During pregnancy and labor the pelvic floor muscles lengthen but also need to be able push. The goal of performing Kegels during pregnancy is to improve the strength and function of the pelvic floor as well as encourage lengthening of the pelvic floor muscles.

When performing a Kegel it will feel like a gentle tightening and lifting up and in of the muscles between the pubic bone and tail bone. You may also feel a slight tightening between the belly button and pubic bone. That is your abdominals helping out too. That is OK. Now, hold the Kegel as you inhale and exhale. Relax, and let your pelvic floor muscles return to a normal resting tone or sensation.

The Kegel is a cyclic contraction. It is a shortening of the muscle fibers followed by a relaxation and lengthening of the muscles. If you contract the pelvic floor, and follow that with another pelvic floor contraction without focusing on letting the muscles relax and lengthen, you are training the pelvic floor to become shortened strong muscles not the lengthened strong muscles needed to help push and slide your baby out.

Squat:

Yes – squat. Deep squatting is a normal position to void and give birth. Performing a deep squat as an exercise will help you prepare for the positioning and muscle work needed during delivery.  Deep squatting will open your hips, aide in lengthening the pelvic floor and strengthen your glutes. 

How do I do this?

Slowly work into a squat. You may want to or need to keep your squat shallow by holding onto the back of a sturdy chair or counter top as you start bending at your hips and knees. Keep your gaze forward. Work on keeping your knees behind your toes or stacked above your ankle. Think about keeping your shins perpendicular to the floor. If you are able to get into a deep squat, you may want to place your hands at your chest and gently push your elbows to the inside of your knees.

How long and how many?

This will depend on you. You may want to focus on working into and holding the deep squat. Once you have achieved a deep squat you can work on relaxing into this position. Or, you may want to perform slow repetitions of a shallow squat to standing position and put your emphasis on tightening the glutes when returning to standing.

There really isn’t a right or wrong way – just your way and your focus or intent of the exercise. Pay attention to how you feel and listen to your body.

Your Story:

There will be aspects of your pregnancy and the arrival of your baby that you will not be able to control. But, remember, this is your story. You can prepare your mind and body to set up the best possible set of circumstances to deliver a healthy YOU to motherhood. 

 
 

Integrate Kegels Into Your Daily Workout Warmup

Integrate kegels into your workout warmup

Going from zero to 60mph is great for your new two-seater racing car, but not for your muscles. It’s important to slowly gain speed in your workout routine, making your warm up routine a prime time to work your pelvic floor.

Strengthening your pelvic floor will help restore muscle function and lessen the symptoms of incontinence. Kegels are the primary pelvic floor exercise.

Whether you’re jogging, running, hiking, biking, or playing a contact sport, warming up is crucial to your exercise plan, so why not incorporate kegel training into your daily routine to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles?

Here are a few suggestions for including kegels in your warm up routine:

  • Walk for 3-5 minutes at a steady pace. Take a break at a corner on your block or a turn on a trail and do 10 pelvic floor holds.

  • Do 10 lunges and 10 wall-sits for three reps. Between rotations, practice 5 kegels.

  • Practice a forward fold to stretch your hamstrings and back. Hold the fold 10-15 seconds, then stand and hold a kegel for 5-10 seconds. Repeat for 2-3 times.

  • Do jumping jacks or jump rope for 30-second intervals. Between each interval, practice 10 kegels.

Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles and both men and women experience a lack in pelvic floor strength as they age. Learn more about the importance of working your pelvic floor here. And find instructions on how to properly kegel, or lift your pelvic floor, here.  It is important to remember to let your muscles relax between contractions and to work all the muscles of your core to ensure optimal pelvic floor strength.  If you are unsure of the exercises that would work best for you, finding a physical therapist specialized in pelvic floor strengthening can be very helpful in creating a routine.

If you are looking for more ways to warm up before your work outs, we suggest heading over to workoutlabs.com. You can make your own printable full-body warm up graphic so you always have examples at hand. Print your own sheet out and add kegels wherever you feel most comfortable.

See our favorite full body warm up rotation below. Click here to make your own

It's All About The Base: Learning How To Work Out Your Pelvic Floor

It's All About The Base

We all have health goals. They are often about being more health conscious and physically active.  I’ve heard varying goals from “I want to lose 15 pounds” to “I want to be able to run my first marathon,” but rarely do I hear “I want a stronger pelvic floor” or “I want to be able to jump or exercise without leaking urine every time.” In fact, most people don’t even know about these muscles and how essential a strong pelvic floor is for everyday function.  

The pelvic floor is an amazing set of muscles that span inside your pelvis, from your pubic bones to your tailbone, that act as the base of your core.  They work to control your bladder and bowel and maintain continence, allow for pain-free and enjoyable intercourse, hold up the pelvic organs and help stabilize the pelvic girdle and spine…that’s a lot of responsibility for muscles that are often neglected in the daily workout plan.

As a pelvic floor specialist, I am often asked “How do I work out my pelvic floor?”  The fact is, most people don’t know how to turn on their muscles the RIGHT way.  They are often trying so hard to squeeze as tight as possible that they are engaging everything but their pelvic floor! They will hold their breath, clench their butt, squeeze their inner thighs, tighten up their abdominals and totally miss the boat. 

A pelvic floor contraction, or Kegel, is a very subtle feeling.  It includes a compression and lifting of the muscles deep inside the pelvis, like you are trying to suck a marble up with your vagina or lift your testicles in fear of walking into ice cold water!  Too frank? Well then imagine that you are stopping the flow of urine, which is actually a good test to see if you are engaging the RIGHT muscles.  You can always tighten your pelvic floor mid-stream and see if you can stop, or at least slow down the flow, but this should just be a test, and never a means to actually exercise these muscles.

Although the pelvic floor is the star of this article, you have to also understand that these muscles don’t work in isolation.  Remember that the pelvic floor is the BASE of the core, but also works with other muscles as an integrated system.  The major supporter of the pelvic floor is the diaphragm, which is the dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the rib cage that is essential for breathing. 

When you take a deep breath in through your nose, your rib cage expands and the diaphragm moves downwards, changing the pressure system in your abdomen so your pelvic floor muscles RELAX.  As you exhale through your mouth, the diaphragm moves upwards, and again, the intra-abdominal pressure is changed, and the pelvic floor returns to its resting position.  Wow! Who knew that just practicing breathing could also be working the pelvic floor!

If you want to get fancy, you can coordinate the two muscle groups together:  

Start lying on your back with your knees bent.  Place each hand on the side of your rib cage. Inhale deeply through your nose, imagining your rib cage is expanding in all directions into your hands, and keep your pelvic floor relaxed.  As you exhale through your mouth, let your rib cage return to resting position and gently tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for up to five seconds, then release.  Repeat this sequence for a good 5-10 minutes each day…it’s more about the quality of the breathing and pelvic floor contractions, not just the quantity.  (If you are a numbers kind of person, then try to shoot for 30-50 contractions a day.)

It is essential that you allow for the relaxing aspect of this exercise.  Like any other muscle in the body, we need to make sure the pelvic floor is able to go through its entire range of motion, which means it should be able to tighten, and then release or relax, so it can be able to contract again.  Remember that these muscles are working 100% of the time, and in order to maintain a strong pelvic floor, you need to let these muscles RELAX in between each contraction

 As you feel more comfortable with this exercise, try it sitting or standing, so you can start working out your pelvic floor throughout the day. The beauty of exercising your base is that no one even knows you are doing it!  You can be standing in line at the grocery store or sitting in your car, waiting for the light to turn green, and BAM!  You are working your base out!  Even better, think about integrating your pelvic floor and diaphragm into your gym routine, especially lifting weights or doing other core work.

I dare you to start thinking about exercising all aspects of your core, especially your pelvic floor.  Remember, it’s all about the base!

Victoria Yeisley, DPT, has been specializing in pelvic floor physical therapy since 2008.  She completed her Doctor of Physical Therapy at Boston University and currently works with Northwestern Medical Group in Chicago, IL, where she is integrated as a part of the OB-GYN team.  Victoria’s passion lies in empowering her patients to not only be educated about their pelvic floor, but to gain control over their symptoms.  She feels extremely lucky to be able to practice her passion every day and hopes to be able to continue to promote pelvic floor muscle awareness for all!