We hear a lot about the importance of strengthening our “core” muscles. Most exercise programs focus on our abdomen, hip, and lower back muscles. However, there are deeper core muscles - known as the pelvic floor muscles - that are often neglected, particularly by men. These muscles play a very significant role in maintaining proper form, balance, and posture during exercise and are also responsible for supporting our overall sexual, urinary, and bowel health. It’s time to add a pelvic floor muscle training program into your workout routine.
The pelvic floor muscles are not the glitzy, for show, well-respected, mirror-appealing, external glamour muscles. However, these hidden and often-ignored pelvic muscles are actually hidden gems that work diligently behind the scenes - muscles of major function and not so much form - muscles that have a role that goes way beyond the joint movement and locomotion function of the external muscles. Although concealed, the pelvic muscles have powerful and beneficial functions, particularly so when intensified by training. Although not the muscles of glamour, they are our muscles of “amour,” and have a profoundly important role in sexual, urinary, and bowel function as well as support of our pelvic organs.
The pelvic muscles, as with other muscles in the body, are subject to the forces of adaptation. Unused as intended, they can suffer from “disuse atrophy.” They become thin, flabby and poorly functional with aging, weight gain, a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, saddle sports and other forms of injury and trauma, chronic straining, and surgery. Used appropriately as designed by nature, they can remain in a healthy structural and functional state. When targeted exercise is applied to them, particularly against the forces of resistance, their structure and function can be enhanced. Diligently practiced pelvic exercises allows one to reap tangible rewards, as they are the essence of functional fitness.
There are two means of doing pelvic floor muscle training: in isolation and integrated with other exercises. In order to become the master of your pelvic domain, it is initially important to isolate the pelvic floor muscles, using a training program such as the Private Gym. Once pelvic facility is established, pelvic exercises can then be integrated into other exercise routines and workouts.
In real life, muscles do not work in isolation but rather as part of a team: the pelvic muscles are no exception, often contracting in conjunction with the other core muscles, particularly the transversus abdominis, in a mutually supportive and synergistic fashion. In fact, many Pilates and yoga exercises emphasize consciously contracting the pelvic muscles in conjunction with the other core muscles during exercise routines.
Catherine Byron, Pilates and yoga instructor, is of the opinion that some degree of engagement of the pelvic floor muscles while doing squats, lunges etc., serves not only to integrate the lower regions of the core and provide optimal support and "lift" of floor of the core, but also as a great means of exercising the mind-body connection. However, one wants to avoid over-exertion of the pelvic floor muscles and awareness directed towards this region is sufficient without the necessity for a forceful and purposeful contraction.
Dynamic exercises in which complex body movements are coupled with core and pelvic stabilization - such as squats and deadlifts - enhance non-core as well as core strength and function to the maximum. The core muscles, including the pelvic floor, stabilize the trunk when our limbs are active, enabling us to put great effort into limb movements.
It is impossible to use the arms and leg muscles effectively in any athletic endeavor without engaging a solid core as a platform from which to push off (think martial arts). Normally this happens without conscious effort, but with some focus and engagement, the core and pelvic floor contraction can be optimized. The stronger the platform, the stronger the potential push off that platform can be.
Weight training and other forms of intensive exercise result in tremendous increases in abdominal pressure. This force is largely exerted downwards towards the pelvic floor, particularly when exercising in the standing position, when gravity also comes into play, putting additional pressure on the pelvic floor. Engaging the pelvic floor during such efforts helps counteract the vector of downwards forces exerted on the pelvic floor.
Many females and certain males as well (particularly after radical prostatectomy) suffer with stress urinary incontinence, a spurt-like urinary leakage that occurs at times of increased abdominal pressure such as with sports and other high impact activities including jumping and kickboxing. For years, urologists and gynecologists have advocated the “knack” maneuver to counteract this, a technique in which the pelvic muscles are braced and briskly engaged at the time of any activity that triggers the stress incontinence. When practiced diligently, this can ultimately become an automatic behavior.
Andrew Siegel, M.D., Urologist, Co-founder of The Private Gym, and author of the highly acclaimed book, Male Pelvic Fitness, Optimizing Your Sexual and Urinary Health.
The Private Gym Program is the first FDA-registered pelvic muscle training system for men. In a four-month clinical trial, 75% of men improved erectile rigidity and 90% reported great improvement in their sexual self-confidence. Learn more about how you can strengthen and maintain these critical muscles at The Private Gym for Men.