Pfilates Method – Pelvic floor functional training
The importance of strength training and conditioning is self-evident. Nowadays people take great interest in fitness and that is supported by a growth in gym and home exercise utilisation. Despite this, there is very little awareness of the importance of pelvic floor fitness. The average person has some understanding of the relationship between strength training and basic movement such as running, jumping and lifting. At the same time, the relationship between the pelvic floor neuromuscular conditioning and its related functions- bladder control, sexual function, bowel control, and the support of the reproductive organs- is unclear at best.
Just because it`s common doesn`t mean it`s normal
The fact that we don`t witness the effects of pelvic floor strength deficits directly may have something to do with the lack of awareness that they exist. Indeed, those that are affected by pelvic floor disorders- the incontinent individual, the women with prolapse, the chronic pain patient- will go to great lengths to hide their symptoms. The same individuals are, in general, slow to bring the problem up with their doctor.
The statistics show scary figures: at some point in a woman`s life 33% have urinary incontinence, 40% have pelvic organ prolapse, 42% have sexual dissatisfaction and 5-10% have anal incontinence. For men is far less with only 16% having overactive bladder and 5-15% having erectile dysfunction. Pelvic floor disorders can affect confidence, relationships, fitness and lifestyle.
Kegel squeeze? We can do better
The mainstay of pelvic floor fitness has been since, 1950s, the Kegel exercise. While useful, we can do better. No Physiotherapist or Fitness Coach would recommend, as a strengthening exercise for quadriceps, you sitting in a chair contracting the thigh muscles over and over. Rather they will recommend a program of functional movement that challenges the muscle with progressive intensity to achieve improved performance. The pelvic floor muscles, like the quadriceps, respond to movement, they are core stabilizing muscles used to maintain balance and posture. By applying a program of functional movement, rather than simply performing Kegels, we can completely engage these muscles and better achieve a conditioning effect.
Pfilates is a unique program designed to provide a more effective alternative to the traditional recommendation to “do your kegels”. Research has demonstrated that it can generate contractions in the pelvic floor with up to 1000% more muscle activity that a simple Kegel squeeze. Dr. Crawford, a urogynocologist began research 10 years ago into the movements that engage the pelvic floor the most by utilising the co-contraction (the simultaneous contraction of the agonist and antagonist/synergist muscles) through a combination of Pilates and functional movements. They have been adapted with the principle of plyometrics to increase the muscle exertion and power.
The program includes movements inspired by Pilates and Yoga and were selected based on extensive EMG research on over 120 different movements considered to be likely to engage the pelvic floor. Ultimately 10 movements were selected and assembled into a routine called Pfilates.
Choosing the right movements may be done by paying attention to which of the 10 movements provide that ‘feeling of central tightening’ associated with a pelvic floor contraction.
During training for the pelvic floor it is not essential that you perform all 10 movements. Rather, it was suggested that 3 or 4 movements be identified that can be incorporated into your regular fitness routine twice a day for 5 minutes.
Research demonstrated incredible results with 80% of individuals reporting a 50% improvement in 28 days and full resolution of symptoms in just 2-3 months.
Why Pfilates works?
- Suitable for all ages
- Provides an array of postures (standing, lying, kneeling, all fours)
- Easy to integrate in a busy life style or in a general physical training program
- No Pilates experience necessary
For pelvic floor disorders surgery is often seen as a fix to the problem, however, as Dr Crawford explains “the problem is not an anatomical one but a fitness one”.
If you would like to know more about how can Pfilates help you, call for a friendly and confidential chat with Carmen who is a certified Pfilates Instructor.