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4 Surefire Pelvic-Strengthening Exercises for All Women

By Michelle Peshick, PT, MPT, PRPC, CAPP-P, CLT  
Virtua Physical Therapist, Pelvic Rehab Specialist, Certified Lymphedema Therapist

You do bicep curls. Squats for your quads and glutes. And then add in planks for a full-body benefit. These exercises are great for increasing your strength, bolstering your bones, and toning your major muscle groups.

But, there’s also a group of muscles deep in your groin that make up your pelvic floor. And when you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, the benefits go beyond anything you can see with your eyes. We’re talking about the stuff you only talk about with your best friends, like better bladder and bowel control, decreased pelvic pain, and more pleasurable sex.

With these four simple exercises, you can build a strong pelvic floor and core (abs, back, hips) that carry and support you throughout life. And you don’t need to be dripping in sweat by the end for the exercises to be effective.

Walking

Walking is inexpensive, effective, and easy—you just need to lace up your sneakers and put one foot in front of the other. Walking strengthens and tones all the muscles that support your pelvic floor, including your glutes (butt muscles), legs, and core.

Bridges

A bridge is a simple exercise that strengthens your glutes and core.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  • Lift your bottom, keeping your shoulders and feet planted on the floor.
  • Tighten/squeeze your butt muscles as you lift to a count of 3.
  • Lower your bottom to a count of 3 and repeat.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Knee squeezes

Knee squeezes strengthen your pelvic floor by isolating and contracting the muscles that support it. You can do this exercise lying down with your knees bent or sitting in a chair.

  • Place a small ball or pillow between your knees.
  • Squeeze the ball/pillow for 5 – 10 seconds and release.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

Kegel exercises

Kegel exercises are the gold standard for toning your pelvic floor. This exercise was named for gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel, who invented it as a non-surgical treatment for pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises are effective but must be done correctly for you to reap the benefits:

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Imagine there’s a penny on the seat under your bottom.
  • Now, imagine picking up that penny by tightening and lifting the muscles at the opening of your vagina or anus (it’s an “up and in” feeling). Hold for 3 seconds.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 repetitions.

For the best results, you have to isolate the pelvic floor muscles when you do a Kegel and avoid flexing your glutes and core.

What to do if you’re already experiencing pelvic floor issues like bladder leaks

Talk to your OB/GYN or primary care provider if you think you’re experiencing a pelvic floor disorder. If medication, lifestyle, and behavior changes don’t control your symptoms, your provider may recommend physical therapy, which uses specific, highly targeted exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor.

Your physical therapist also may work with you on behavioral approaches, such as bladder retraining and pelvic floor biofeedback, or may incorporate pelvic floor electrical nerve stimulation to strengthen your muscles. 

Learn more

Updated April 6, 2022

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