You and Your Pelvic Floor: What You Need to Know
The muscles of the pelvic floor, how they function, and their importance seems to be all over the media lately. The fitness and wellness industry loves to latch onto some part of the body or some dietary fad, and make everything we do centre around that one thing until the next hot, marketable trend appears on the scene.
As fitness professionals, this gets frustrating for us and confusing for the clients we work with. Splitting the body up into various focal points and ignoring the bigger picture isn’t always the way to go. We can’t latch onto trends and neglect the holistic physiological system that we live in.
In the case of the hype about the pelvic floor, however, the extra attention was definitely needed. We need to know how it functions, how we can improve its function, and why its important to include pelvic floor awareness in regular exercise.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor consists of nerves, fascia, and three layers of muscles. These muscles connect front to back, from pubic bone to tailbone, and side-to-side from one sitz bone to another. Their architectural design creates a bowl or hammock at the bottom of the trunk for five specific functions:
- Support: Provides support for abdominal and pelvic organs
- Sphincteric: Continence for bowel and bladder
- Sexual: Orgasms and erections
- Stability: Strength and coordination for low back, pelvis, and hip
- Sump pump: Pumps blood and lymph back to the heart
For fitness professionals and practitioners, studying and learning more about the anatomy and function of this part of the body gives us some powerful tools to help our clients. Removing taboos and being able to openly talk about the muscles of our ‘private parts’, as some may refer to them, will only help us to grow and learn more about the incredible bodies we live in.
Before we explore how we can help to improve the function of your pelvic muscles, it’s important to first understand the basics about these muscles and what exactly they do.
The pelvic floor muscles basics
- Span the bottom of the pelvis
- Play a significant role in childbirth - helping for the safe and effective movement and control of the baby as it descends the birth canal
- Help maintain optimal intra-abdominal pressure
- Control the release of urine and feces:
- Pulling up to tighten sphincters of the anus, urethra, and vagina - which allows us to delay for convenience
- Relaxing to allow us to get rid of it
- When they can’t optimally contract or release – and this is often due to lack of neural drive or activation – we struggle with incontinence (both urinary and fecal)
- Affect sexual function:
- For men, contributing to control of ejaculation
- For women, contributing to orgasm and arousal sensation – the ability to control contractions can enhance sexual experience
There are numerous exercises that are indicated to help strengthen the pelvic floor. Exercises such as a dying bug and supine hip bridges are often effective and typically won’t exacerbate conditions such as Diastasis Recti, also known as abdominal separation.
Since the first and most vital part of working on your pelvic floor involves getting the right muscles to fire in the right way, we’ve created programs at both the Adelaide Club and Toronto Athletic Club to help you.
At the Adelaide Club, we have carefully developed a 4-week progressive workshop. The pelvic floor muscles are deep and often hard to connect to. Simply performing movements doesn’t always do the trick. Understanding how these muscles work, appropriate cueing, and the right training to increase neural drive to the tissue, is the best way to begin to train and improve muscle function.
Your focused intention and our expert coaching will help you build a strong neural connection and better awareness of these muscles, so you are able to engage your pelvic floor and improve your daily function. If you are interested in signing up for our 4-week workshop or have any questions, please reach out directly to Pamela.
Toronto Athletic Club
At the Sport Medicine Clinic, we offer pelvic floor physiotherapy, which assesses the integrity of your pelvic floor muscles in relation to your core, low back, hip, or pelvic condition. After a gold standard internal examination, an individualized treatment plan will be crafted that would include home exercise stretching and strengthening programs. Note: Kegels are not for everyone!
If you would like to schedule for 60-minute assessment or have questions regarding your pelvic floor, please contact Joanne.
Pamela Fitzgerald, Personal Trainer, Adelaide Club
Joanne Ukposidolo, Physiotherapist, Sport Medicine Clinic