8 Pilates Moves To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Maintain pelvic floor function with this targeted Pilates workout.

If your core is the foundation of your strength, the pelvic floor is the first brick of that foundation—it's where your strength comes from. Your pelvic floor is comprised of the muscles that support the organs in the pelvis (bladder, rectum, and uterus), according to UpToDate. These muscles control everything from stabilizing your core and supporting your organs to having an orgasm and releasing your bowels.

With age, your pelvic floor can weaken, said Ife Obi, a certified Pilates instructor and founder of The Fit In, a Pilates, barre, and strength studio in Brooklyn. "Pregnancy, giving birth, lifting heavy things off the ground, menopause, and fibroids all have an impact on our pelvic floor muscles," Obi explained. This may cause issues such as a lack of control over your bowels and bladder or pelvic organ prolapse—when the bladder, uterus, or rectum drops into the vagina due to a lack of support from the muscles, according to UpToDate.

By strengthening these muscles, you can help improve these symptoms or prevent dysfunction as you get older.

Ife Obi doing pilates

Courtesy of Ife Obi

How To Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

One simple way to engage them is to pull them up and in as if you're holding your pee and stopping gas, according to MedlinePlus. Mimicking holding your pee tackles the tailbone and public bone muscles while pretending to stop gas will target the rectal muscles (which go across the sitting bones).

"Having control of your pelvic floor muscles means knowing when to tighten but also when to relax," Obi said. If your pelvic floor muscles remain tense, it can lead to discomfort, especially when having sex or going to the bathroom, Obi said.

And there's no better way to fortify and release those muscles than with Pilates. Both the exercises themselves and the general principles (like breath, concentration, and precision) will help you gain control. Designed and demonstrated by Obi, this routine will give your pelvic floor the TLC it needs while also working your core, glutes, and hamstrings.


Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground: Inhale deeply, pressing your lower back into the floor while keeping a neutral pelvis. Exhale to brace your core, engage your pelvic floor muscles, and lift your left foot off the ground with your knee bent at 90 degrees and your shin parallel to the ground. Slowly lower your foot back down to the ground. Do 10 reps on each side.


Lie on your back with your knees in a tabletop position, stacking your knees above your hips. Place your hands down by your sides. Flex your feet, bring your heels together, forming a V-shape, and open your knees wide to the sides. Press your lower back to the floor. Inhale as you extend your legs straight out (maintain the V-shape with your feet as you extend your legs) so you have max core engagement when your legs are extended, bracing the core and engaging your pelvic floor muscles. Exhale as you bring your feet and knees back to the V position and relax the muscles. Do 10 reps.

Flat Back Hinge

Sit on the ground with your legs extended in front of you, your feet hip distance apart, and your hands behind your head. Keep the pelvis in a neutral position while squeezing your sitting bones and bracing the core. Then, inhale as you hinge your torso back and continue to hinge back until you feel the tension in the abs. But keep your back flat the entire time. Contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold for three counts, then exhale and return to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

Shoulder Bridge

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Press your lower back to the floor. On an inhale, lift your hips off the ground, squeezing your glutes at the top. Pull your abs in and pelvic floor up. Exhale as you lower your hips back down to the ground. Do 10 reps.

Side Lying Knee to Heel

Lie on the left side with your knees bent to 90 degrees and support your head with your left arm (you can place your right hand on the ground in front of you or behind your head for support). Make sure to stack the left hip directly above the right and the left knee over the right. Keep your hips square, with a neutral spine and pelvis, throughout the entire movement. Think about lifting the bottom of the waist off the ground to keep the torso or spine aligned and to stabilize the pelvis. Squeeze the outer glute of the top leg as you rotate the top knee open and bring your heels together. Then, internally rotate the top thigh and bring your knees together while separating your feet (this is one rep). Inhale for one full rep and exhale for one full rep. Do five to 10 reps per side.

Bird Dog

Start with your hands and knees on the ground, stacking your shoulders directly above your wrists and hips above your knees. Keep the spine and pelvis neutral and engage your pelvic floor muscles. On an inhale, extend your left arm straight in front of you and your right leg straight behind you. Then, exhale and bring your arm and leg back down to the starting position, relaxing the pelvic floor and core muscles. Repeat with the right arm and left leg. Keep alternating, completing five to 10 reps on each side.

Quadruped Plank

Start with your hands and knees on the ground, stacking your shoulders directly above your wrists and hips above your knees. Tuck the pelvis in to brace your core and engage your pelvic floor muscles. Press your hands into the ground and lift your knees off the ground a couple of inches. Hold for five to 10 seconds, then bring your knees back down to the ground, breathing in and out as you continuously draw your abs in and pelvic floor up. Repeat for five reps.

Deep Squat

Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and your toes turned out 45 degrees. Keeping your chest lifted, core braced, pelvic floor engaged, and back flat, slowly inhale as you bend the knees and send your butt back and down while lifting your arms overhead. Lower down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold the bottom of the squat for three breaths, then return to standing on the next exhale. Do five to 10 reps.

A Quick Review

It is common for pelvic floor muscles to weaken as you age. This can cause problems with bladder control, involuntary loss of stool, or pelvic organ prolapse. Luckily, some exercises can strengthen the pelvic floor to help improve these symptoms. These pilates exercises are great tools to strengthen your core, glutes, and pelvic floor and to help improve any symptoms you may be experiencing.

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