Do I need to kegel when I lift?

It really depends on several factors:

– How early postpartum or post prolapse diagnosis you are

– If you know how to diaphragmatically breathe and brace

– If you bear down into your pelvic floor with this particular lift

– If you’re symptomatic

– What weight you are lifting in terms of your 1 rep max.

I’m going to focus on those last two today. Because, ideally, you would follow a program early post diagnosis that would help you learn breathing and bracing strategies to prevent you from bearing down into your pelvic floor. If you haven’t, do that first before you have to worry about kegels and weightlifting.

Let’s get to an example.

Pre diagnosis, Stephanie could deadlift 300lbs. Post diagnosis, her current 1RM deadlift is 200lbs.

Should Stephanie need to kegel when she picks up her 30lb toddler? Probably not.

Should Stephanie kegel when she deadlifts 3 rounds of 155lbs in her workout? Possibly. But even then, it’s not an absolute. She may find that she feels fine just using her breath and an exhale on exertion strategy to get the pelvic floor lift she needs for the first 2 rounds, but she needs to add in the kegel on the last round. Or she may even be ok with a breath hold.

So how do you know where the cut off is? Where to start to use a kegel and where you’re ok with not using one?

2 steps to a pelvic floor lift

– Try breath first

– Match the effort of the kegel to the effort of the lift

Try using your breathing strategies as a first line of defense in getting your pelvic floor a little extra lift in your lift. Whether you go with exhaling through the whole movement or exhale on exertion (the pull to stand if we’re talking deadlifts) depends on what feels more natural and supportive for you.

I know for myself, and many of my clients, switching between the two strategies depending on what movement is being performed and at what speed seems to work best.

If you’ve tried using your breath, and you’re still feeling like you’re bearing down with your lift, add in a kegel. BUT…you don’t need to do a full on contraction with every lift. Match the effort of the kegel to the effort of the lift.

What that means ⬇ 

If your 1RM deadlift is 300lbs

35lb kettlebell deadlift = no kegel

100lb deadlift = maybe just exhale as you lift

175lb deadlift = kegel at level 3/10

250lb deadlift = kegel at level 6/10

325lb deadlift = kegel at 10/10

Those aren’t definite. And not scientific. I completely made those numbers up.

But you get the idea. You don’t go in with a level 10/10 kegel with all the things. It’s probably overkill and causing you to lose power in your lift.

It may even be causing you more symptoms (ex: leaking, pain, and prolapse) if you’re creating too much tension and walking around with a hypertonic pelvic floor.

Your cutoff weight for a kegel will obviously depend on your current overall body strength and strength in that particular lift. As you build your overall body strength, you’ll strain less when you lift and therefore reduce the straining and bearing down into your pelvic floor.

Other things that might affect when you will kegel with a lift

Your menstrual cycle

Many people say they feel more symptomatic right before or during their period. If that’s you, you might need to kegel more or less during that time. Base it on what the lift feels like to you on that day.

What you’re doing outside the lift

Are you holding tension in your pelvic floor throughout the day? Did you do pelvic floor connection, mobility, and pelvic floor relaxation with your workout too? Your pelvic floor needs more than just strength to function properly. Relaxation is important too. If you tend to be hypertonic, you may need to use an alternate strategy for help with pelvic floor lifts.

Play around with it and see what works. There’s not a requirement to kegel with every single thing you lift just because you have a pelvic floor disorder. See how far you can get without it.

If you’re ready to start lifting (and living again) without worrying about your core and pelvic floor, FIT Core Restore is for you. Get the mobility, core and pelvic floor progressions, and strength programming you need to help you navigate your symptoms.

If you want to take a deep dive on more core and pelvic floor topics, join my weekly Q&A email list. It may or may not also be the only place to snag a discount on programs. So run, don’t walk, to join.

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Hi friend! I'm Casey

I help people whose abs and vaginas are as cooperative as a 2-year-old at naptime return to lifting & living in a way that feels good again—and maybe even train them to behave along the way.

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