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Pelvic floor muscles and how to work them

Ah the pelvic floor. I may just be speaking for myself but I think the majority of us hadn’t really given our pelvic floor much thought until we became pregnant and were told to make sure we were doing our daily kegels. For those who still may not be aware of what the pelvic floor actually is, what it does and why it’s important, here’s a little more info.

So the pelvic floor is a group of muscles that stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the front, to the coccyx (tailbone) at the back and from one ischial tuberosity (sitting bone) to the other (side to side).

A female’s pelvic floor muscles support her bladder, bowel and uterus. The openings from these organs (the urethra from the bladder, the vagina from the uterus and the rectum from the bowel) pass through the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles wrap firmly around these passages to help keep them shut.

The pelvic floor muscles are like other muscles in the body – they become stronger with regular exercise.

  • Women with stress incontinence (women who wet themselves when they cough, sneeze or are active) will find pelvic floor muscle exercises can help improve their symptoms.

  • Pelvic floor muscle exercise may also be of use for women who have an urgent need to pass urine more often (called urge incontinence.)

  • For pregnant women, pelvic floor exercises will help the body support the growing baby and reduce the chance of having a bladder or bowel problem after birth. Strong muscles before the baby is born will return to normal more easily after birth.

It is recommended that you exercise your pelvic floor every day to help strengthen it and work more effectively but the first thing you need to do is to make sure you know what you’re contracting the right area!

- When you go to the toilet, try to stop or slow the flow of urine halfway through emptying your bladder then start the flow again. If you can do this you are squeezing the correct muscles. Don’t do this regularly as it’ll make your bladder not empty properly.

- Sit or lie down with the muscles of your thighs, stomach and buttocks relaxed. Squeeze the ring of muscle around your back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind. Now relax this muscle. Squeeze and let go a couple of times until you are sure you have found the right muscles. Try not to squeeze your bum.

Once you can feel your pelvic floor muscles working, you can start exercising them:

  • Squeeze and draw in the muscles around your back passage and vagina at the same time. Lift them UP inside. You should have a sense of “lift” each time you squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. Try to hold them strong and tight as you count to 8. Now, let them go and relax. You should have a distinct feeling of “letting go”. If you can’t hold for 8, just hold for as long as you can.

  • Repeat “squeeze and lift” and let go. It is best to rest for about 8 seconds in between each lift up of the muscles.

  • Repeat this “squeeze and lift” as many times as you can, up to a limit of 8 to 10 squeezes. This equals one set.

  • Try to do three sets of 8 to 10 squeezes each day.

  • Pelvic floor muscle exercises can be done anywhere – while sitting, standing or lying down.

While doing pelvic floor muscle training remember these following things:-

  • keep breathing

  • only squeeze and lift

  • do NOT tighten your buttocks

  • keep your thighs relaxed.

If you are not sure that you are doing the squeezes right, or if you do not see a change in symptoms after three months, get a referral from your GP to see a women’s health physio.



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