Why I’m Over Kegels & Loving Squats: Real Pelvic Floor Advice

Why I'm Over Kegels & Loving SquatsLast week at the gym when I made a quick dash to the restroom I found several ladies discussing how much more they hated jumping jacks now since having a baby. Seeing my pregnant belly they urged me to do my Kegels as they headed off to their group fitness class. I could totally relate to what they were talking about, you can read my post on this very topic: The Mama Confessionals: Oops…I Peed My Pants! Nobody wants to pee on themselves, which is why I thought it would be helpful to talk about how I feel about Kegels on the blog today.

Now don’t stop reading this just because you haven’t had a baby. This post will be helpful to everyone, because even the manliest of men, can suffer from pelvic floor disorders. I think the majority of information that we have been told by our doctors, girlfriends, moms, and sister on Kegels is more harmful to us than helpful. Let me explain…

KEGELS & YOUR PELVIC FLOOR

Doing Kegels causes muscular contractions. Now if you have very slack pelvic floor muscles Kelgels, if done correctly, can be helpful to make the muscles taut. Unless you have worked with a pelvic floor specialist using a biofeedback machine it can be very hard to know if you are doing these exercises correctly.

I have heard some recommendations to do Kegels repeatedly throughout the day. Let’s think about this for a moment. Doing 1 exercise repetitively will only cause a tight muscle. If you already have a tight muscle contracting it more will further aggravate it. Doing this type of exercise over and over again during the day can cause the pelvic floor muscles to become weaker, not stronger. When pelvic floor muscles become weak they create instability throughout the entire core of the body. When you only focus on one small part of the puzzle you miss the big picture. Don’t miss the big picture here. Pelvic floor disorders are serious business.

Instead of tightening the pelvic floor muscles we should be lengthen them. Resist the urge to tuck your tailbone under when you are standing or walking. Normal movements that we do everyday play a huge role in how our muscles function. Do you wear high heels to work? Invest in cute pair of flats instead. Do you feel like you are constantly straining when you go the bathroom? Invest in a Squatty Potty. Seriously if you have never heard of these or think the idea of squatting to poo is crazy you are not alone. I laughed the first time I heard about the Squatty Potty, but it is seriously one of the best products we have ever purchased for our house! I will do a separate post on the benefits of squatting in the bathroom soon.

Be aware of your pelvic alignment. Take time to know where your pelvis is when you sit, stand, walk, and exercise. Like I mentioned above even going to the bathroom can shift the alignment in your pelvis. Want to know more about how you can adjust the alignment of your body? Check out several of my tips in my post The Truth About Diastasis Recti & Healing Your Core.

SQUATTING & STRETCHING

Do bodyweight squats daily and activate your glutes. If you really want to prevent pelvic floor disorders build up your glutes. Having a nicely shaped butt will not only give you a boost of confidence but it also will ensure that your pelvis is not being pulled forward by tight pelvic floor muscles. By squatting deep on a regular basis you are training the body to keep the little curve at the small of your back and the pelvic floor muscles from being overly tense.

Focus on stretching. Start with your calves, hamstrings, and groin (adductors). Stretching these muscle groups will help your squat become deeper. If you are an athlete and having tight quads and psoas can keep the pelvis tucked, which we want to prevent as much a possible. So get out the foam roller and focus on lengthen these muscle groups.

If you are having a baby squat during labor. Seriously! There are squat bars that can be attached to the end of your hospital bed. Grip that bar, push away, and deliver that baby with the help of gravity. I can tell you I had a great experience delivering Caden this way. My pelvis was aligned and I was in a position that allowed me to make the best use of gravity to push my baby out using every muscle group in my entire body.

All that to say I have ditched Kegels in favor of squats. Does this mean I don’t ever have leakage? Well no, but I will say that based on what I have heard from other mom’s my results have been successful. I am 28 weeks pregnant and can get through my workouts leak free. For me I feel like that is a success. Now if I get super sick with bronchitis and start pumping the fluids you probably won’t want to sit very close to me.

As women we need to encourage, educate, and be resources for each other. I know my body will never be back to how it was before having kids and I am 100% fine with that. The more you can understand why your body works the way it does the better equipped you will be to improve how it functions. I love sharing what I have learned through my own research here on my blog. If you want to learn even more about squatting and how to know if you are doing it correctly check out Katy Bowman’s post You Don’t Know Squat.

Now I want to hear from you! Leave me a comment below if you have any questions. I would also love to know: Did you do Kegels during your pregnancy and what were your results? Has anyone else squatted to deliver their baby?

Additional Reading:

Share

The Truth About Diastasis Recti & Healing Your Core

If you did not read last weeks post Prenatal Fitness, Diastasis Recti, & Body After Baby you might want to do that before you read further so you have some background on what it is I am discussing.

Medical Disclaimer: I also feel I need to put a disclaimer on this post and let you know I am by no means a medical professional or a diastasis recti expert. I am however a mother, certified personal trainer, and yoga instructor. What I am sharing is based on my own research and experience.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DIASTASIS RECTI & WHY IT MATTERS

When abdominal separation occurs the rectus abdominis (otherwise lovingly referred to by many as the six-pack muscle) is not the only muscle that is affected. It is however what the majority of people notice. Take a look at this picture of the core musculature.

Core Muscles

Many of these muscles are attached to the same structures. The reason this is important to note is because when a muscle looses its stability it can cause a ripple effect throughout the entire body.

In the case of diastasis recti, the entire core of the body, glutes, ribs, pelvic floor, and the deeper core musculature become unstable. Diastasis recti can lead to low back pain, pelvic pain, incontinence, prolapse and urinary urgency/frequency. Women who have abdominal separation also tend to have a higher degree of pelvic floor and abdominal pain.

Hopefully you are starting to see this is a much bigger issue then just a bulging tummy. Diastasis recti can also alter the function and insertion of the transversus abdominis and external oblique muscles. The transverse abdominis is located under the obliques. It is the deepest abdominal muscle and wraps around your spine for protection and stability. Think of this muscle as your internal girdle. When this muscle is strong and well developed it will tighten and slim your waistline. But when this muscle is weak it will alter the basic function of many other muscles. This alteration in biomechanics and insertion can lead to abdominal trigger points. Trigger points are common causes of urinary urgency, urinary frequency and pelvic pain.

HEALING YOUR CORE

There are many factors that play into healing your body after having a baby. Here is a quick breakdown.

  • By 8-12 weeks postpartum your body has done what it will naturally do on its own. Your uterus has shrunk and whatever amount of abdominal separation you have remaining is most likely where it will stay until you intervene.
  • Adjust your thinking about how you are going to go about healing your body. You need to retrain the muscles that have been affected by birthing your baby. Instead of doing a million sit-ups, which by the way won’t do you any good closing your gap, focus on getting back to the basics. Keep reading to see what program I recommend.
  • While nobody likes to hear it, there are certain factors that will determine your rate of healing such as age, space between pregnancies, weight gain, nutrition, and genetics.
  • Keep in mind that no matter where you are in your post baby journey, maybe you had your baby last week or 10 years ago, there is always a way you can improve. Let me be honest, you might never close your gap completely, but you can always improve it. Don’t give up on yourself.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists the average distribution of weight gain during pregnancy is 30 pounds. This increase in weight causes internal pressure inside of the abdominal cavity. The pressure is upward, downward, and outward and is what creates the abdominal separation. Before any exercise this abdominal pressure needs to be addressed. There are several ways you can start addressing the pressure right now by adjusting the alignment of your body.

I am a huge fan and believer in chiropractic care. If you are local and need the name of a great chiropractor go and see Dr. Jason Taylor. He is awesome! Besides seeing a chiropractor there are several things you can do at home to begin to correct your alignment. How we sit, stand, and hold ourselves everyday can be adjusted to begin fixing this pressure.

How to Adjust The Alignment of Your Body
  1. Resist the urge to tuck your tailbone. Tucking your tailbone shortens the muscles in your pelvic floor and creates more upward pressure in your abdominal cavity.
  2. Stop sucking in your tummy. Gasp! I know right! But listen and hear me out. I promise this is not just crazy talk. When we suck in our belly’s everything that was hanging out has to go somewhere. So by sucking in we cause more downward pressure on the pelvic floor and further weaken those muscles.
  3. Relax your shoulders. Try not to hold tension in your upper body. Our entire musculature is interconnected by fascia and when the body becomes tight or tense in one spot it has a direct correlation on another.
  4. No high heels. When we wear high heeled shoes our alignment shifts forward. Elevating your heels places more of your body’s weight on your toes, which causes your body, particularly your pelvis, to tilt forward. To compensate and stay upright, you unconsciously lean backward and overarch your back, creating a posture that can strain your knees, hips, and low back.
  5. Find and work the transverse abdominis. Keep reading to see what program I recommend. I will also do a separate post on why this muscle is so important.
  6. Avoid exercises that open the gap. To see what to avoid read my last post: Prenatal Fitness, Diastasis Recti, & Body After Baby.

There are several programs available that focus on healing diastasis recti. I have looked into many of them. By far the best program that I have found and that I support is the Mutu System. The creator Wendy Powell is simply amazing. This program focuses on retraining the muscles in the body, healing the mommy tummy, and correcting the internal pressure.

You can get a free video with Wendy’s top 10 ab exercises by signing up on her website (top right corner).

The Mutu System offers several different programs, DVD + online training. I have the 12 week online program and love it! It never expires and I am currently doing it right now, even during pregnancy. I will also be doing this program after baby girl is born.

 

I want to thank all of you for reading, commenting, and e-mailing me on this topic. It is nice to know that this information is helpful to you! If you are still wanting more information on diastasis recti please look into Wendy’s program. She is an expert on this topic and has spent years developing the Mutu System to help women reclaim and retrain their bodies after having a baby.

Make sure to share this post with your friends and social network. Let’s get this information out to all the moms we know!

You might also be interested in my Losing The Baby Weight Series! Topics include: Pregnancy & ExerciseWhat to Expect After DeliveryThe First Six WeeksNutrition, and Exercise.

Disclosure: I was so impressed with the Mutu System that I decided to become an affiliate for the program.  

Share