When it comes to exercise for your pelvic floor, most people have heard about or tried kegels. Although kegels seem to be advertised as the staple for pelvic floor strengthening, there are way better exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and improve dysfunction like leakage, urgency, or pain with intercourse.
Newer research suggests that the hip abductors and rotators are key muscles in the support and strength of the pelvic floor. They are better at keeping the pelvic floor functional and dynamic, while also reducing pressure on the bladder that can lead to instances of urgency, frequency, and leakage.
When we perform kegel exercises, they are simply a tightening of the pelvic floor. The majority of people not only do kegels wrong, but there is no emphasis on the relaxation phase after the contraction. This can lead to additional tension in the muscles, often making leakage, urgency, frequency, and pain worse. If we do exercises recruiting and strengthening the hip muscles, however, we reduce the chances of overtightening the pelvic floor, and instead, provide dynamic activation to the pelvic floor and support to the internal organs.
So what’s our number one exercise that we recommended for everyone with a pelvic floor? BANDED SIDE STEPS!
This exercise is done by placing a resistance band around your thighs or ankles and then taking steps to the side. When done correctly, it activates the outer hip muscles which are key for strengthening the pelvic floor and reducing dysfunction.
As you can see in the photo above, it can be easy to do this exercise incorrectly and not reap the potential benefits.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when performing this exercise:
- Start in a mini squat position with your hips sitting back; do not tuck your hips under
- Maintain a constant tension on the resistance band as you step to the side
- Regardless of where the band is placed, your knees should be driving out and not falling in towards the center
- Focus on keeping your pelvis level as you step to the side; imagine you are holding a glass of water (or your favorite beverage) on your head and as you step to the side you don’t want it to tip over
When you complete this exercise you should feel your outer hips and the top of the glutes working. If you feel it primarily in the front of your hips or thighs, or if it irritates your knees, you may need to adjust your form. Try doing 15-20 steps each direction with a resistance band of light to medium resistance. If this is too easy, you can increase the resistance or increase the distance of your steps.
This exercise is great to do as part of your strength training warm up and before a run 🏃to help reduce your leakage, pain, or heaviness. Remember, getting those outer hips ACTIVE and WORKING helps to take pressure off the pelvic floor and supports your internal organs.
Curious to learn a little bit more about exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and address your pelvic pain or leakage? We can help! Schedule your FREE 10-minute consult call today ✨
Be empowered in education,
OrthoPelvic Physical Therapy