Train for the ‘weakest link’ and put your Pelvic Floor first.
WARNING! Your abdominal muscle strength may exceed the ability of your pelvic floor!
If you have or are at risk of pelvic floor problems, then it is important you train for the ‘weakest link’ and put your pelvic floor first. There are a number of ways to modify your core exercises to protect your pelvic floor:
Cease strong abdominal exercises. See below for core exercises to avoid
Reduce the level of your abdominal muscle exercise program. See below for suggestions of pelvic floor safe core exercises
Avoid breath-holding by exhaling with effort
Maintain good posture
Lift your pelvic floor first and hold it during the exercise, then relax afterwards
Notice how many repetitions you can do before your pelvic floor muscles tire. You may need to add some rests, or reduce the number of repetitions you do in a row, while your pelvic floor muscle fitness improves.
If you are early postnatal, post gynaecology surgery or post prostate surgery there are also more gentle abdominal exercises that are recommended during these phases.
I can help you determine which of the pelvic floor safe exercises are best for you. It is important to build up your pelvic floor muscle control first and then you will be able to progress to doing some more challenging abdominal exercises again.
Pelvic floor safe core exercises:
single leg extension with one leg supported by a hand on stationary knee or moving foot on ball
knees side to side with feet on ball
modified plank on hands or knees with a slight bend at the hips
wall push ups
ball bridge (feet on ball or back on ball, +/- single leg lift)
arm and leg lift on all fours
leg lift sitting on the ball
shoulder rotations with back on the ball
standing balance work on the bosu or balance disc
Please note: whilst these exercises are pelvic floor safe, you will also need to consider the number of repetitions, abdominal challenge, number of sets, length of rest and your fatigue level - which also affects your pelvic floor function.
Core exercises to avoid
sit ups, curl ups, crunches
abdominal exercises with medicine ball
double leg lowers
plank position on hands and feet (eg ‘hovers’, full push ups)
But how do I get flat abs?
If you’re aiming for a flat tummy then sit ups and crunches aren’t the best option. They will tone the ‘six pack’ muscles but will not flatten the tummy.
Excessive upper abdominal tension that can occur with lots of sit-ups will often make the lower abdomen appear as a ‘pot belly’. Low-impact aerobic exercise to help lose extra abdominal fat is important.
Pelvic floor exercises, when done correctly with relaxed upper abdominals and normal lower abdominal co-contraction, will also help to achieve flatter abs.