pelvic floor lift exercise

Pelvic floor LIFT exercise: technique tips

Have you heard of the “lift” exercise for your pelvic floor muscles?

You know – the one where you go “up up up” and then “down down down”. It’s been around for years.  Even my mother knows it! 

However, there lately seems to be some confusion about how to do it and WHY?!

Sometimes the lift has an awful lot of floors (I heard recently of 9!) and I worry that there’s an awful lot of over-gripping going on. Everyone thinks its goal is to make your pelvic floor stronger but I think its most important purpose is to help you have more control.

In the video below you can practice it with me, just the way I teach it in physio clinic – and you will be relieved to know that my lift only has 3 floors (but it does have a basement).

Top Tips: for a MODERN lift exercise

  • Make sure you use ALL of the pelvic floor (the back, front and sides) – not just focus on the bladder opening (see Pelvic Floor School)
  • Start with 3 floors  – will be surprisingly tricky if you have only previously done all or nothing!
  • Practice going up first with a crash after the top
  • Then practice starting at the top and coming down slowly
  • Add a basement level as you come down to tune into the feeling of relaxing fully
  • Finally put it all together practicing up and down

For an even more advanced elevator pitch:

  • Build up to discerning between 5 floors (think of gears in a car).
  • Be mindful of being able to breathe at each level
  • Notice that coming “down” IS a more skilled activity than going up (practise it!)
  • Think about WHEN IN REAL LIFE you might choose to use each type/level of pelvic floor activity
  • Improve your awareness of letting go into the basement.

What’s the point of the pelvic floor lift exercise?

In the past all the focus was on contracting your pelvic floor muscles as MUCH as possible.  More is more kind of approach.  This is how we used to do everything in the 80s when this exercise had its hay day.  Sweatier, heavier, stronger, faster.  If your leotard & tights weren’t dripping you weren’t trying hard enough!!

However, this is 2021 and we know an awful lot more about muscles, how they work and especially how they are supposed to function to keep us dry, supported and painfree.

Why do we need to be able to find different levels of pelvic floor squeeze?

  • You need to be able to do your BEST squeeze for a few short seconds if you are going to cough, sneeze or pick up something really heavy (top level).
  • But you also need to be able to maintain a MEDIUM hold when you hold your baby on your hip at playgroup, or carry your bags of shopping back to your car (middle level).
  • You need a “background” (postural) LIGHT level of support ALL the time you are on your feet (lowest level). 
  • And finally – you need to be able to RELAX and STRETCH out so that you can properly empty your bladder & bowel and have comfortable sex (basement level)

Why do we need to practise control of the journey up and down?

  • In every day activitites you move between the lower levels. Just as your neck muscles quietly get on with holding your head up and shoulders level, so your pelvic floor muscles need to automatically create a support shelf between your legs for your pelvic organs to rest on. This shelf needs to sometimes work a little harder to absorb the bumps in the day. These come and go from dashing about, bouncing down the stairs, hopping over stairgates  and shouting for the kids dog. But when it is not needed so much the shelf needs to relax and rest quiety, conserving energy, allowing blood flow.
  • Sporty people (be that zumba netball or running) should practise for 5 “gears”. You will need to keep shifting gears 3-5 zone – as you need a skilled pelvic floor to be background steadily supportive but reactive to a change in direction, hitting a ball, jumping a kerb, picking up a sprint.
  • Everyone needs to be able to “let go” WITH CONTROL all the way down to find 0 & -1.  A vital skill for holding a full bladder until you have reached your toilet and managed to get your clothes down!  If you tend to crash down you will be having leaks before you are quite getting there.

How did you get taught to do yours? Do share!

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