*Why? There are a few reasons. First of all spot exercises are not very effective and can even make the situation worse.
To understand this a little better you need to know what the pelvis and pelvic floor is.
The pelvis is the final skeletal stop for everything you eat and drink. Sitting, standing, and getting down and up from the floor are all motions that pass through the pelvis. Your pelvis sets the base for your spinal column, holds the weight of your torso, and connects your upper body to your lower.
~Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA
If you look at the human skeleton from above, the pelvis has a big hole in the middle of it, yes? So what stops all your organs from collapsing into the space? Your pelvic floor muscles.
The pelvic floor is all the muscles around your pelvis (and since men have a pelvis, they also have a pelvic floor).
The pelvic floor holds all your abdominal organs in – that’s everything below your diaphragm: your digestive organs: stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, large and small intestines and kidneys; your pelvic organs: bladder, uterus, ovaries, and prostate, not to mention your abdominal muscles. That is a lot of weight and bulk.
While keeping the organs supported, the pelvic floor muscles also help to rotate your hip joints and supply blood to the sexual organs.
Now here is the thing. The pelvic floor has to be at the correct length and position to respond to the weights and forces applied to it. And the pelvic floor and the core abdominal muscles must fire together.
These muscle groups have to function consistently and continually with the perfect amount of force and timing to keep everything that should be closed (like the urethra and rectal sphincter), closed, and everything that should be contained in the pelvic bowl, up – bladder, rectum and uterus), and without pulling other bones out of alignment.
If you ‘train’ your pelvic floor, whether it is with squats, Kegels or with some kind of device, and then sit on your sacrum for an hour or eight, and have tension in your abdomen, you’ve just sent a very confusing message to your body. It causes your sacrum to tuck, the opposite of what is needed. Your sacrum has to pull back in order to lift the internal organs up and keep the pelvic floor at the right length and position.
The thinking that a weak pelvic floor is the source of pain, urinary and bowel incontinence and, in women uterine prolapse, is oversimplified. The question is why are they weak? And why weakness it is a problem.
Muscles that are too short – or too long – are weaker (anywhere in the body, not just the pelvic floor). And when some muscles are weak, while others are strong (as is often the case), the strong muscles overpower the weaker muscles, creating an imbalance. This imbalance actually pulls the bones out of alignment – and that’s a problem. Where the weak muscles and strong muscles meet is often the point of the stress riser.
Getting the correct amount of tension in the pelvic floor is the goal, so training your pelvic floor (like you’d train your biceps) might not be the very best thing you can do for your body. It’s not that Kegels are bad, or squats either. It is just that by focusing on one small part, the larger picture of whole body alignment is overlooked. And it is not just alignment in your pelvis. You need all of your muscles to do their job of mobility and stability.
If the muscles in the front of your lower body are tight and are causing your pelvis to tuck (a.k.a. flat butt) any spot exercises you do are missing the point. And the point is that spot exercises don’t address the bigger picture of your whole overall body alignment.
When you habitually suck in your stomach and hold your breath (either consciously, like just before someone takes your photograph, or when lifting a heavy weight) or unconsciously (because you’ve been told that is what good posture is) you create pressure in your abdominal cavity.
What gets sucked in has to go somewhere, right? ‘Where it goes’ is up and down, displacing your organs. A constant downward pressure can cause you leak pee. Eventually it can become severe enough so that your organs prolapse through the bony opening in your pelvis.
Some other factors that weaken your pelvic floor muscles are constant straining due to constipation, repetitive stress injuries (like cycling and running), trauma during vaginal delivery, too many core exercises, tight psoas muscles. tension in your gut and not doing enough walking.
You need to find out what muscular tension patterns and habits you have that are contributing to your symptoms, or holding you back from rapid improvement before deciding whether you need to do squats or Kegels – or neither.
To help you get some clarity on this, check out this Alignment Snack by Nutritious Movement’s Katy Bowman: All Fo’ The Pelvic Flo’.
*This post has been edited by the author.