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Barbell workouts

Pelvic Floor First ambassador Marietta Mehanni shows you how to create a pelvic floor safe barbell workout.

Barbell workouts are great for developing muscle strength and endurance, and this form of resistance training is effective in maintaining bone mass as well as being an enjoyable form of weight training.

This type of workout can be easily modified for people who have pelvic floor issues or are at risk of developing problems.

Our top five modifications for pelvic floor safe barbell workouts are:

  1. Use a narrow stance for squats, deep squats and lunges. Avoid squatting down to the usual 90- degree angle and bend the knees less. It's also important to reduce the weight carried on the shoulders as this load will also place pressure on the pelvic floor.

  2. Breathe. It's common to hold the breath when lifting a heavy weight or during periods of concentration. Try to focus on exhaling when lifting a weight and inhaling when lowering a weight.

  3. Plonk the plank. The plank or hover is designed to strengthen the core and provides a great opportunity to focus on the pelvic floor first. Begin the exercise by first focusing on lifting the pelvic floor while the thighs are still in contact with the floor. Hold for a maximum of 10 seconds then rest. If this is accomplished with confidence, progress to lifting onto the knees. If you have pelvic floor issues or are at risk of developing problems, a full plank on the toes is not recommended.

  4. Avoid jumping lunges and power jumps. These exercises are not recommended for people with pelvic floor issues or those who are at risk of developing problems. Low-impact alternatives are better options.

  5. Modify overhead shoulder presses and triceps extensions. Exercises performed above the head place much more pressure on the pelvic floor and as such, leaking is more likely to occur. Reduce the weight or perform a forward, lateral or rear shoulder raise with dumbbells. Alternatively, for triceps, a bent-over or supported (on the step) triceps kickback is preferable.

Modifying a workout can be intimidating as no one wants to stand out in the crowd. As an instructor, my clients modify their workouts for all sorts of reasons and injuries, and I would prefer they take responsibility for their health. Remember that it's your body and your workout, so own it and always remember to put your pelvic floor first.


Marietta Mehanni is an award-winning Australian presenter with more than 20 years teaching experience in both land and water-based group exercise. Marietta is a Pelvic Floor First ambassador and is passionate about spreading the word about the pelvic floor.

Reproduced from article in PFF eNewsletter of December 2012.