Are Squats Good For Pelvic Floor?
Are Squats Good For Pelvic Floor?

Are Squats Good For Pelvic Floor?

Tamara Connaughton

Author

Tamara Connaughton

If you’re an exercise buff like me, you know squats are the gold standard for building strong legs and booties. But I’ve gotten lots of questions from ladies on whether all those squats are doing a number on their pelvic floor muscles. Great question, so let’s break it down!

First up is your pelvic floor. That’s the group of muscles that create a hammock-type support across your pelvic area. They help hold up your bladder, uterus, and other organs down there. Keeping those muscles strong and flexible is so key for bladder control and feeling your best during exercise and everyday life.

The pelvic floor refers to the muscular hammock stretching across the base of the pelvis. Key muscles include the levator ani, coccygeus, and pubococcygeus. This vital support structure assists with urinary and fecal continence control, holding pelvic organs in proper position, sexual function, and core stabilization. Pelvic floor injury or weakness can occur after pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, heavy lifting, aging, and impact exercise.

During squatting motions, the descending bodyweight and gravity act to increase abdominal and pelvic pressures. Excessive downward forces could hypothetically overstretch or strain the pelvic floor, especially if already weakened. However, within normal limits, squats may also provide a strengthening effect. Proper form is crucial.

When it comes to squats, a few factors come into play:

Depth – Squatting super deep does increase downward pressure and can potentially stress a weak pelvic floor over time. But going just above parallel is likely no problem. Focus on proper form!

Breath Holding – Holding your breath as you squat spikes those intra-abdominal and pelvic pressures sky high. Make sure to exhale on the way up – no breath holding! It puts too much downward force on those precious pelvic floor muscles.

Weight – Heavy weighted squats increase effort and pressure. If you have pre-existing pelvic floor issues, consider bodyweight or lighter weights while you strengthen. Protect those muscles!

Leg Width – Wide plié squats open up the pelvic floor vs narrow stances. Consider positioning if you have specific issues like prolapse.

Back Squats

  • Back squats require bending at the hips and knees, which shortens the abdominal cavity and can increase downward pressure on the pelvic floor region.
  • Proper spinal alignment is key. Excessive forward lean of the torso causes sheer forces and places more load directly through the pelvis and pelvic floor.
  • Using a wide stance rather than narrow foot position can help open up the pelvic outlet and reduce direct downward pressure during the movement.
  • Squatting below parallel tends to further increase pelvic floor loading as the crease of the hips drops below the knees. Limiting depth above parallel may provide more pelvic floor protection.
  • Breath holding while exerting effort sharply elevates intra-abdominal pressure, creating more pelvic floor strain. Exhaling during the upward movement is important.
  • Heavier weights require greater effort and intra-abdominal pressure, meaning more potential pelvic floor stress. Individuals with weakness may need to limit external load.
  • Core strength is crucial to controlling intra-abdominal pressure during lifts and preventing excessive bearing down through the pelvic floor.
  • Those with pre-existing pelvic organ prolapse or continence issues should use caution and seek guidance from a pelvic floor physical therapist before performing heavy back squats.

Front Squats

  • The upright torso posture required in the front squat provides a more optimal alignment for protecting the pelvic floor compared to back squats.
  • Maintaining an upright position avoids forward lean and excessive sheering forces directed downward through the pelvis.
  • However, the quadriceps contraction and abdominal engagement needed to support the load may sharply elevate intra-abdominal pressure.
  • This increase in intra-abdominal pressure is transmitted to the pelvic floor and must be controlled with proper breathing patterns.
  • The pelvic floor must contract strongly during the front squat motion to counteract the vertical pressure created by the abdominal cavity pistoning downward.
  • Using very heavy weights or breath holding should be avoided as the pelvic floor may struggle to offset these pressures.
  • Core strength is critical in stabilizing the spine and preventing bearing down through the pelvis.
  • Front squats may not be advisable for those with severe pelvic floor dysfunction until conditioning the area.

Low Bar Squats for Pelvic Floor Health

Pros:

  • Offers a more stable posture, reducing strain on the pelvic floor.
  • Naturally engages the core, providing additional support to the pelvic region.
  • Mechanics can feel gentler on the knees, considering the connections between knee and pelvic health.

Cons:

  • Requires some adjustment in terms of bar placement and forward lean.
  • May place more emphasis on hip mobility, which could be a challenge for some individuals.

High Bar Squats for Pelvic Floor Health

Pros:

  • Emphasizes an upright posture, beneficial for overall leg strength.
  • Fantastic for building quad strength, contributing to overall lower body development.

Cons:

  • Vertical alignment can translate to more direct pressure on the pelvic floor.
  • Emphasis on torso uprightness might pose challenges for those with specific knee concerns.
  • Requires proper form and balance to avoid unnecessary strain on the pelvic floor.

The choice between low bar and high bar squats often boils down to personal comfort. Understanding how your body responds to each variant is key to making an informed decision for pelvic floor well-being. Remember, whether you opt for low bar or high bar squats, tuning into your body’s signals and seeking professional guidance can enhance your pelvic floor health journey.

Tamara Connaughton
Passionate about transforming lives through physical therapy.

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