Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and contribute to the integrity of the core of the body. Kegels are the most well-known and specific pelvic floor exercises. However, exercises that put the pelvic floor muscles in a movement context in relation to other muscles are a more fully functional approach to pelvic floor strengthening.
Pilates instructor Marie Monahan is the creator of the acclaimed DVD Beyond Kegels. Here, we have two Pilates-based pelvic floor exercises from the DVD - the palm press and the lean back with an intermediate modification. Both exercises take advantage of resistance from the Pilates magic circle to help activate the pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor Exercise Instructions:Important tip for pelvic floor exercises: As with all Pilates exercises it is important to begin the exhale BEFORE you activate the motion of the exercise. In doing this you maximize the control and benefit of the exercise in the targeted muscles.
Palm Press with Magic Circle:
In the palm press, the position of the body combined with the pressing of the magic circle with flat palm activates and lifts the pelvic floor muscles while strengthening the obliques (waist and lower abdominals surrounding pelvic floor). Pressing with the flat palm also brings the pectoral [chest] muscles and mid-back into play.>
Neutral spine or a slight C-curve and shoulder blades reaching down for the mat. Place the magic circle on the mat in front of you with one pad touching the mat. Both palms are flat on the top pad, fingers extended and elbows soft.
Exhale: contract and lift the pelvic floor muscles, then press down on the magic circle. Press down only as far as you can maintain the constant position of the spine.
Visualize lifting the pelvic floor muscles up to the belly button, and the belly button reaching back to the spine with the tailbone attempting to round toward the sky.
Inhale as you release the pressure on the magic circle.
Complete 10 reps initially. Additional reps as strength and awareness increase.
Initially, a slight C curve in the lower spine rather than a neutral spine facilitates easier access to the pelvic floor. Whichever is chosen, maintain it while pressing magic circle -- do not lean forward or round the shoulders while pressing the magic circle. Focusing on the shoulder blades sliding to the mat while pressing strengthens the mid-back and pectoral muscles. Knees should elevate very slightly during motion.
Next Pelvic Floor Exercise: Lean Back with Circle