Is Pelvic Floor “Strengthening”…. not actually strengthening?

Woman pondering pelvic health

What are we doing when we strengthen the pelvic floor?

Muscle strength training is lodged firmly in science.

The amazing Dr Claire Minshull (Get Back to Sport) blogs extensively on all aspects of strength training and it was after attending one of her courses – Intro to Strength & Conditioning training for Therapists – that I realised that what when it came to “strengthening “ the pelvic floor that we were definitely not fitting the specific criteria for increasing muscle strength.

“What do you mean- of course we strengthen the pelvic floor?“ I hear you say.
Well let’s take a look at a few facts that I took from the course.

Firstly, how do you describe strength?

Strength = the ability of a muscle to produce maximum FORCE with ONE contraction.

In the gym it is often measured using the One Repetition Maximum (RM) concept. This is the maximum amount of weight you are able to lift ONCE only and then not able to lift again until you have had a suitable recovery period of several minutes. why is it useful? It allows you to decide the resistance to apply to that muscle to effectively increase strength.
You then take 75/85% of this value and this would be your starting resistance. You then perform a movement against this resistance for a number of repetitions and if you stick at it this results in increased muscle strength.

So how do you assess a 1 RM in the pelvic floor? I think the answer is you can’t due to the practical constraints of anatomy of the area and the muscles being embedded in the pelvic bowl. So if we can’t assess the PF 1RM, how can we determine a starting resistance for strength training? 
Maybe a better question is why would you want to?

Is knowing the “strength“ of the PF important? ( shouts of horror 😱 )

Guy sitting on floor after exercising

This has been something I have considered for some time now. It has rattled around inside my brain and I haven’t been able to arrive at any firm conclusion! Claire’s course and subsequent work is helping me navigate my way along this path.

So, I am hoping sharing my thought here will help me focus and figure out what we are doing when we strengthening the Pelvic Floor.

To be continued …

Bill Taylor, Edinburgh June 2020.

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