Hey. Guys have them too. Don’t think this is just a woman thing….
I’m heading into dark waters. Big Sigh. The Pelvic Floor. It almost sounds like a mythological made up place in the body. Unfortunately, it’s very real, and effects two of our most immediately important bodily functions – sex and urination – which is probably why it’s isn’t more openly discussed.
Most women have heard of these muscles, and perhaps the name of a popular method to strengthen them, kegel exercises. Although not discussed much in the gym, men need pelvic floor strength too. If you are unaware of these muscles, it often goes hand in hand with lack of proper abdominal strength and back support. A weak pelvic floor lends to a weak golf game. Your pelvic muscles are the floor of your torso. They hold your guts up, so to speak. The pelvic floor muscles contract in tandem with the deep spinal support muscles, creating a girdle of support – a diaper of strength, if you will. Down and dirty we are going to try and find these muscles. When they are contracted there is often no visual engagement seen externally.
Stop the flow
The easiest way to find the pelvic floor muscles is stopping the stream of urination. If you can do it, then you’ve found them. Congrats. Don’t do this all the time however; constantly stopping the urinary flow when going to the bathroom, and not emptying the bladder entirely can lead to urinary tract infections. This is a good method to first find the muscles.
Simple pelvic floor exercise
Here is a good way to work the pelvic floor muscles, sans the bathroom. Find your sit bones. These are the two bony protrusions located at the base of your pelvis. You can feel them underneath your backside as you sit down. Imagine drawing those two bones together, towards each other, without tensing the backside or leg muscles. Picture the two sit bones becoming magnetically attracted to each other, and feel them pulling towards your center. Draw them together for a few seconds and then release. Try again. It helps to do this sitting upright on a stability ball. If the ball moves a lot or your legs and backside tense, lifting you up from the ball, know that these are the wrong muscles. When contracting the pelvic floor there is very little, if any, movement from the ball.
Another way to imagine triggering the pelvic floor and the transverse abdominals while sitting is to imagine zipping up the last bit of zipper on a pair of pants that are too tight.
Elevator Exercise (From Mayo Clinic)
Visualize an elevator. Slow down the exercises, gradually contracting and releasing your pelvic floor muscles one at a time. As you contract, visualize an elevator traveling up four floors. At each floor, contract your muscles a little more until you reach maximum contraction at the fourth floor. Hold the contraction and then slowly release the tension as you visualize the elevator returning to the ground floor. Repeat 10 times.
There are lots of instruments and mini machines to help you find the pelvic floor. Some more invasive than others, but all will help get the job done.
An easy way to recreate the above exercise for both men and women is to take a tennis ball and hold it in the same place as above. Squeeze just below the gluts with the back of the inner thighs. The place where you would hold the ball almost feels like it’s about to pop out. Contract and release the back of the thigh muscles and pelvic floor around the tennis ball.
In Pilates we call the above exercise “wrapping into the back of the inner thighs”. It’s an important fundamental movement that will not only strengthen the pelvic floor, but the deep abdominals and the inner thighs, creating a leaner, longer posture.
No matter how you go about it, strengthening the pelvic floor takes time, patience and practice, but the practice can happen anywhere. No gym clothes required. Go ahead. Try a few right now. Better love life and deeper belly laughs without fear of having to cross your legs await you.