arrow-small-left Created with Sketch. arrow-small-right Created with Sketch. Carat Left arrow Created with Sketch. check Created with Sketch. circle carat down circle-down Created with Sketch. circle-up Created with Sketch. clock Created with Sketch. difficulty Created with Sketch. download Created with Sketch. email email Created with Sketch. facebook logo-facebook Created with Sketch. logo-instagram Created with Sketch. logo-linkedin Created with Sketch. linkround Created with Sketch. minus plus preptime Created with Sketch. print Created with Sketch. Created with Sketch. logo-soundcloud Created with Sketch. twitter logo-twitter Created with Sketch. logo-youtube Created with Sketch.

Your pelvic floor

It’s important to practise pelvic floor exercises to strengthen your muscles and reduce the risk of incontinence and prolapse.

Even if you don’t have any symptoms, these exercises may prevent problems developing in future.

Like many muscles in the body, your pelvic floor muscles can be trained and strengthened with regular, targeted exercise.

Topics on this page

What are pelvic floor muscles?

Your ‘pelvic floor’ is made up of muscles and tissues that stretch, like a supportive trampoline, from your pubic bone at the front of your pelvis to your tailbone (coccyx) at the bottom of your spine. It also stretches sideways from one sitting bone to the other.

Your pelvic floor muscles are part of a muscle group known as your ‘core’. Your core muscles support your spine and control the pressure in your abdomen.

2018 JH pelvic diagram 600x400px

What do your pelvic floor muscles do?

Your pelvic floor muscles:

  • support your pelvic organs
  • help maintain control of your bladder and bowel
  • improve sexual function by enhancing sensation and arousal
  • support your lower back and pelvis.

Learn about your pelvic floor muscles with this 3D video animation developed by the Continence Foundation of Australia:

Weak pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic floor muscles may become weak for a variety of reasons.
For example:

  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • heavy lifting
  • being overweight
  • chronic constipation
  • perimenopause and menopause
  • ageing
  • high-impact exercise.

If you have weak pelvic floor muscles, you may experience:

  • bladder, bowel or wind incontinence
  • prolapse of one or more pelvic organs (i.e. the bladder, uterus or bowel protrudes into the vagina instead of sitting higher in the pelvis)
  • difficulties emptying your bladder or bowel
  • reduced sexual sensation.

How do you do pelvic floor exercises?

Follow our pelvic floor exercise guide below.

Note, pelvic floor strengthening exercises are not suitable for everyone. If you experience vaginal or pelvic pain, you may need a special program to learn how to relax your pelvic floor muscles.

How often should you do pelvic floor exercises?

If you want to improve the strength and function of your pelvic floor muscles, try to do these exercises three to four times each day. Once your symptoms improve, you can do the exercises once a day or during your daily activities.

Top tips

It’s important to:

  • get your technique right before you begin pelvic floor muscle training
  • relax or release your pelvic floor muscles – this is just as important as squeezing your muscles
  • find a time when you are not distracted, so you can do a set of exercises in one go
  • do both strength and coordination exercises each time you practise
  • switch on’ your pelvic floor muscles when needed (e.g. before and during a sneeze, laugh, cough or lift)
  • avoid activities that might strain your pelvic floor muscles (e.g. heavy lifting)
  • see your doctor or pelvic floor physiotherapist if you don’t see any improvements or your symptoms get worse.

Did you know?

  • You should do pelvic floor exercises, even if you haven’t had a baby.
  • Light bladder leakage (LBL) is incontinence and pelvic floor exercises can help.
  • You need to do regular exercises with the right technique to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles – doing a few exercises here and there won’t be as effective.
  • It’s important to avoid constipation or straining on the toilet as this can weaken your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Treatments to reduce coughing and sneezing may help reduce leakage and the possibility of prolapse.
  • If your mother experienced incontinence or prolapse, it doesn’t mean you will.
  • A healthy weight range helps to reduce strain and possible weakening of your pelvic floor muscles and pelvic organ supports.
  • High-impact or heavy weightlifting exercises may weaken your pelvic floor muscles. If you need advice about exercises that are safe for your pelvic floor, talk to your physiotherapist.

Pelvic floor exercises

Strengthening exercises

  1. Move into a comfortable position. You can start by lying on your back (on a bed, couch or floor) with your knees bent. You can also try sitting with a straight back, leaning slightly forwards.
  2. Slowly squeeze the muscles around your anus, vagina and urethra. Lift and draw these muscles up and forwards towards your belly button
  3. Continue to breathe normally and make sure your legs, bottom and tummy above your belly button are relaxed. Do not push down.

It’s normal to feel your lower tummy muscles draw in towards your spine as you tighten your pelvic floor muscles. It’s also okay if your lower tummy does not move.

At the end of each squeeze, you should have a distinct feeling of the muscles ‘letting go’ and releasing.

Practise makes perfect

  • Squeeze and hold your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, then release and rest for six seconds. Repeat three to four times. Have a two-minute rest. This is one set.
  • Aim to do a set three times each day.
With more experience
  • As your muscles get stronger, you’ll be able to hold them for longer and do more sets. You can also try doing them while standing.
  • Squeeze and hold your pelvic muscles for six seconds, then release and rest for six seconds. Repeat six times. Have a two-minute rest. This is one set.
  • Aim to do three sets each day.
  • You can gradually increase the holding time – aim to hold for 12 to 20 seconds.
  • Make sure you rest between each squeeze for at least the same number of seconds that you have held for.
  • Aim for up to 10 repetitions, making sure you use the correct technique.

Listen to this podcast from Jean Hailes pelvic floor physiotherapist Janetta Webb as she talks you through some simple exercises for your pelvic floor.

Coordination exercises

  1. Quickly squeeze your pelvic floor muscles up and forwards towards your belly button. Squeeze quickly and strongly as high as you can, then – without holding – let go. It’s important to fully relax for two seconds in between each squeeze.
  2. Start with three squeezes. As your muscles get stronger, increase up to 10 repetitions.

Functional training

Functional training involves using your pelvic floor muscles in everyday life situations (e.g. when you cough, sneeze, laugh and lift).

You can squeeze and hold your pelvic floor muscles before and during these moments to prevent leakage and reduce the strain on your pelvic floor muscles and pelvic organs.

When you combine strengthening and coordination exercises with functional training, your muscles will get stronger and more effective in everyday life situations.

This web page is designed to be informative and educational. It is not intended to provide specific medical advice or replace advice from your health practitioner. The information above is based on current medical knowledge, evidence and practice as at August 2022.

Last updated: 09 May 2023 | Last reviewed: 11 August 2022

Was this helpful?

Thank you for your feedback

Related Topics