Bodybuilding and Your Pelvic Floor

Visit any gym in Toronto today and you’ll see more and more women who have discovered the health benefits of lifting weights. Following the rising popularity of ‘Crossfit’, lifting weights is no longer seen as a sport exclusive to men. With many health benefits that this sport offers such as increased metabolism, improved core strength and decreased risk of bone loss, it is no wonder women are skipping the jump rope to lift the dead weight. 

However, it’s important to maintain good techniques whether you’re doing traditional weight lifting exercises, or the newly popular CrossFit movements. Lifting with incorrect posture can put you at risk of injury and pelvic floor dysfunction including urinary incontinence (leakage!) and even pelvic organ prolapse!

Who’s at risk?

Women who are at the highest risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence or other severe pelvic floor problems should proceed with caution when approaching weightlifting or CrossFit. 

If you are: 

  • Recovering from a recent childbirth experience
  • Menopausal
  • Struggling with severe obesity
  • Suffering from chronic constipation (ie. constantly straining to go to the bathroom)
  • Carrying a traumatic vaginal delivery experience

You fall into the highest risk category. Remember: it is not always about how much weight you are carrying but more about how it is carried and your lifting techniques. For example, some movements such as deep squats, place a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor and can lead to problems if not done properly. 

Keep in mind that while weight lifting can be beneficial for women , men and women are anatomically different and some exercises or movements will need to be modified. Seeing a pelvic physiotherapist with strong orthopaedic background can help you learn which modifications are best suited for your body’s unique needs. 

How can you modify your lifts?

Here are just a few ways that you may modify your weight lifting exercises to accommodate your pelvic floor health needs: 

  • Lighten your weights or resistance so that you do not feel extra pressure on your pelvic floor region throughout the movement.  
  • Reduce the intensity of your core exercises if you feel pressure down there
  • Reduce the intensity, or depth, of your squats and lunges. Tip: Aim to have your hips higher than your knees
  • Avoid holding your breath while you lift, use the strategy “blow and go”
  • Reduce the level of your abdominal muscle exercise programs (see core exercises)
  • Choose support! Try using a seated machine or fitness ball when using hand weights.
  • Visit a pelvic floor physiotherapist to learn how to best build up your pelvic floor muscles control-this will allow you to grow as a weight lifter and progress to more challenging exercises and positions 

One thing to take away? Listen to your body! If you’re feeling a heaviness in your vagina or a funny stretch, stop and go have it checked out. 

There is never a bad time to come in and have your pelvic floor assessed. Whether you are just starting your CrossFit dreams, are a tried and true weight lifter, or have begun to see symptoms of pelvic floor issues, InvigoPhysio is here for you. Together, we will create a  customized treatment plan that will help you achieve your weight-lifting goals!

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