The pelvic floor and resistance exercises
Your body muscle strength may exceed the ability of your pelvic floor. If you have or are at risk of pelvic floor problems, then it is important you train for the ‘weakest link’ and put your pelvic floor first. There are a number of ways to modify your resistance exercises to protect your pelvic floor:
- Lighten your weights or resistance so that you don’t feel pressure down on your pelvic floor as you move
- Avoid holding your breath by exhaling with effort (e.g. when you pull, push, lift or lower weights)
- Maintain good posture
- Reduce the level of your abdominal muscle exercise programs (see core exercises)
- Reduce the depth of your squats and lunges – aim to keep your hips at a higher level than your knees
- Choose supported positions (eg seated machines or sitting on a fit ball to use hand weights)
- Keep your legs closer together during exercise
- Lift your pelvic floor first before you move, and relax afterwards. Notice how many reps you can do before your pelvic floor muscles tire. You may need to add some rests, or reduce the number of reps that you do in a row, while your pelvic floor muscle fitness improves.
Build up your pelvic floor muscle control and then you will be able to progress to doing some more challenging resistance exercises again.
Pelvic floor friendly resistance exercises
- seated exercises (e.g. shoulder press, rows, bicep curls, knee extensions)
- dumbbell triceps extensions (e.g. lying or one arm and leg propped on a bench)
- dumbbell exercises on a Swiss ball
- shallow and narrow leg squats
- shallow Swiss ball wall squats
- prone leg curl
- shallow forward lunges
- dumbbell row
- pec deck
- supine bench/Swiss ball press
- wall push ups, and
- floor bridge.
Please note: whilst these exercises are pelvic floor friendly, you will also need to consider the number of repetitions, weight lifted, number of sets, length of rest, whether your pelvic floor muscle is activated and your fatigue level - which also affects your pelvic floor function.
Resistance exercises to avoid
- abdominal exercises (e.g. sit ups, curl ups, crunches, double leg lifts, exercises on machines)
- medicine ball rotations
- deep lunges or side lunges
- wide legged or deep squats
- jump squats
- lifting or pressing heavy weights
- lat pull down with heavy weights
- leg press machine with heavy weights
- dead lifts
- high bench step up step down
- exercises with both feet off the ground (e.g. chin ups, tricep dips)
- full push ups, and
- any exercise where there is direct downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
Download the resource: The pelvic floor safe resistance exercises (117KB).