A friend of mine just sent me this article and it’s worth sharing with you! Are you still young and healthy? Are deep full squats still easy for you? Or are you one of the millions of people suffering from Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, hip, or back pain?
I shudder at the thought of all the poor people out there who have been told for years that they need to do more Kegels to help strengthen their Pelvic Floor. (And even worse, that the best way to do this is to stop peeing in the middle of your stream!) All this is likely to do is cause a potential bladder infection.
When I started teaching Pilates, I (unfortunately) went through a period of time were I actually did cue my clients to DO a Kegel as a part of their exercises! Thankfully everybody survived that experience, and that was many long, years ago – I’ve learned a lot about my “pelvic floor” and the difference between a Kegel, and correctly contracting the Pelvic floor to support the base of the spine and functional movement for the lumbar-pelvic-hip complex. I’m glad that my clients are now well-educated about the difference between a Kegel, and a healthy Pelvic Floor contraction and why it’s important to pay attention to the difference during a workout.
So why are Deep Squats important to help improve the health of your Pelvic Floor?
The article I read, by Nicole Crawford, shares why Kegels aren’t helping stabilize the pelvis in a good position, but instead contributes to pulling the pelvis out of proper alignment. And how incorporating deep, full squats into your weekly wellness routine can help improve pelvic placement for a healthier pelvic floor.
The suggestion of doing full squat exercises in the article, “Stop Doing Kegels: Real Pelvic Floor Advice for Women (and Men) makes some valid points for lengthening the spine, strengthening the Glutes, hips, and legs, and improving the biomechanical efficiency of the pelvis and legs.
OH MY, how squatting in Western cultures has been modified to keep us “safe” and avoid knee strain! In the long run however, not ever doing deep, full squats is probably a huge contributing factor to quite a few issues for the health and wellness, from our weak/tight incorrectly supported pelvic floors, to hip and leg strength issues, functional mobility, balance, digestion, and even intestinal wellness.
Using toilets were we only squat to maybe a 90 degree angle doesn’t help. Sitting on a chair, or couch where we don’t squat much lower than that 90 degree angle doesn’t help either. Since we only get stronger in the range of motion that we work in, it quickly becomes pretty obvious why the American population has gotten weaker and is experiencing more health problems – back pain, hip pain, knee pain, incontinence…
Our Abs are weak, and our backs are tight, which pulls the pelvis out of alignment. Add this to the limited range of motion that we’re working our hips in, and the low back muscles never fully release, Abs never experience compression (like they would if our knees bent all the way into the chest.) A full standing squat – works the legs in a full range of motion, compresses the abs, and while this is happening, gravity is helping to stretch and lengthen the back muscles.
But Nicole is right – Squatting, like any other activity, only helps improve your health IF YOU’RE DOING the SQUATTING Action CORRECTLY. Good functional movement habits are critical for good health. We have so many muscle imbalances, over-tight here, too week there…that it can be a challenge to really find and use the right muscles. Our body tends to default to the path of least resistance, or how it can just “get it done.” Whether it was a great way to move or not doesn’t seem important unless we end up in pain from our efforts. Efficient movement habits, train our muscles to move our body correctly.
This makes Pilates training an excellent choice for developing and re-training correct muscle habits to safely and effectively do FULL Squat exercises. If you’re familiar with the classical Pilates exercise repertoire, Joseph Pilates had quite a few exercises that incorporated a deep, full squat.
Here are some examples of Pilates exercises that can help improve functional movement habits to make doing a full squat a healthy reality for your body:
- Standing Squat and 1 Leg Squat on the Cadillac with the Roll Down Bar
- The Frog – Series Squat Exercises on the Wunda Chair (Facing front, facing back)
- The Super-Advanced (*Historical) exercise “Russian” (Standing Squat on the Reformer)
- On the Wall – Standing Squat and 1 Leg Squat
- The Transition Indian-Sit “Squat” into and out of Pilates Matwork
- Even seated footwork, and Going Up Front on the chair are working the pelvis, hips, and legs to strengthen the body for a safe and effective deep squat
- Frog with the Straps on the Reformer, or Springs, on the Cadillac, and Knees over the Roll Down Bar – focusing on lengthening the lower back while using the hinge/squat action of folding the knees to the chest without “tucking” the tail and pelvis is training your body to do a better full squat action when you’re back up on your feet standing.
- And if the knees are hugged tightly to the chest on exercises like Single Bent Leg, Double Bent Leg, and Criss-Cross you’re working the deep squat action while laying supine on your back.
Every exercise we doing laying down and seated in Pilates, should be helping us stand back up and become more successful with good body alignment and support for all our daily life activities, and to successfully execute a great full squat. The question then becomes, are we transferring what we’re doing with Pilates back up to a standing position? Are we feeling the length and release of the spine and pelvis when the knees bend in towards the chest? Is the pelvis “tucking,” or the back over-arching so instead of length, we’re pulling the pelvis out of position and losing the benefits of our deeper range of motion exercises and movements?
I am a fan of learning how to properly use the muscles of your Pelvic floor to help support your core and functional movement habits, but Kegel contractions are not the optimal way to accomplish this task.
Check out the article that prompted this post here: Stop Doing Kegels: Real Pelvic Floor Advice for Women (and Men)
What are your thoughts on this topic? Are you Kegeling to try and support your Pelvic Floor? Are Full Squats or similar exercises in your weekly workout routine?