3 Strengthening Exercises for the Pelvic Floor

On paper, Pilates has a great reputation for improving the strength of the pelvic floor muscles, especially in women post-child birth and in older populations. But in practice, I believe the pelvic floor (PF) is an area of the body that attracts the least interest in Pilates sessions.

As teachers, we seldom focus on the PF during training because:

  • They’re not a group of muscles people can see
  • They’re not as sexy as the six pack (rectus abdominis) or as easy to train as the corset (transverse abdominis)
  • Admittedly, it is an ‘awkward’ area of the body to cue if a teacher and client do not know each other well

Similarly, clients don’t feel they’re getting a good workout if a session focuses strictly on the PF. Often clients struggle to keep up with the technical PF cues, while remembering to breathe and move correctly at the same time.

Truth be told, without pelvic floor (PF) strength and control, abdominal training cannot be called ‘functional’. Have you ever wet yourself or leaked urine when you sneeze or do a star jump or go for a run? This could be a sign your pelvic floor needs more attention.

The pelvic floor (PF) is like a ‘hammock’ or sling of muscles that support the pelvic organs. Their main function is to:

  • assist with continence
  • facilitate child birth
  • improve sexual function
  • maintain intra-abdominal pressure

The general rule of thumb with the pelvic floor is to: exhale contract + inhale release

The contraction should feel like you’re holding in a big wee and a big poo at the same time (although you can isolate both front and back of the PF). Like any other healthy muscle in the body, one should be able to both fully contract and fully release the pelvic floor.

For women returning from child-birth, it’s best to check with your doctor before starting any pelvic floor recovery program. Keep in mind that PF recovery is key to returning to physical activity after pregnancy.

Remember to empty your bladder before doing any work with your pelvic floor. In supine work, keep the abdominals only lightly contracted with no squeezing of the glutes and other global muscles.

Here are three exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor. Repeat each 5-10 times.



  1. Inhale fully release the PF
  2. Exhale fully contract only the front of the PF like you’re holding in a wee
  3. Inhale fully release
  4. Exhale fully contract only the back of the PF like you’re holding in a poo
  5. Inhale fully release
  6. Exhale fully contract both front and back of the PF
  7. Inhale fully release
  8. Repeat


Hold a plank on your knees, keep your abdominal connections in place without hollowing your lower back. Knees are just behind the hips, hands are just wider than the shoulders.
  1. Inhale through your nose and expand the rib cage around your bra strap area (front, back and sides) and fully release the PF
  2. Exhale through your mouth, fully emptying the lungs while contracting the PF
  3. Repeat


Imagine you are going up an elevator: floor 1, floor 2, floor 3, floor 4 and then back down again: floor 4, floor 3, floor 2, floor 1

Start with the breathing:
Inhale, inhale, inhale, inhale then exhale, exhale, exhale, exhale

Then add in the pelvic floor at the same time:

  1. Deep inhale to prepare
  2. Exhale (contract to 1), exhale (contract to 2), exhale (contract to 3), exhale (fully contract to 4)
  3. Inhale (maintain at 4), inhale (release to 3), inhale (release to 2), inhale (fully release)
  4. Repeat

Advanced (with a magic circle/ball between your knees):

  1. Deep inhale to prepare
  2. Exhale (contract to 1 + squeeze), exhale (contract to 2 + squeeze more), exhale (contract to 3 + squeeze a little more), exhale (fully contract to 4 + big squeeze)
  3. Inhale (maintain at 4 + big squeeze), inhale (release to 3 + squeeze a little less), inhale (release to 2 + squeeze less), inhale (fully release PF + circle)
  4. Repeat

CREW Pilates offer both pre- and post-natal abdominal and pelvic floor sessions in Antibes, France. Visit our website for more information on Pilates for women’s health.