Having a strong pelvic floor is ideal for lots of reasons. “Your pelvic floor works in tandem with the deep abdominal muscles, acting as an internal corset, which can help reduce low back pain, urinary and bowel incontinence and improve sexual function — good coordination of this muscle group is also a great step towards flatter abs,” says pelvic floor physical therapist, Heather Jeffcoat, founder of Femina Physical Therapy.
You can start strengthening yours at home using this list of simple pelvic floor exercises crowdsourced from health and fitness pros. “The first step to strengthening the pelvic floor is to reduce whatever tension you hold in the area and connect to the muscles,” says Lauren Roxburgh, founder of Align Life Studio.
As such, the pelvic floor exercises below will teach your muscles to properly contract and relax so they never get too tight or too lose. Since you can’t see your pelvic floor the way you can your biceps or triceps, here’s a helpful way to think about them: Picture a trampoline or hammock that stretches in four directions between your pubic bone, tailbone, and two sit bones, and holds your reproductive organs and bladder in place. “In Pilates, the pelvic floor area is called the ‘powerhouse,’ because it’s the foundation of your body,” says certified Pilates instructor Nonna Gleyzer, who’s worked with Gisele Bundchen and Madonna.
If you’re ready to supercharge these internal stabilizer muscles, scroll down to see the best pelvic floor exercises to do at home. Start doing these moves daily or as often as you can.
1. Pelvic Brace
How to: Start on all fours with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Then drawn your belly button back toward your spine and up in between your ribs as if you were pulling up a zipper. Hold that contraction for three seconds and then release. That’s one rep. Complete two sets of 8 reps.
2. Pelvic Tilt
How to: Start seated on a stability ball (if it’s large, sit with feet flat on floor, hip-width apart; if it’s small, you can cross legs in front of you on mat). Make sure spine is long by stacking shoulders over hips, and place hands on waist. Slowly begin to tuck and untuck pelvis by first drawing hip bones toward bottom ribs and then sticking your bum about behind you. (You can also try drawing clockwise and counterclockwise circles with hips.) That’s one rep. Complete two sets of 10 reps.
3. Deep Squat
How to: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and heels either facing forward or slightly turned out. Bend knees and lower into a squat, aiming to get your hips lower than 90-degrees, while keeping your knees tracking over your second/third toes. Push through heels to return to stand. That’s one rep. Complete two sets of 8 reps.
4. Lateral Lunge
How to: Start with the feet hip-width apart, and step the right leg out as wide as you can while sitting back into the leg (like in a squat). Keep your left leg long and the weight in your right heel. Push off right foot and come back to the starting position. That’s one rep. ComplClamshellete two sets of 10 reps and repeat on the other leg.
5. Inner-Thigh Squeeze
How to: Start on back with legs bent, feet flat, and a yoga block between your knees or inner thighs. Lift hips until body forms straight line from shoulders to knees; push through heels to activate hamstrings. Squeeze block and count to 10, then release. That’s one rep. Complete three sets of 10 reps.
6. Bridge with Knee Taps
How to: Start on back with legs bent, feet flat. Lift hips until body forms straight line from shoulders to knees; push through heels to activate hamstrings. Tap knees together and then back in line with hips. That’s one rep. Complete four sets of 10 reps.
How to: Lie on one side with head propped up by hand, and legs bent, heels in line with butt. Hips should be stacked and knees together. Lift top knee toward ceiling while keeping feet together and not rolling hips backward, then reverse. That’s one rep. Complete two sets of 12 reps per side.
8. Prone Diamond
How to: Lie on your stomach, with your legs hip-width apart. Bend your knees and touch your heels together. Engage your pelvic brace as described above. Then, maintain this contraction while lifting your thighs up off the floor. Keep your heels glued together. Move slowly, counting 3 seconds up and 3 seconds down. That’s one rep. Complete two sets of 12 reps.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com