Does "no pain, no gain" apply to your pelvic floor?

motivation pelvic floor Nov 01, 2023

I get asked many questions on Instagram about just "how hard" we should be going when it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor and whether it is okay if we feel soreness down there the next day. So, I decided to give this question its own blog post.


Regarding pelvic health, the phrase 'no pain, no gain' doesn't apply. Unlike the rectus abdominals (6-pack abs) and the transverse abdominals (corset abs), the pelvic floor muscles are small and delicate and require a more balanced approach. They should be worked, yes, but not overloaded. Overload can cause tightness, creating a separate set of issues from the ones we are trying to solve by strengthening it. 


Contrary to when we're in the gym and striving to go hard and heavy enough to experience significant soreness the following day, we are not trying to work the pelvic floor muscles so intensely that we endure that kind of soreness. Yes, we aim to strengthen the pelvic floor, but overloading it can bring about a whole separate set of symptoms.


I've come across this a few times when teaching private clients. Let's say, for example, we are doing arm work with weights. If someone tells me they are feeling more abs than arms, that's a clue that they are going too hard with the pelvic floor and TA. Yes, we should be using the TA to stabilize the spine while we're doing arm work (so as not to dump the weight into the lower back), and yes, we want the pelvic floor to be involved as well since we've already taught the pelvic floor to move in tandem with the diaphragm when we breathe. But most of the "work" should be in the arms, not the core. (And when I say core, the pelvic floor is a part of the core). So, in this instance, I will cue them to relax the core slightly (but not completely).


If you've done my pelvic floor 101 training, you'll know I teach a level 1, 2, 3 method with the pelvic floor. If you're experiencing pain after a pelvic floor workout, ask yourself if you could have been trying to reach a level 4? Which is too much. Pelvic floor strengthening isn't supposed to feel anywhere near the same as your RA (6-pack abs) would feel if you'd done 100 crunches in the gym the previous day! 


Regarding pelvic floor health, one of the fundamental principles is that it shouldn't be painful, uncomfortable, or cause soreness. Overloading these delicate muscles can lead to tenderness and deep aches in the pelvis, bringing on a whole new set of issues. So, if you're experiencing pain or soreness in your pelvic floor the following day, you've gone too hard! We are trying to improve function. We are not trying to "build" the pelvic floor like we would with the glutes.


Signs of pelvic floor overload:

  • Tenderness: One common sign of overloading is tenderness. If you feel tenderness in your pelvic region, it signals that your pelvic floor might be strained.
  • Deep Ache: A deep, persistent ache in the pelvis can be another indicator of overworking the pelvic floor.
  • Tightness: Some of the most common symptoms of tightness are Urge Incontinence, frequent urination, and painful penetration. Yes, this tightness can come about due to trauma or weakness, but it can also occur due to pelvic floor overload.


Remember, pelvic floor health should never be about enduring pain or discomfort. The small, delicate pelvic floor muscles are best worked with consistency rather than intensity. In the words of one of my students, "This is rehab, not boot camp," and she's absolutely right. We are trying to improve FUNCTION and eliminate symptoms, not create a whole other set of problems for ourselves. It's all about BALANCE.


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