When it comes to stress incontinence, strengthening your pelvic floor can help you develop more control over your bladder. Targeting these muscle groups isn’t always easy, however. Being predominantly internal, often exercises will engage more accessible surrounding muscles and leave the pelvic floor unutilized.
It might take a while to get the hang of pelvic floor training, but don’t give up! With some patience and research, you can start improving stress incontinence and building a more stable core. Here are three targeted exercises to get you started:
Kegels (yes, for men too!)
Men and women have the same perineal muscles, and both sexes can equally benefit from exercising them. Before you can do that, however, you need to feel where your perineum is. Next time you urinate, try stopping midstream. The muscle you utilized to block the flow? That’s what you want to target. (You only need to do this once or twice to find the pubococcygeus muscle: repeatedly interrupting yourself mid-urination can develop the bad habit of not fully emptying your bladder when you pee, making you more susceptible to urinary tract infections.)
Now that you’ve found the correct muscle to target, try to flex for 3 seconds, then relax for 3 seconds, for about 10 repetitions. (For men, your penis should “jump” slightly if you’re doing it correctly.) You can do this anytime you’re able to focus: on the bus, in a waiting room, even while walking. No one will ever know. One of the easiest times to make sure it’s part of your routine is to perform Kegels while brushing your teeth. Just be careful not to flex your abdominal wall, buttocks or thighs: try to isolate the internal muscle as much as possible.
Kegels are great, but they only strengthen one part of a complex of muscles to control your continence. Think of the Kegel muscles as your grip. Without it, you couldn’t even grasp a weight. But you still need your arm and shoulder muscles to be able to lift it. Similarly, you need strong lower abdominals working in tandem with your Kegel muscles to provide support and stability.
To being engaging your lower abs, lie face-up with your entire back flat along the floor. Bring your legs up to a tabletop. Then, slowly lower one leg until you barely tap the floor. Then the other, with control. As this gets easier, you can begin lowering both legs at the same time. As this gets easier, you can work toward straightening your legs.
This is an exercise in which you can engage both your Kegel muscles and your lower abdominals in tandem.
Lying on your back, put both feet on the ground in line with your hips. Try to get your heels to touching the tips of your fingers on the ground (you might not get there right away, but work toward that goal in mind!) Then inhale deeply and lift your hips until your legs and torso make a straight line as you squeeze your Kegel muscles and engage your lower abs. Try to keep your glutes relaxed. Hold this for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Hopefully, these tips will get you started toward building resistance and, slowly, better continence! Just make sure to wear breathable protective underwear when exercising, as pressure can trigger leakage.