Create Length, Strength, and Balance in Your Pelvic Floor.
For too long now, the Kegel has reigned supreme when it comes to the most frequently recommended pelvic floor exercise for pregnant and postpartum women. But the truth is, when not properly understood or done in tandem with other pelvic floor exercises, Kegels can do more harm than good.
While attractive in its simplicity, the idea of “doing your daily Kegels” ignores the importance of a) truly understanding how the pelvic floor muscles work b) creating balance in the muscles with smart, intentional training, and c) making sure to bring in the core/breath connection.
To shift the way we are “training” our pelvic floors, we’ve got to be open to changing the way we address overall core and pelvic floor strength. This starts with building a stable and balanced foundation. Knowing how to create a strong connection to your pelvic floor is incredibly powerful.
So if you want:
A stronger core
A decreased chance of severe tearing during birth
A lessened chance of pelvic floor injury postpartum
A better sex life, and
A deeper connection to self through your physical body
Unleash your pelvic floor superpower! It’s time to expand the repertoire of pelvic floor exercises beyond Kegels in order to more deeply tap into your core and pelvic floor with these smart and effective techniques.
The Truth About Kegels
Most women are probably familiar with Kegels, but for those who aren’t, Kegels are a pelvic floor exercise that requires you to clench and then release the muscles of your pelvic floor. The way most resources describe identifying these muscles is by stopping and starting urine midstream.
Although these same resources discourage you from practicing this way once you’ve identified the muscle, this in and of itself is a warning sign that Kegels can actually cause issues like bladder infections when not properly performed. Beyond this, the simple fact that Kegels focus on tensing the muscle and not relaxing them can create problems like a hypertonic - or overly tense - pelvic floor. The increased frequency of women suffering from hypertonic pelvic floor issues is something we’ve personally witnessed at The Bloom Method.
Indeed, all this tensing of the pelvic floor muscles can have the opposite effect. Instead of solving pelvic floor problems, this tightness can create issues like constipation, painful sex, urgency, and pelvic pain. True strength stems from balance, which is why it’s time to bid the Kegel goodbye.
Tapping into your core and pelvic floor doesn’t have to be confusing. In fact, it can be as simple as applying new techniques to the way your train your inner core and pelvic floor, and a willingness to try something different. This is why we teach these techniques inside Studio Bloom - if you’re missing the most crucial building blocks, you’re missing out on the ability to get the results you desire.
A Tight Pelvic Floor Can Cause Incontinence and Diastasis Recti
Did you know that incontinence and continuous Diastasis Recti issues can often be caused by a hypertonic pelvic floor? When the muscles of the pelvic floor are overactive and therefore super tight, the constant strain has a weakening effect on the entire system.
A hypertonic pelvic floor causes fatigue all the way from your core to the pelvic floor muscles that control your bladder. So if you’re peeing when you sneeze or laugh, or are experiencing side effects of Diastasis like low back pain, it may be worth investigating whether a hypertonic pelvic floor is to blame.
Beyond too many Kegels, common daily habits that can increase pelvic floor tightness are:
Standing for long periods of time and not breathing correctly (chest breaths vs diaphragmatic)
Clenching your jaw
Holding your core tight throughout a workout
Length, the antidote for strength
The ripple effect from a tight pelvic floor extends beyond Diastasis Recti and incontinence, and can even impact your birth experience. This is why we encourage pregnant women practicing within Studio Bloom to increase “down-training” with pelvic floor lengthening exercises around 34 weeks.
The lengthening abilities of your pelvic floor really shine during the pushing phase of labor. Whether you push for 30 minutes, 1 hour, or more, these muscles must be able to endure the task ahead. Believe it or not, the lack of ability to relax your pelvic floor can directly affect your degree of tearing. Just as it’s important to regulate our intra-abdominal pressure during movement and exercise, we’ve got to be able to regulate it during birth.
A balanced pelvic floor, one that can properly contract and lengthen, is also going to heal better post-birth. It doesn’t happen overnight, but what was once a healthy pelvic floor connection will resume with the right techniques and focus.
The Best Exercises to Lengthen and Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor
It always starts with that inhale and exhale! After all, isn't that the essence of life itself? Once you get the ball rolling by simply tapping into your breath, we can take care of walking you through the rest.
The muscles of your pelvic floor are designed to both contract and lengthen based on:
The demand being placed on them during exercise, pregnancy, etc.
The position of the pelvis
The pressure within the abdominal cavity, and even
The way/how you push during birth
To begin, it’s critical to focus on building the foundation for a healthy pelvic floor and core. Especially if you’re suffering from a hypertonic pelvic floor, you need to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. At The Bloom Method, we literally call these our “Core Foundations” because they’re essential for success when it comes to building strength during pregnancy and healing postpartum.
Consider these things when beginning your journey toward a healthy, balanced pelvic floor:
Your breath - each inhale and exhale - turns on the pelvic floor, allowing the muscles to move in unison with each breath.
Adding a more intentional breath like The Bloom Method’s Belly Pump can offer another element of pelvic floor awareness. Now you can begin to feel into the vast differences of engagement and lengthening.
Kegels can be helpful but only when followed by a full lengthening of the “Kegeled muscles.”
Don’t be afraid to build endurance in your pelvic floor muscles. The ability to maintain engagement in the pelvic floor can tell you a lot about where you’re at, plus lengthening after an isometric hold can be so gratifying.
A manual exam by physio [which we highly recommend] will let you know if you have a tendency to lean in one direction more than the other.
Focusing on finding balance is still going to lead you to healing.
If you’re already a member of Studio Bloom, you can practice right now with our Pelvic Floor Lengthening Circuit. If not, start your FREE one-week trial and get access to pelvic floor lengthening exercises right away.
The moral is: Do your Kegels (remember to activate ALL sides of the musculature don’t just stop the flow of urine) but practice the lengthening component too. Think about relaxing and opening. A tight pelvic floor is often a dysfunctional one, and it’s time to be free from the dysfunction.
Whether you’re dealing with incontinence, pain during sex, prolapse, injury-based Diastasis that won’t heal, or trying to prepare for the labor phase of childbirth, the payoffs to finding balance in your pelvic floor are huge. It’s worth investing some time to understand how your core and pelvic floor work together, and to expand the training techniques and exercises you use during pregnancy - and beyond.