We ask super-physio Claire Merrett for her pick of the best exercises from the Jennis Pregnancy app for a super-strong pelvic floor
Most of us know that we should be working our pelvic floor muscles – particularly when pregnant – but how many of us actually exercise them? Well, according to a recent Jennis Pregnancy poll, only 55% of you exercise your pelvic floor muscle regularly and consciously. After reading this, hopefully that will change. Over to you, Claire.
Why work your pelvic floor? “There are loads of reasons why it’s great to work you’re your pelvic floor, including preventing you weeing and pooing yourself, stopping pelvic organ prolapse and giving you a better sex life.” You can read more on that here.
According to a recent Jennis Pregnancy poll, only 55% of you exercise your pelvic floor muscle regularly and consciously
How do you find yours?
“To find your pelvic floor muscles, sit down and, keeping your legs and tummy as relaxed as possible, draw up through your pelvic floor as though you are trying to stop a wee or fart, or hold a tampon in place,” says Claire.
“The way the muscles tighten is a bit like a drawstring bag drawing together.” Now you have that bit mastered, you can move on to Claire’s top pelvic floor exercises. There are more of these featured throughout the Jennis Pregnancy app workouts.
1. Pelvic floor holds
Your pelvic floor consists of both slow and fast-twitch muscle fibres – both of which need a workout in order to be trained. This exercise focuses on strengthening your slow-twitch muscle fibres, which help maintain the necessary tension in your pelvic floor to support your pelvic organs.
How to do it: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. (Claire often recommends newbies lie down at the beginning as they may find it easier.) Slowly draw up through your pelvic floor muscles, and hold the contraction for five seconds. Then slowly relax, and rest for five seconds. Repeat 10 times. Remember to breathe!
“The goal is to build up a 10-second hold,” says Claire. “Eventually you’ll be able to do this exercise sitting, standing or lying down.”
2. Pelvic floor rapid holds
This exercise works your fast-twitch fibres, which control sudden changes in abdominal pressure, for example when you laugh, cough or sneeze. So we all know how important these ones are!
How to do it: Sit or lie down, and perform up to 10 ‘squeezes’, pulling up through your pelvic floor muscles as before. But for this exercise, aim to keep your legs, bum and tummy as soft and relaxed as possible while you contract your pelvic floor. Hold this position for one second, and then relax for one second. Repeat up to 10 times. Again, don’t hold your breath!
3. Basic hip twist
It might sound simple but this one gives your pelvic floor a thorough workout. “Like many other core stability exercises, the basic hip twist is very effective for your pelvic floor because it needs your core and pelvic floor muscles to work together,” says Claire.
How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent, and your feet shoulder-width apart. With your hips into a neutral position, draw in your pelvic floor muscles and engage your core. Rest your fingertips on your hipbones and gently float one knee out to the side – but only by a few centimetres. If you float your hip too far, your hip bones will push into your hands, so watch out for that sensation and bring your hip back a smidge if so. Yep, it’s a teeny, tiny movement – but it works. Do 10 times on each leg.
4. Coffee table lift
This exercise looks easy, but it’s actually a hard-core workout for your core. “Like the other core-strengthening exercises here, it works your transverse abdominals, the deepest abdominal muscles that make up your core,” says Claire. “And while working them you’re also strengthening your pelvic floor muscles.”
How to do it: Get onto all fours with your hands shoulder-width apart and your knees hip-width apart. Make sure your hips are in a neutral position and your back is flat. Curl your toes under. Breathe in, and then breathe out, drawing in your tummy and pelvic floor muscles, and then lift your knees off the floor. As you breathe in, lower your knees back down. Repeat 10 times.
5. High knees with toe taps
Here’s another brilliant workout that both strengthens your core and exercises your pelvic floor muscles. We love that it kills two birds with one stone. Win win!
How to do it: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your knees soft and your pelvis in a neutral position. Engage your core and draw in your pelvic floor muscles. Breathe out and gently raise one knee. Next, straighten your leg and tap your toes on the floor three times. Breathe in and lower your leg back down to its starting position. Repeat on the other leg. Aim to do 10 on each leg.
How often should you do pelvic floor exercises?
Three to four times a day is the ideal. “Try setting a timer on your phone to remind you to do your pelvic floor exercises, or do them alongside something else that you do several times a day too, like making a cup of tea or eating,” says Claire. “It will help you remember.”
Try setting a timer on your phone to remind you to do your pelvic floor exercises
How to breathe during the exercises
Don’t hold your breath when strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. “This can put pressure on the pelvic floor,” says Claire. “Instead, breathe normally with your shoulders relaxed, remembering your posture.”
Not sure you’ve got your breathing quite right? Try placing your hands on either side of the base of your ribs and breathe in slowly. “You should feel your hands rise upwards and outwards gently,” says Claire. “As you breathe out, your hands should sink back down and in.”