When it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, most people think it is only for women, especially pregnant women. While pelvic floor exercises are important for women, they’re equally important for men’s health. Pelvic floor muscles are at the bottom of our abdominals and connect to the pelvis. They support bladder, rectal, and sexual functions. These muscles can even affect spinal health as they are connected to structural muscles supporting the spine. Pelvic floor muscles weaken naturally with age. A lot of abdominal exercises will require engagement of the pelvic floor muscles, but not everyone knows how to properly strengthen the pelvic floor. Kegels are the most common exercise given to people to identify and strengthen the pelvic floor in which contracting the same muscles used to stop a flow of urine are repeated. Kegels are great, but there are many more exercises that address pelvic floor weakness. These four moves will help you identify, strengthen, and encourage proper positioning of the all-important pelvic floor.
Squats– When done correctly, these help properly align the pelvis. A misaligned pelvis puts unnecessary tension on the pelvic floor muscles which in turn, weakens them. Holding a deep squat, like malasana pose in Yoga, as long as possible is best so that the muscles and joints can relax. To start with, practice several shorter squats until you gain enough flexibility to hold a deep squat. Squat like you are about to sit in an imaginary chair behind you so that your knees do not pass your toes. Reach your arms straight forward as you squat. Stand back up by squeezing your glutes and pressing your arms back down to your sides. Your back will naturally lean forward as you go down, but try your best to keep your back upright and spine lengthened. You want to create length in your lower back and abdomen. Repeat 10-15 times. Once you are flexible enough to achieve a deep squat, you may hold your hands in front of your chest, resting your elbows on the inside of your knees to hold them open. If you cannot get this low without compromising your posture, you can use a wall against your back to help hold your squat. Breathe deeply and hold this position for one minute.
Straight Legged Bridge– Lie on the ground with your legs up on a stability ball or anything elevated. Squeeze your inner thighs together and lift your hips up into the air as high as possible without arching your back. You need to lift from the glutes and pull your abs in to do this correctly. This exercise lengthens and strengthens the pelvic floor as you do your best to maintain a neutral pelvis position and scooped in abdominals while bridging. Think of pointing your tailbone straight towards your heels when lifted. Do 10 reps. For an added challenge, you can hold your high bridge and do 20 Kegels at the end of your set.
Clamshell– Stabilize your pelvic muscles and strengthen your hips and thighs with this exercise. Lie down on your side with your knees bent and stacked one on top of the other. Lift just the heels off the ground so that they are in alignment with your tailbone. Make sure your hips are stacked over one another to keep proper alignment. Prop your head up onto your hand with your elbow bent on the floor. Keep the top arm in front of you to help stabilize your torso. Pull your abdominals in and up as you lift your top knee as high as possible without letting your heels come apart or your top hip from rocking back. Squeeze your outer thigh and glutes as you slowly open your clam shell and hold for two seconds before releasing back down. Repeat 20 times on each side.
Heel Drags– Lie down on your back with your legs bent and feet flexed so that your heels are on the floor. Engage your lower abs by pulling your navel to your spine. Imagine imprinting every part of your spine onto the floor. Without changing your alignment, slowly push one heel away from your bottom until your leg is as straight as possible without arching your lower back. Slowly drag your heel back in by engaging your pelvic floor muscles and abdominals. It’s important that the dragging of the heel comes from the lower abs and not from the leg. Think of drawing your pelvic floor muscles in and up to pull the leg back in each time. Repeat 10 times on each side and then another 10 with both legs at the same time.
Reduce your risk of incontinence, improve your sexual health, and strengthen your powerhouse with these pelvic floor exercises!
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Video: Crystal Chin; music: “Wait It Out” by Phantom Sun