Pelvic Floor And Exercise – Are Abdominal Exercises Ok?

This is always a very tricky question to answer as there are so many factors that will come into consideration. Traditionally, abdominal exercises are strongly considered to be a high intra-abdominal/intra-pelvic pressure type of exercise and hence been seen as a ‘NO’ type of exercise for people with pelvic floor issues. However, this is what we know from the research (O’Dell et al. 2007; Weir 2006):

– When compared on hydraulic machines, upright abdominal exercises create higher intra-pelvic pressure than other upright arm or leg exercises

– Performing abdominal exercises in supine (i.e. lying on your back) instead of upright significantly reduces intra-pelvic pressure

– Breathing throughout the abdominal exercise significantly reduces intra-pelvic pressure

– Crunches create significantly less intra-pelvic pressure compared to full sit ups

– Supine abdominal exercises, when performed with good technique, can create a relatively low intra-pelvic pressure

– Supine crunches have been shown to create less intra-pelvic pressure than the following activities:

  • Standing at rest
  • Standing from a chair with hands on thighs
  • Hydraulic Quadriceps/Hamstrings
  • Lifting 6kg whilst sitting
  • Jogging
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Medium cough
  • Laughing

Once again there are many factors that come into consideration when determining whether abdominal exercises are ok for your pelvic floor. However, based on the research that we have, abdominal exercises should definitely not be avoided based on previous mis-conceptions of it being a ‘bad’ exercise. It is so important to exercise but even more so, to do it safely. If you are unsure as to what sort of exercises may be appropriate for you then please come and see Bonnie, our Women’s Health Physiotherapist at Bend + Mend Physiotherapy in Sydney’s CBD.


Bonnie Broomfield

About Bonnie Broomfield

Bonnie graduated in 2013 from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Health Sciences and a Masters of Physiotherapy. Born and raised in Sydney, she loves her sport, particularly Netball, and is always keen to try new sports and other outdoor activities - her latest being Golf with her Golf Pro fiancé. Bonnie has a special interest in Women's Health and has completed post graduate courses through the Women's Health Training Associates (WHTA). Bonnie has also progressed her learning and skills with courses in Clinical Pilates, including Matwork, Equipment and Pre and Post Natal Pilates, Titleist Performance Institute Certification Level 1, Sports Level 1 and Dry Needling. She is passionate about helping people get back in control of their own bodies and reach their goals through using both manual therapy techniques and exercise.

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