Pelvic Floor Exercises….are they needed?

Now this is an interesting one…some people seemed just obsessed with the idea of strengthening their pelvic floor, others don’t even know what that means. In Pilates its often one of the things we go on about as is part of our “core” muscles. The pelvic diaphragm, the floor of the pelvis, is the lower support of the abdominal cavity and assists in respiration as well as spine support. These muscles connect to the pubic bone in front and attach to the tailbone in back so they are extremely important for lower back health. Contraction of the deep pelvic floor muscles will also help to fire the transversus abdominis or T.A, this is the stomach muscle that runs round your middle a bit like a corset  (I call it the belt in our classes), which is an extremely important stabilizer for the lower back and spine.

But can you over-strengthen it? Well you can overwork other muscles so I don’t see why not! Over working a muscle leads to it becoming too tight and short which can be as much of a problem as having a weak and long muscle. One of the biggest misnomers is that tight muscles are “strong” and loose muscles are “weak.” In actuality, the strongest muscle is one that is the perfect length. The pelvic floor has to support the weight of the organs above it, it needs to be strong enough to do this but not too strong…a balance is needed.

So should we stop activating our pelvic floor in Pilates? My answer would be that we only activate it as much as we need to based on which exercise we are doing.  Some exercises could damage the lower spine unless the pelvic floor is activated, others won’t work if the pelvic floor is held too tight. At the end of the day 1 class of Pilates is not going to overstrengthen the pelvic floor, its what you do the rest of the time too! My other thought it that really we need to be strengthening the gluts as these muscles pull the pelvic floor taunt, if they are weak your pelvic floor will overtighten. Its about having the body in balance, which is what Pilates sets out to achieve. So squats and glut strengthening exercises are a definate yes. I did these all the way through pregnancy as I was teaching classes (and I LOVE squats!) and they certainly helped me.

So those are my thoughts today, you may see a few more squats in classes, not just in the warm up.

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