Pelvic Floor Exercises For Women & Men: A Complete Guide

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Last updated on February 12, 2023

The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for supporting the bladder, uterus, and bowel. The sexual function is underpinned by the pelvic floor; when you orgasm, muscles in the pelvic floor contract rhythmically. Pelvic floor function in pregnancy includes supporting the extra weight of the baby, and during childbirth, it helps push the baby out of the vagina.

Some women may experience sexual health issues when they age, such as pelvic floor dysfunction or urinary incontinence. This problem is commonly caused by weak pelvic muscles. It is a normal occurrence for the pelvic muscles to weaken over time making pelvic floor muscle training an essential part of any fitness routine. Maintaining good health of your pelvic floor requires regular muscle training, just as it would for any other part of your body.

Let’s discuss how you can identify your pelvic floor muscles, what types of core exercises strengthen them and how these pelvic floor exercises affect other aspects of women’s health like sex, pregnancy, or childbirth.

Do Men Need to Do Pelvic Floor Exercises?

Yes, men need should also do pelvic floor exercises. Doing so will help them with incontinence problems. Strong pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and bowel. Strong pelvic floor muscles shuts off the bladder to prevent leakage. It will also hep the bowel to more easily relax. Strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor has also been shown to help men to maintain an erection.

Men will benefit from the same exercises and training program as women.

How to find your pelvic floor muscles?

There are a variety of ways to find the female pelvic floor muscles, but one of the most classic ones is by stopping the flow of urine midstream. It is strongly recommended that women see their gynecologist before performing this exercise, as it should not be done if there is any suspicion of bladder problems or if you have a history of urinary tract infections.

The next method is by inserting a finger into the vagina and contracting your pelvic floor muscles. If the walls of your vagina are tightening around your finger, you’ve found it!

If you are a heterosexual woman a fun way of finding your pelvic floor muscles is during sexual intercourse. When the penis is inside the vagina contract your pelvic floor muscles then ask your man if he feels your vagina squeezing his penis.

Men can find their pelvic floor muscles by stopping their pee midstream or tightening the muscles that stop you passing wind. You now know where they are !

Indications of a weak pelvic floor

  • urinary incontinence
  • stress urinary incontinence
  • anal incontinence
  • vaginal pain
  • back pain
  • reoccurring urinary tract infections
  • lack of sensation during sexual intercourse
  • pelvic organ prolapse
  • chronic constipation
  • tampons that fall out when inserted

Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor – In the Gym or at Home

Now that you know how to engage your pelvic floor muscles, exercising them couldn’t be easier, possibly the easiest exercise routine you can get! The contracting and releasing of the pelvic floor muscles are also called Kegel exercises.

All the exercises can be done at the gym or at home and suitable for everyone with any level of experience, this includes beginners. The recommended routine is summarised below:

  • Kegels – Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for 10 seconds, then release and rest for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 times, 3 times a day
  • Split table top – 10 reps
  • Bird Dog – 20 reps alternating
  • Clam Shells – 12 reps each side
  • Reverse Clam Shells – 15 reps each side

Below is a detailed step by step guide explaining how to do them.

Pelvic Floor Exercise Routine

Kegel Exercises for Women & Men

  1. Contract the pelvic floor muscles, hold for 10 seconds
  2. Release (rest) 5 seconds
  3. Repeat 10x
  4. Contract and release repetitively 10x
  5. With your muscles contracted hold for as long as you can, then release.
  6. Perform this pelvic floor exercise routine 3x a day for optimal results.

Kegel Exercise Tips

  • Document your holding time with the aim of increasing it as you strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor.
  • Practice these exercises both standing and sitting. As you progress in pelvic strength you will be able to do them while walking.
  • The Mayo Clinic reports results are often seen within a few months, so stay consistent and keep going!

Split Table Top 

  1. Lay on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Lift your feet off the floor holding them in line with your knees, parallel to the floor.
  3. Engage and squeeze your inner thighs together and hold for 2 seconds.
  4. Release the hold, open your knees and lower your thighs toward the floor.
  5. Engage and pull your inner thighs together and squeeze for 2 seconds.
  6. Repeat 10x.

Split Table Top Exercise Tips

  • Make sure your back is flat on the floor.
  • Keep your knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet in line with your knees lifted parallel to the floor, throughout the exercise.
  • Be sure to time the opening and closing of your leg movements according to your breath by opening your legs on the inhale and closing it on the exhale.

Bird Dog

  1. Start on all fours knees directly below the hips, hands directly below the shoulders.
  2. Push the floor away from you.
  3. Squeeze and engage your abdominal muscles.
  4. Lift your opposite hand and leg off the floor and extend away from your torso.
  5. Hold in a straight line parallel to the floor for 2 seconds.
  6. Place opposite hand and knee back to starting position.
  7. Alternate 20x.

Bird Dog Exercise Tips

  • Inhale on your lift, exhale moving back to starting position.
  • Keep your spine in a straight line by looking between your hands.
  • Flex your foot to maintain glute and quad muscle engagement and aid balance.
  • If you have a weak pelvic floor, avoid the elbow to knee crunch and extend variation of the bird dog exercise.

Clam Shells

  1. Lay on your side, stack your hips, knees, and ankles directly on top of each other.
  2. Bend your knees slightly forward bringing your ankles in line with your hips and shoulders.
  3. Engage and squeeze your abdominal muscles.
  4. Keeping your ankles together lift your top knee up towards the ceiling until you feel your glutes engaging.
  5. Hold for 2 seconds.
  6. Lower and place the knee back to starting position.
  7. Repeat 12x on each side.

Clam Shell Exercise Tips

  • If you find it hard to get in alignment lay against a wall.
  • You can add resistance by using bands around your thighs just above the knee.
  • Place your top hand on the floor in front of you to avoid your top hip from rotating forward.

Reverse Clam Shells

  1. Lay on your side, stack your hips, knees, and ankles directly on top of each other.
  2. Bend your knees slightly forward bringing your ankles in line with your hips and shoulders.
  3. Engage and squeeze your abdominal muscles.
  4. Keeping your knees together lift your top ankle up towards the ceiling until you feel a stretch in the glute and the hip.
  5. Hold for 2 seconds.
  6. Lower and place the ankle back to starting position.
  7. Repeat 15x on each side.

Reverse Clam Shell Exercise Tips

  • Lift your top leg slightly off your bottom leg maintaining your alignment while performing the exercise as a progression.
  • To make these resistance exercises tie a band around your ankles for resistance.

Benefits of doing pelvic floor exercises

  • Improve and manage urinary and/or bowel incontinence.
  • Reduce social anxiety and increase self-confidence.
  • Decrease the risk of pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Faster recovery from giving birth.
  • Enhance intimacy, sexual sensation, and orgasmic potential.

Exercises to avoid if your pelvic floor is weak

When you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you should avoid exercises that put downward pressure on your pelvic floor, which may result in bladder leakage or incontinence. These exercises would include abdominal strength exercises like crunches and situps and high-impact aerobic workouts.

Final thoughts

Pelvic floor exercises are an important part of a woman’s health. The pelvic floor muscles provide a woman with control over her bladder and bowel movements, they can help improve intimacy, and may also increase recovery time after childbirth or lead to less risk of pelvic organ prolapse later on in life. They are equally important to men and should be a focus of their workout routine.

If you think that these advantages make pelvic floor exercises worth incorporating into your fitness routine now is the best time to get started!

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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