Why Pilates is key to your deadlift.
Leaking and a weak pelvic floor isn’t discussed amongst men. It’s not a topic generally up for discussion in the gym environment. But put yourself in a pilates class of women and the discussion is a hot topic not a taboo.
Anaya Grover, Pilates expert and founder of Men Do Pilates, believes men need to start thinking about their pelvic floor and how Pilates can benefit you, not only while lifting but in other areas of your life as well.
The pelvic floor muscles run from tailbone to pubic bone and surround the inside of the pelvic bowl. They support your organs and are vital for urinary, bowel and sexual function. The pelvic floor muscles work in a pressurised chamber (your core) with your diaphragm above, your abdominals in front and your back muscles at the back. Your organs such as your bladder and bowels are enclosed between these structures.
When you repetitively add a load that is too heavy for you to lift, in sub-optimal postural alignment, whilst holding your breath and clenching your jaw, you have yourself the perfect environment to leak or injure yourself. That pressurised system just failed. Now you don’t need to have a weak pelvic floor to leak, simply having a too tight pelvic floor can create the same pressurised system to pop. It’s like having your biceps constantly switched on and then you add a dumbbell and you can’t hold the weight. The muscle just failed.
This same thing can happen in other areas of your body when adding load. How often do you hear someone say I was lifting a box or my child and I pulled my back. Perhaps the structures surrounding your core are not optimally balanced and aligned to support you. The body is like a musical instrument and we need to fine tune it for optimal playing finesse. Our body is also resilient but sitting for long periods or only working on your superficial muscles like your Quads, Hamstrings and Latts is not going to help your optimal play either.
How to use Pilates to strengthen your pelvic floor
Here’s how to make your pressurised system more robust to prevent you from leaking but also to help prevent you injuring yourself whilst lifting.
Pelvic floor and Core
Learn how to GENTLY engage your pelvic floor muscles first before adding the abdominals to the mix. Men often brace in their core, which affects their alignment and adds pressure into the pelvic floor and back muscles. To engage your pelvic floor muscles, think about gently engaging back passage and front passage. A bit like gently stopping yourself from passing wind and drawing up through your urethra. You might feel your balls lift. Avoid clenching your butt cheeks, thighs, jaw and holding your breath. Try engaging the muscles with an out breath. Learn how to build up to holding the contraction for up to 10 seconds and then let go. Wait for 3 seconds and start again. Try then doing quick releases of engaging and letting go for 10 reps (don’t worry about the breathing for this – just breathe and not hold your breath). For Prostate cancer sufferers and older men, these pelvic floor exercises are fantastic if you find yourself waking up and going to the loo in the middle of the night. Please note that if you aren’t leaking or have any pain in your groin area, then actively doing pelvic floor exercises isn’t something to be worried about. However if you are worried, always seek medical advice from a Pelvic Health physio or doctor.
View more Core Exercises here or you can watch our free video.
Alignment of Pelvis and Spine
Learn how to find a neutral or centred position of your pelvis where your hip bones and pubic bone are aligned. Leakage or back injury can occur when your alignment isn’t well balanced and your back is in a curved position. You can find neutral in standing quite quickly simply by bending your knees and placing your hands on your pubic bone and your hip bones. Tip the pubic bone up towards your head and then away from you to gently stick your bum out. Notice how your hip bones go forward increasing your lower back curve. As you tip the pubic bone towards your head the lower back curves the other way. Find the balance between the two and slowly straighten your legs without losing the alignment. That is roughly your neutral pelvis. Now try to think about your spine being balanced on top of your pelvis with the back of your head, back of your shoulders and back of your pelvis. Try to consciously think about this alignment when lifting. The joints of your hips, knees and ankles need to have full range of movement and to be balanced in order for your pelvis to find its optimum alignment too. This is where a Pilates class can really help you find better alignment and for you to be mindful of it in other activities that you do such as golf, cycling and running.
Breathing – Your core to your jaw
The out breath is important on the exertion i.e. the lift. Try to really expel your breath through your mouth when lifting and adding your core engagement whilst doing this. When you clench your jaw, you add more tension down to your pelvic floor because there is a direct facial link from your pelvic floor to your jaw. Relax your jaw and this will help you to breathe better; engage your core better; align your pelvis and spine better; and ultimately lift better with less propensity to injury. You can try panting on heavy lifts so quicker out breaths to lessen the bearing down affect on your pelvic floors.
Do Pilates to fine tune your body and keep you active doing the things you love. It’s a win-win situation for you. Not only will you learn how to prevent injury, align your body and engage your core properly when lifting, this knowledge will be carried with you to other activities such as golf, cycling and running.
How Men Do Pilates can help
Men do Pilates works on 4 Pillars. Prevention, Pain, Posture and Performance. There are programmes and videos for novices to pros as well as programmes for backs and sports fans. Plus the difference it makes to your overall well-being is immense. People finish a Pilates session feeling lighter, elongated and more resilient to tackle their day ahead. Let those aches and pains disappear with Men Do Pilates.
If you feel motivated to make a change in 2022, then our online Pilates class is ideal for you.
You can find out more and sign up here.