How to Modify Curves Gym Exercises to Avoid Prolapse Worsening

Are Curves gym exercises safe with a prolapse?

Do you want to exercise at Curves and protect your pelvic floor?

Many women ask about the safety of Curves exercises for their pelvic floor to avoid prolapse worsening or repeat prolapse after surgery.

If you’re trying to exercise safely with a prolapse or after prolapse surgery this Physiotherapist information is designed to help you exercise and protect your pelvic floor.

Read on now to learn :

  • What is the Curves gym program?
  • Potential benefits of Curves gym exercise
  • Are Curves gym exercises pelvic floor safe?
  • How to modify gym circuit exercises for your pelvic floor
  • Pelvic floor friendly gym circuit exercises
  • How many women at Curves have a prolapse?
  • Tips for how to modify gym exercises

Please note that this article is not a critical review or endorsement of Curves gym exercises. This information is intended to help women with prolapse problems who are seeking information to help them to exercise safely.

What is the Curves Gym Exercise Program? Curves Exercises

The Curves gym exercise program is marketed for women’s fitness and weight loss exercise.

Curves gym program involves women’s only circuit classes. The circuit exercises are conducted using hydraulic resistance machines alternating with a recovery board platform for aerobic weight bearing exercise.

A typical Curves circuit class involves 30 minutes of continuous exercise.

Potential Benefits of Curves Gym Exercises

Potential benefits include:

  • Encourages women to be active
  • Social support exercising with other women
  • Low level intensity exercise suited to some beginners
  • Combined aerobic and resistance exercises

Are Curves Gym Exercises Pelvic Floor Safe?

The safety of Curves exercises for your pelvic floor depends on 2 broad risk categories:

1. Internal risks – The factors that contribute to your individual risk of prolapse
2. External risks – The load placed on your pelvic floor with Curves exercises

Let’s consider the factors that determine how suitable Curves exercises are for your pelvic floor.

1. Your Body (internal risks)

The amount of strain your pelvic floor can withstand during exercise depends on a range of individual factors including your:

  • Pelvic floor function (strength and support)Abdominal fat
  • Abdominal body fat (i.e. visceral fat or fat around your abdominal organs)
  • General muscle strength
  • History of prolapse surgery
  • Prolapse severity
  • General health factors (e.g. chronic cough, constipation and straining)

2. Load on your pelvic floor with Curves exercises (external risks)

There are two alternating types of Curves exercise stations; hydraulic resistance machines and aerobic exercise recovery boards.

Some Curves gym exercises can be considered pelvic floor safe exercises in that they are exercises that have a low risk of over loading the pelvic floor.

Women at risk of prolapse may need to modify some Curves exercises. Unsafe resistance exercises have the potential to overload the pelvic floor.

How to Modify Gym Circuit Exercises for your Pelvic Floor

The following information does not apply to all women. The exercise modifications provided here are designed to assist women who are at increased risk of prolapse who are actively seeking to avoid overloading their prolapse during exercise.

1. Recovery Board

The recovery board is a flexible platform for weight bearing cardiovascular exercise. The recovery board stations at Curves usually alternate between each piece of resistance training equipment.

How to Modify the Recovery Board?

  • Choose brisk walking and swinging your arms to maintain your heart rate elevation when using the recovery board as opposed to running or jumping.
  • Keep one foot in contact with the rebounder at all times to minimize the downward forces on your pelvic floor when you land.

2. Squat Machine

The squat machine is a standing leg press machine designed for leg and buttock strengthening. Resistance is provided during the squat via the shoulders.

Deep wide leg heavily loaded squats may have the potential to overload the pelvic floor forcing it downwards causing stretch and strain to pelvic floor tissues.

Modify squat machine exercise with these techniques or pelvic floor friendly alternative exercises:

a. Technique to reduce pelvic floor loading using the squat machine

Mini squats
Mini squats
  • Exhale as you return to standing
  • Avoid wide leg stance
  • Return to standing slowly to decrease resistance

b. Alternative exercises to Squat Machine 

3. Leg Press Machine

The seated leg press machine is designed to strengthen leg and buttock muscles. Leg press has potential to force the pelvic floor downwards especially with high resistance through the legs (or fast leg press on hydraulic machines). Ideally avoid seated Leg Press with increased risk of prolapse.

Modify leg press machine exercise with these techniques or alternative exercises: 

Leg press
Leg press

a. Techniques to reduce pelvic floor loading using the leg press machine

  • Exhale as you press your legs outwards
  • Sit tall and maintain the normal curve in the lower back
  • Keep feet narrow throughout
  • Press legs outwards slowly to decrease resistance

b. Alternative exercises to Leg Press Machine

  • Mini Squats
  • Lunges
  • Ball wall squats

4. Ab/Back Machine Exercise

Abdominal exercise machine
Abdominal exercise machine

Ab/back is a resisted abdominal exercise machine designed to strengthen the outer abdominal muscles. When the outer abdominal muscles contract strongly they cause downward movement of the pelvic floor in women with pelvic floor dysfunction4

Avoid resisted core abdominal exercise machines with increased risk of prolapse or after prolapse surgery.

Alternative abdominal exercises to resisted abdominal machine exercises

Pelvic floor safe deep abdominal exercises e.g. bent knee fallouts, heel slides, seated exercise ball core abdominal exercises

5. Chest/Back Machine Exercise

Chest/Back machine is an exercise machine for strengthening the chest, shoulders and upper back. Be mindful of using pelvic floor safe strength techniques to keep pelvic floor loading to a minimum.

a. Techniques to reduce pelvic floor loading using the Chest/Back machine

  • Attend to good posture throughout
  • Maintain the inward curve in your lower back
  • Keep your back against the back rest
  • Exhale with the forward press action
  • Perform the push and pull actions slowly to reduce resistance
  • 6. Shoulder Press/Lat Pull Down Machine

This machine aims to strengthen shoulder and middle back muscles. The Shoulder Press/Lat Pull Down is similar to Chest/Back regarding the importance of using pelvic floor safe strength techniques to keep pelvic floor loading to a minimum.

a. Techniques to reduce pelvic floor loading using the Shoulder Press/ Lat Pull Down machine

  • Attend to good posture throughout
  • Maintain the inward curve in your lower back
  • Keep your back against the back rest
  • Avoid bending your trunk forwards during Lat Pull Down
  • Exhale with the effort of pull and push
  • Perform the pull and push slowly to reduce resistance

Pelvic Floor Friendly Gym Circuit Exercises

These following Curves machines usually don’t require modification for pelvic floor safe exercises:

  • Biceps/Triceps Machine
  • Hip Abductor/Adductor
  • Leg Extension/Leg Curl (extend the legs slowly outward rather than forcefully)

How to Decrease Resistance using Curves Hydraulic Machines

The resistance of the hydraulic machines at Curves is not manually adjustable and fortunately it is quite manageable for most women to avoid straining during exercise. Resistance increases according to the speed with which you use the machine.

If you are concerned about using a specific hydraulic resistance machine, you can readily reduce the resistance by doing the exercise at a slow pace. This won’t help you improve your overall strength however it will allow you to reduce the load associated with the machine.

How many other Women at Curves have a Prolapse? How many women have prolapse?

Women aged 50 and over are the fastest growing group driving gym and fitness memberships in the US (IHRSA, 2011).

Curves appeals to many women in this demographic who are also at greatest risk of pelvic floor dysfunction (i.e. menopause and beyond).

Take a look around your women’s gym next time you’re there – chances are good that if you have prolapse problems you’re not alone if these statistics are anything to go by…


It’s been estimated that up to 50 percent of women who’ve given birth have some degree of prolapse2

Approximately 1 in 5 Australian women undergo prolapse surgery in their lifetime 3

Of course we don’t know exactly how many other women at your mainstream women’s gym have a prolapse.

Even though exercise poses a challenge for many women with prolapse symptoms, women are  rarely asked about their pelvic floor problems in pre exercise screening questionnaires!

Tips for how to Modify Gym Exercises

If you are concerned about your need to modify your exercises:

  • Speak with the gym management or your instructor regarding their policy on exercise modification before the class – this is a courtesy to the gym and will help you feel more confident during the class
  • If your instructor has not completed training in pelvic floor safe exercise delivery, know the alternative exercises you would like to perform and seek permission to do these prior to class
  • Consider the possibility that the gym may not approve of exercise alternatives being performed
  • Obtain a letter from your Physiotherapist to support your request to modify exercises that he/she deems unsafe for your pelvic floor
  • Consider how you intend to explain your exercise alternatives to other participants should you feel the need arise

Key Points for Curves Exercises and Prolapse Problems

Curves gym exercises are typical of many of the one-fits-all method of exercise delivery. Many women will be able to exercise at Curves without experiencing pelvic floor problems. Some women who are at increased risk of prolapse problems will benefit from modifying or avoiding some specific Curves gym exercises.

While your one voice may seem small, the voices of many can create the demand for change to bring about more  pelvic floor safe exercises in mainstream – in other words don’t be afraid to ask your women’s gym for pelvic floor safe exercises!


IHRSA Club Membership Exceeds 50 Million in 2010. Penton Business Media Release (2011) Downloaded from:
Thakar R & Stanton S Management of genital prolapse. BMJ. 2002 May 25;324(7348):1258-62.
Australian Doctor Magazine (5 Nov 2010)
Thompson J. O’Sullivan P. Briffa N K & Neumann P. Comparison of transperineal and transabdominal ultrasound in the assessment of voluntary pelvic floor muscle contractions and functional manoevres in continent and incontinent women Int Urogynecol J (2007) 18:779–786

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