Those of you who follow me on any kind of social media, you will know that I love it! I have met so many wonderful people and love connecting with them at every opportunity and last week I was invited into a conversation on Twitter “are wide leg squats contraindicated for pelvic floor function or do they help?”
We discussed 2 conflicting pieces, an article written by a yoga instructor on how doing a wide leg deep squat will work and stretch the pelvic floor muscles and that stretching the pelvic floor muscles would help posture. The other was a video by a renowned physiotherapist, who said that wide leg squats could potentially injure your pelvic floors and could damage the knees.
Being in the industry for 25 years I have worked with a huge variety of clients from the very young, pre and post-natal through to my eldest client, aged 92! This has taught me that each individual has a specific need and that is where the internet can be confusing.
My advice is to ask yourself, “what are your goals and how strong are your pelvic floors?”
Most menopausal women would not need their pelvic floors stretched, see article below, so therefore would find it hard to activate them in a wide leg deep squat. If you do have weak pelvic floor muscles then you could do this squat which will help your leg strength, but it won’t actually strengthen your pelvic floors. You would need to perform your pelvic floor exercises separately.
The physio offers some practical tips on how to perform a squat. This would certainly be a starting point for someone who is either; recovering from surgery such as hysterectomy, c section, back surgery, or for a post natal women or someone starting out on an exercise programme, no matter what age.
We have 2 types of muscle fibres in all of our muscles including our pelvic floor muscles.
Fast twitch – keeps us from leaking when we cough, laugh, jump or any other type of impact work.Slow twitch – these fibres help keep our bladder from leaking when it is full before we get to a loo, during the night and that other dreadful leakage; when one has finished, wiped and then stood up and opps!
If you do not know where they are you can find them by going for a wee and stopping – but only do this once or twice as this could promote an infection. Another way is inserting fingers inside of you and gripping and see how strong they feel, or an easier way is to stop a fart!
How I teach my pelvic floors:
Fast twitch – sit tall and put one hand on your tummy and on your bottom. Pulling your back and front passage up at the same time counting 1 elephant, 2 elephant with each lift. Perform this 20 times. Make a note where you feel you are losing control so for example today is the 21st of June and you felt you lost control at 6. Note that down. This is your “starting block” as you progress by doing them every day then you will become stronger and in a month you will feel that you lose control at hopefully a higher number of lifts.
Slow twitch – stay in the same position as above. Pull up from your back passage, then your front passage and hold and imagine a lift and lift higher then slowly let go – this is hard, but so worthwhile, again try and do 20.
Being menopausal – I doubt if you could over do it! Try and do both at least 1 per day.
Why put one hand on the tummy and one on the bottom? I can be a little strict, but my end goal is to make sure my ladies do not feel any movement under their hands, in the tummy or the bottom. Also relax the face and keep the eyebrows down!
The end goal is total isolation in the pelvic floor area, no bottom or tummy squeezing and no eyebrow lifts, this way you can be sure that when performing other exercise, you can engage these.
I have added a YouTube video of myself. I am showing off, only because this time last year I was struggling with my fitness after recovering from surgery, but I did my pelvic floors every day and slowly started building up my weights. While I am performing this squat I am pulling in my tummy and keeping my pelvic floors activated.
To be clear. If you are starting out and not sure on the squatting technique and feel that your pelvic floors are weak then follow the physio’s great advice.
If you want to do wide leg squats go for it – I wouldn’t worry about tilting the pelvis mentioned in the article as at our age, we don’t really need to stretch our pelvic floors. If you are doing wide, deep leg squats then engage your tummy and pelvic floors.
Other types of exercise to help with pelvic floors – Pilates is great and any other type of core work where you can engage your pelvic floors. Restorative yoga is fab when you are menopausal not just for your pelvic floors but to calm down those poor adrenal glands.
Happy exercising all!
Article on wide leg squats;
Me showing off on holiday! Greg is camera man for a change!