Does Weightlifting Weaken the Pelvic Floor?
[Written by Website Blog Content Writer - Anna Mae]
Lifting heavy weights can weaken the pelvic floor. However, it isn't really as simple and black-and-white as you might think. A more correct answer might be that lifting heavy weights could weaken the pelvic floor, but that does not mean weight training is a no-go.
You need to understand the process and take care to protect your body because heavy lifting can indeed strain the pelvic floor muscles and put pressure on the area, which will lead to pelvic floor problems if you don't do it correctly.
The pelvic floor can be thought of as somewhat like a hammock. The muscles run between your back tailbone and your front pubic bone and to each hip bne.
These muscles offer support to organs in the pelvic region. This includes reproductive organs, bladder and bowel.
It is part of what provides us with bladder and bowel control, which of course, is pretty important.
If these are damaged or weakened, then issues can occur, and leaking urine or faeces may well cause embarrassment, and you may find yourself questioning whether it is normal.
Is It Normal to Pee When Lifting Weights?
If you leak pee when lifting weights, this could be a sign that you have a weak pelvic floor or are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction.
So, it isn't classed as normal, but at the same time, it can be more common than you think.
Weightlifting is not the only thing that could potentially weaken the pelvic floor, and some things are not within our control. Carrying a baby, birthing a baby, and menopause all add to the weakening of your pelvic floor muscles. If you are obese, have suffered from a condition where you cough a lot or have abdominal problems that lead to straining to pass bowel movements, you can also damage the strength of your pelvic floor.
Now, before you think that the easy answer here is just to avoid going the gym and lifting weights, remember this is not the only time we do lift weights that could put a strain on our abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
How about picking up your children? Babies may not be very heavy, but once they get to toddler age and beyond, there are still times when you will naturally scoop them up in your arms and actually lift more weight than the average woman at a gym.
When you add in the odd box, we may lift at work or at home; you can see how easy it is for lifting weights outside of a gym to be as problematic as those faced by elite weightlifting athletes.
So what can we do?
How to Protect Pelvic Floor When Lifting Weights
To protect your pelvic floor when lifting weights, you can:
- Use mindful lifting
- Do the 'Knack' technique (this is where you engage your pelvic floor muscles before you lift anything heavy)
- Keep your core strong
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Keep your pelvic floor healthy and strong
Use Mindful Lifting
Mindful lifting means thinking about picking up the heavy object before just rushing in and doing it. Of course, this can be tricky if it's a crying toddler, but you should aim to keep the strain off your lower back by keeping it relaxed in its natural curve.
Be sure that you're not holding your breath when you lift, and try not to pull your stomach muscles in tightly. This may seem counterintuitive, but if you do this, you are increasing the pelvic floor pressure.
When you are lifting, you should aim to breathe out with any effort. So that means as you lift, exhale, as you pull, exhale, and as you push, exhale.
Engage Your Pelvic Floor Muscles - The 'Knack' Technique
So, instead of sucking in your stomach muscles, you should be looking to engage the muscles of the pelvic floor instead.
This is the 'Knack' technique. This is when you pull up and hold your pelvic floor when lifting anything heavy, coughing or sneezing to protect it.
This will help prevent any damage to the area.
Keep Your Core Strong
When you have a free moment, try performing a Kegel exercise with your feet wide apart, you will notice it is way more difficult than if you keep your feet tucked together. This applies when you are lifting. If you watch someone trying to lift a very heavy object, the natural stance is to widen their stance to have their feet as wide apart as possible.
Now bring your feet together and try to clench your pelvic floor muscles once more. See how much easier this is? This is the same position you should be in when you go to lift any weight.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
The other option, of course, is to try and avoid any heavy lifting. This might mean roping in other people to do the heavy lifting for you. On a case-by-case basis, you should be assessing whether there is a risk from the weight you are about to lift. Of course, if it's a crying toddler, there is little doubt you're going to pick them up and soothe them, but if someone else can move a heavy box, then why not let them?
Keep Your Pelvic Floor Healthy
This really does apply regardless of whether you are regularly lifting heavy weights or not. Pelvic floor exercises are a must for every woman. It doesn't even matter how old you are. It's never too late to start, and you can never be too young to start.
Kegel exercises are a great way to help combat the natural things that are going to happen over the course of your life that will weaken the pelvic floor.
If you are unsure how to do your Kegel exercises correctly, our weights will teach you how to do your Kegels correctly and exercise your pelvic floor muscles fast.
The Bottom Line
Lifting heavy weights can potentially damage the pelvic floor and weaken the muscles. However, being fully aware of how this can happen can dramatically reduce the chance of it happening. You should also take care to lift mindfully with good posture, and don't forget to keep up regular Kegel exercises.
If you would like to learn how to get in good daily habits of doing your Kegels twice a day and doing them correctly, then come and join us on the 5th June.