Can deadlifting really make your pelvic floor stronger???
If you are trying to work on strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, kegels are not the end game. A kegel, named from the gynecologist who “invented” them, Dr. Arnold Kegel, is a pelvic floor muscle contraction.
How do I do kegel exercises?
Contracting your pelvic floor muscles includes tightening and lifting your muscles that are located in your saddle region. When we say “tighten,” we want you to try to stop the flow of pee or hold in a fart. This may not be a graceful cue but it’s helps connect our mind to the muscle. Functionally speaking, the pelvic floor muscles activate any time you are moving.
Pelvic floor muscle strengthening will be needed if you are experiencing urinary (or bowel!) leakage with coughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting, or laughing. The fancy medical term for this is called stress urinary incontinence. Urine leakage happens because of mismanaged intra-abdominal pressure that is exerted down on your bladder and pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor muscles are not strong enough to combat that pressure, urine leakage will occur.
Another reason we may need to strength our pelvic floor is a prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) can happen as a result of childbirth, aging, or from weight gain. When the muscles and tissue that support our organs become weak or lax, the bladder, uterus, or rectum can start to drop down toward the vagina.
The pelvic floor muscles need to activate well and produce force in times of lifting, coughing, jumping, and pushing as to avoid urine leakage and for pelvic organ support. Have you been experiencing urinary leakage or prolapse symptoms with some of those movements or activities? The final solution for this is not laying on a table and doing kegels for weeks on end. We don’t live our lives horizontally, after all. We need to train the pelvic floor muscles in a functional manner. These muscles respond to strength training just like any other muscles in our body.
Oh yeah, you heard that right – the best way to get the pelvic floor muscles stronger is to load them with resistance i.e. weight!
Once you’ve figured out how to perform a kegel, or a pelvic floor muscle contraction, try contracting these muscles while performing a deadlift or squat. We know that deadlifting helps strengthen our hip extensors. One study found that morphologically and functionally the gluteus maximus (hip extensor) and the levator ani (pelvic floor) muscles were connected. This study also found that strengthening the pelvic floor along with the hip helped reduce the severity of daily urine loss. So what does this mean? This means that YES, performing deadlifts can help you strengthen your pelvic floor and reduce urinary leakage!
If you are experiencing urinary leakage or prolapse symptoms and you’ve tried kegels to no avail then it might be time for you to see a pelvic health physical therapist. A pelvic health physical therapist can help you determine if you are performing a pelvic floor muscle contraction (kegel) correctly and then guide you through more progressive exercises like deadlifts.
At MOTION RX, we believe functional exercises that load our bodies with effective weight is the best way to get better and stronger. As a pelvic health physical therapist at MOTION RX, I examine and evaluate my patients with pelvic floor dysfunction in a private treatment room. When the time comes to progress toward more functional movements, my patients and I have access to squat racks, kettlebells, dumbbells, etc. I want to ensure that I am properly dosing my patients and pushing them so that they can see real improvements in their pelvic floor symptoms!
Marques, S. A. A., Silveira, S. R. B., Pássaro, A. C., Haddad, J. M., Baracat, E. C., & Ferreira, E. A. G. (2020). Effect of pelvic floor and hip muscle strengthening in the treatment of stress urinary incontinence: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 43(3), 247–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmpt.2019.01.007