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Do Squats Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Do Squats Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor? A Guide to a Stronger, More Confident Run!

exercises and drills pelvic floor squat training smarts May 23, 2024

Do Squats Strengthen your pelvic floor? They absolutely can! IF you move through length. This article will walk you through what it means to work your pelvic floor through its full range of motion, why that is important to your running stride, and how to progress your squats to develop a responsive pelvic floor (aka. one you never have to think about while you are running).


In the past couple of weeks, William, my 4-year-old, has blossomed in his personality. He’s silly and smart and, though he still has the occasional tantrum, he’s been so fun to be around. Also the past few weeks it seems like Trace Adkins's “You’re Gonna Miss This” (link in case you don’t know the song) has played in the car on the way to school drop-off. By the time I have him dropped off at school, I’m a puddle of tears in the car.


Last Friday the song came on yet again and it hit a little differently then. It made me think of all the moms who hear that song, know that they are going to miss this, but just feel too shitty to enjoy it - stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted, and struggling with their own mental health and emotional regulation.


Again, a puddle of tears because, to be honest, that was me not long ago. Through my anxiety and grief surrounding Charlotte’s diagnosis, life and death. Through my hormone issues in the years following. I feel like I missed a lot. Grief is wild y’all. I have large chunks from that time missing from my memory.


I know that running isn’t going to fix everything for everyone AND I know that my miles out there unspooling all the thoughts in my head are part of how I found myself again.


That’s why I’m so passionate about my work. If running does that for you, but your running isn’t feeling good, I from experience how that can add to the spiral. Yes, it’s important to find and have other coping mechanisms (I work on that with my athletes too), but running is a really great one!


When it comes to things getting in the way of enjoying your running, I can think of one thing you won’t miss!

… dealing with pelvic floor symptoms on your runs!


That’s why I’ve been busy creating Pelvic Floor Fundamentals for you!


Join the waitlist now to receive an EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT and PRIORITY ACCESS!


Pelvic Floor Fundamentals will progress you through the exact same fundamentals that I have used with my athletes over the past 5 years to develop a responsive pelvic floor.


A responsive pelvic floor means:


  • No more rounding to the finish line about eke out that hard-fought PR worrying whether or not that final kick is going to make you wet your pants!
  • No more pulling back the reins on all the downhills because you are worried about peeing your pants!
  • No more always having to plan your runs around bathroom stops!
  • No more only wearing black bottoms so no one can tell if you peed or not!


A responsive pelvic floor also means a more efficient running stride because your body is better able to manage forces as you move into midstance, whether you are experiencing pelvic floor symptoms or not!


The key to a responsive pelvic floor for most of the runners I’ve worked with has been the ability to find LENGTH.


Length to relax the pelvic floor. It needs to be able to relax to have somewhere to contract from! AND length as you lift the pelvic floor.


Length even as you lift? Yep!


…reading between the lines… Purposefully trying to cue a lift and squeeze pelvic floor contraction (like in a kegel) is great for learning to connect with that area of your body, but beyond that it isn’t going to help you much here!


Below we’ll look at some running biomechanics to help you understand this idea. Then I’ll show you how we put this idea into practice in a squat progression in Pelvic Floor Fundamentals.


The image below has a lot going on so first, let's orient you to all the pieces.


The main graph shows the pelvic floor activity, measured via electromyography (EMG), over one stride, toe off to toe off. You can see it peaks around midstance and is lowest at toe off.


Reference: Luginbeuhl H. et al., Int Urogynecol J, (2013) 24:1515-1522 (full disclosure this is a smoothed curve based on my interpretation of the data in that paper).


The horizontal dashed line is the baseline rest in standing. The pelvic floor activity is elevated above rest the whole stride. Just like any other muscle it can get tired. Progressive overload is a thing here too. The solution is not stopping activity.


The vertical dashed lines is where foot strike occurred. There is a "preactivation" of the pelvic floor before the foot even strikes the ground. There is a "preactivation" of the pelvic floor before the foot even strikes the ground.


What causes this preactivation?


In my professional opinion, rotation!

When the foot leaves the ground at the toe off you begin internally rotating. Max internal rotation occurs at midstance with that highest pelvic floor activity, but it's already starting before you even touch back down at foot strike.


In the gif below, notice as the pelvis moves into internal rotation the pelvic floor ascends (lifts) because of that length.


"Because of that length" NOT through a voluntary shortening/contracting like a Kegel!

In Pelvic Floor Fundamentals we will practice finding that length in both ranges through your main strength training movement patterns - squat, lunge, and hinge - so that you can apply these concepts to any training program!


How Do Squats Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor? 

Below is an example of how we do that with some squat progressions.


All 4s Squat

This little exercise is sneaky hard. Not in the sense that you are going to feel a huge burn, but it might uncover just how hard it is for you to find that length. As you sit down/back into your deep squat, notice if your bottom wants to tuck under or your back wants to arch. These are both ways your body might try to make up for not being able to lengthen in the pelvic floor (especially the back of the pelvic floor) and glutes.


Assisted Low to Mid-Range Pelvic Floor Squat

This is that same thing turned upright, now working against gravity. At the bottom inhale and feel your pelvic floor lengthen as it relaxes. At midrange, exhale and imagine your sits bones moving apart from each other to create that ascention through length shown in the gif above.

This is a responsive pelvic floor!!!


1.5 Squatty Squat with Ball/Band Reference

Again at the bottom, at the bottom inhale and feel your pelvic floor lengthen as it relaxes. At the midrange, exhale and imagine your sits bones moving apart from each other to create that ascension through length shown in the gif above. We are now just adding load and volume with weight and extra time in midrange. Pressing into the ball as you move into the midrange will help bring your adductors on board for help with that internal rotation while gently pressing out into the band as you go back down will help you find your deep squat with the support needed to relax the pelvic floor.


Are you able to fully relax it like the assisted version above? Nope! That’s ok. You are under load now, it’s working!


Moving into the mid range like in each of the squat progressions above promotes internal rotation which causes the pelvic floor to naturally lift through length, a critical piece of my Pelvic Floor Fundamentals for Runners!


The full list of fundamentals we’ll practice are:  

  1. The pelvic floor is part of the whole
  2. The pelvic floor works through length
  3. The pelvic floor has 4 quadrants
  4. ADductors and glutes are windows to the pelvic floor
  5. The foot is a window to the pelvic floor (did you see the supination and pronation component of that rotation mentioned above?)
  6. The pelvic floor is dynamic
  7. Your overall strength supports your pelvic floor


Pelvic Floor Fundamentals will teach you about your pelvic floor so you never have to think about it while running!


Support your pelvic floor through a whole-body approach so that you can run freely in just 30 minutes a week!


Get on the waitlist now!

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