7 Unsafe Exercises for Women with Prolapse & after Prolapse Surgery

Are you trying to exercise with prolapse problems?

Do you worry that your exercises might cause repeat prolapse after prolapse surgery?

Unfortunately many commonplace exercises for women can worsen prolapse problems and knowing how to choose safe exercises can be challenging.

This Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist information teaches you:

  • 7 unsafe exercises for women with prolapse problems; and
  • How to modify these exercises to keep exercising safely

PDF  Download these exercises as a user friendly PDF at the end of this article

7 Unsafe Exercises for Women

1. Deep Weighted Squats

Squat to avoid

Avoid Unmodified Deep Weighted Squats

Deep weighted wide leg squats are commonly performed strength exercises for women. Squats strengthen and tone the thighs and buttocks.

The deeper you squat with your legs apart the greater the downward load on your pelvic floor.

Adding resistance to your upper body during your squats increases the load on your prolapse.

Some potentially unsafe variations of weighted squats include:

  • Wide Stance Barbell Squat (shown above)
  • Wide Stance Dumbbell Squat (heavy dumbbell held to chest during deep wide stance squat)
  • Kettle bell squat (shown above)
  • Body weight squat jump (jump off ground after deep squat)
Modiied Mini Squat

Mini Squat Modification

How to Modify Squats

Regular squats are readily modified into pelvic floor safe squats. Here are some alternative  leg strength exercises you may like to try:

  • Mini squats (shown here)
  • Ball to back wall squat
  • Lunges with dumbbell weights rested against your hips
  • Exercise ball to wall lunges

2. Star Jumps

Star Jumps

Avoid Star Jumps

Star jumps are high impact fitness cardiovascular exercises.

Star Jumps load your pelvic floor every time you land. If your pelvic floor can’t withstand this repeated loading, it will be forced downwards along with your prolapse or prolapse repair.

How to Modify Star Jumps

Modify Star Jumps to low impact fitness exercises stepping side to side or by touching one foot to the side at a time always keeping at least one foot in contact with the ground. Move your arms out to the side as you would do in a regular star jump to promote your fitness.

3. Men’s Push Ups

Avoid Men's Push Ups

Avoid Men’s Push Ups

Men’s push ups involve lying face down supporting the entire body weight through the hands and the feet.

Men’s push ups are upper body, chest and abdominal muscles strength exercises for women.

Lifting your body weight with your arms increases downwards pressure on your pelvic floor and prolapse repair.

How to Modify Men’s Push Ups

Men’s push ups can be modified to be pelvic floor friendly with:

Modified Push ups
  • Wall push ups (feet close to the wall)
  • Ball wall push ups (hands on a ball against a wall)
  • Kneeling women’s push ups (shown here)

How to do Kneeling Women’s Push Ups?

  1. Place your hands directly under shoulders and your knees directly under your hips, keep both feet in contact with the ground.
  2. Lower your nose towards the ground between your hands or slightly in front of your hands as you breathe in and then breathe out as you return your body back to starting position.

Note: If you do kneeling push ups with your knees placed behind your hips body rather than directly beneath the hips will increase pelvic floor loading by involving the strong upper abdominal muscles – to eliminate this pressure keep your knees directly beneath your hips.

4. Resisted Core Abdominal Exercises

Resisted Core Abdominal Exercise Machine

Avoid Resisted Core Exercises

There are many forms of resisted and unsafe abdominal core exercises in women’s gyms and fitness classes. Resisted core exercises are usually promoted as tummy flattening exercises – and most of us now know that these exercises won’t flatten your belly.

Resisted abdominal exercises increase the downward pressure on the pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor can’t withstand this pressure it is forced downwards potentially worsening prolapse or contributing to repeat prolapse after surgery.

Resisted core abdominal exercises for women to avoid include:

  • Abdominal resistance machines (shown here)
  • Weighted sit ups or crunches (dumbbell/weighted plate/medicine ball)
  • Incline sit ups (where the head down position increases the effort required by the abdominal muscles)
  • Hanging leg raises (knees to chest)
  • Abdominal rollout exercises (with roller or barbell)
  • Cable crunch (kneeling weighted rope pull down)
  • Exercise ball roll in (body forwards over the ball in push up position and ball is rolled into body as the knees are bent towards the chest)
Seated Core Abdominal Exercises

Seated Exercise Ball Core Exercises

How to Modify Core Abdominal Exercises

Modify resisted core abdominal exercises to protect your pelvic floor by eliminating the resistance in favour of more appropriate abdominal core exercises for women. The type of abdominal core you choose will vary according to the strength and support provided by your pelvic floor.

Pelvic floor safe abdominal core exercises include:

  • Seated exercise ball abdominal core exercises (shown right)
  • Appropriate floor-based Pilates style exercises including – Bent Knee Fall Outs, Heel Slides (shown in this pelvic floor safe core abdominal exercises video)
  • Modified Full Plank by kneeling with weight on forearms and toes down (suited to some but not all women)

5. Dead Lift Exercise

Avoid Unmodified Dead Lifts

Avoid Unmodified Dead Lifts

The Dead Lift is one of the strength exercises for women you will often see in barbell strength training classes. The Dead Lift strengthens a number of areas of the body including: back, shoulder, leg and buttock muscles.

When performed with the wrong technique the Dead Lift exercise can overload your prolapse and your lower back.

Dead Lift technique typically involves:

  • Holding a weighted barbell in front of your hips with your legs in wide leg stance position
  • Leaning forwards and lowering the barbell along the thighs and shins towards the ground
  • Returning back to upright standing

How to Modify Dead Lifts

Dead lift can be modified to reduce pelvic floor loading by using the pelvic floor safe strength training guidelines and the following modified technique:

  • Stand with feet no wider than shoulder width apart
  • Hold a light dumbbell outside each thigh with your palms facing backwards
  • Lower the dumbbells to just above the outside of your knees by bending your legs. Keeping the inward curve in your lower back and sticking your bottom out behind your body
  • Breathe out as you return back to stand upright

6. Leg Press Exercises

Avoid Leg Press Exercises

Avoid Leg Press Exercise Machines

Leg press exercises strengthen the thighs and buttocks. Leg press machine involves moving a load or resistance by bending and extending the legs. Leg press machines are commonly found in women’s gyms, circuit classes and fitness centre.

All the variations of Leg Press exercises listed below have potential to strain the pelvic floor, thereby worsening prolapse problems or contributing to recurrent prolapse after surgery. Leg press machines can also strain the lower back.

Leg press machine exercises for women commonly include:

  • Standing leg press (the load is placed on the shoulders and a weighted squat is performed)
  • Seated leg press (the load is moved by extending the hips and legs)
  • Incline leg press (the load is moved by extending the hips and legs)
Bridging Exercise

Bridging Exercise

How to Modify Leg Press Exercises

Leg Press machine exercises should be avoided by most women with prolapse problems, especially those with a history of prolapse surgery.

Modify your exercise program to include pelvic floor safe alternatives to strengthen your legs and buttocks including:

  • Bridging exercise (shown here)
  • Ball to back wall squat with dumbbells
  • Mini squats with dumbbells
  • Lunge with dumbbells

7.  Burpees

Burpees are a fast track exercise to overloading your prolapse if your pelvic floor is weak!

Burpees are often included in Boot Camp exercises for women for whole body strengthening and fitness.

Burpees involve these repeated exercises:

  • Squat down to place hands on the ground
  • Thrust both of the legs out behind the body
  • Perform a Men’s Push Up
  • Jump the legs forward towards the body
  • Jump vertically to complete the exercise

Half Burpees involve the same repeated moves without the full Men’s Push Ups and these are not a pelvic floor safe alternative.

How to Modify Burpees

Almost every component of this exercise has the capacity to increase loading on the pelvic floor and modifying to half Burpees will not do anything towards protecting your prolapse.

Burpees are definitely one of the exercises for women with prolapse problems to avoid completely after prolapse surgery

Key Points on Unsafe Exercises for Women

Unfortunately attending a women’s gym or fitness class doesn’t assure pelvic floor safe exercises for women with prolapse problems. To avoid prolapse worsening or repeat prolapse after your surgery avoid exercises with the potential to overload your pelvic floor through repeated high impact or heavy loading. By modifying the exercises listed in this article or choosing pelvic floor safe alternative exercises you can improve your ability to keep exercising long-term, decrease prolapse symptoms and reduce the likelihood of your prolapse problems worsening because of your well-intentioned exercise program.

PDF 7 Unsafe Exercises for Women with Prolapse & after Prolapse Surgery PDF


prolapse exercisesABOUT THE AUTHOR, Michelle Kenway

Michelle Kenway is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and author of Prolapse Exercises Inside Out. Prolapse Exercises is a complete exercise guide for women with prolapse and after prolapse surgery seeking to exercise safely and protect their pelvic floor.


  1. Rosemary Beasley says:

    Thanks Michelle
    I value your newsletters for the info and ideas. I had quite extensive pelvic floor surgery 3 years ago and I’m determined to do all I can to stay strong and healthy. Some of my friends are now going back for a 2nd time, and I’m determined not to. I do know that I need to exercise daily -3 or 4 mins of pelvic floor exercises twice daily or I soon see the effects of my laziness. It makes me mad to hear the ads on TV re. “LBL” with the women talking about it as though its an inevitable part of growing older! Its a shame they don’t advertise pelvic floor exercise.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Rosemary
      Yes agreed, amazing how they make LBL (i.e.light bladder leakage) sound a little glamorous and maybe even normal/desirable. It makes me disappointed to see this approach to the problem too when pelvic floor exercise can help many of these ladies.

      Thanks for your comment Rosemary and keep up your good work!

  2. Christina Barton says:

    Your advice and newsletters have been so helpful and much appreciated (all the way from Australia!). So practical and much more helpful than my G.P. Am about to order your latest book – but one small query I have –
    is gentle swimming (usually backstroke) ‘safe’ for a deteriorating rectocoele? I’m usually pretty uncomfortable after short swim.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Christina

      You would think that back stroke would be a reasonable low impact exercise choice with a rectocele however I also think that associated prolapse symptoms reveal alot about how the exercise is impacting your pelvic floor.

      Have you tried water walking forwards, backwards, side stepping alternatives to back stroke? You could also trial using a kickboard across your chest while lying backwards and use gentle kicking only, definitely no fins. This would tell you if the use of the arms pulling your body through the water might be contributing to your symptoms – I suspect it may be to do with how hard you kick your legs. I would be very interested to hear back from you in relation to any changes these modifications produce.

      Kindest regards

  3. Are these prolapse exercises also safe for people that have ileostomies? Our core muscles are very weak and we are at risk for parastomal hernias as well as umbilical hernias yet we are told to strengthen our core? How can we do this safely without causing harm? Are these exercises safe for us? Thanks for your help.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Carol
      Great question thank you! This is a challenge isn’t it – to strengthen the core but not overdo things to avoid hernia. Essentially the same principles will apply for abdominal hernia and pelvic floor prolapse (which is a hernia in the vaginal walls). To keep the pelvic floor safe we seek to reduce the pressure associated with core abdominal exercises. I don’t work in the field of ileostomy so I can’t say definitively that the exercises are safe however I can say that they are those that will be less likely to increase intra abdominal pressure and therefore less likely to cause abdominal hernia. I would think that the seated fitball core abdominal exercises you can see in the video on this post would be the ideal typ of exercise (we use these with post op rehab. for abdominal hysterectomy and pelvic floor prolapse surgery.

      How do you think you would cope with these exercises Carol?

  4. Lorna Warrilow says:

    Hi Michelle
    In your book you say it is safe to do the seated row, but what about normal rowing machines? I find the seated row difficult but love the rowing machine so please could you advise?

    Thank you

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Lorna

      Yes in referring to seated row I mean normal rowing machine. Just be mindful of not leaning too far forwards on the return, keeping resistance low and maintaining the inward curve in the lower back throughout. I think that outdoors rowing is a different situation with less ability to control the pressure on the pelvic floor by modifying the technique.

      I hope this helps

      • Hi Michelle
        Thank you so much. Your videos and information have been so incredibly helpful and life saving. In that, I really mean life restoring. It has taken me two years to summon the courage to return to the gym and I only use the rowing machine and bike but I feel informed. I was reading your website and watching your videos and I downloaded your book, after I found you following my operation. When I left hospital, there was nothing, no advice, just the black hole of ‘what do I do now?’ I am so grateful for internet search engines, You tube and your website! Thank you.

        • Michelle Kenway says:

          Hi Lorna

          It is great to hear that you have the confidence to know what to do and what to avoid in the gym. Isn’t it just so true that knowledge is so empowering for women, especially knowledge about our bodies and how to look after ourselves. Thanks so much for taking the time to write to me, I really appreciate your message.

          All the best for your future health & enjoying your exercise

  5. Thanks Michelle,
    I have found this advice invaluable having had extensive surgery. I attend 3 exercise classes a week and the instructors are happy for me to modify the exercises to suit my needs. I now feel more confident that I am not doing anything harmful that would send me back to the surgeon.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Kathy
      Thanks so much for this information! I am so glad to hear you are more confident now.
      All the best

  6. Michelle, I very much appreciate your positive, informative and encouraging messages and the online resources you make available. They are straitforward and realistically address those issues that we live with. I love that you’ve sent us to foods that help with stool regulation instead of encouraging some kind of pills or supplements. Keep up the good work!

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Peggy
      Thanks so much for making the effort to contact me, I really appreciate your feedback! It is quite amazing how much we can do to help our bowels with our diet – it is all too asy to fall into the trap of throwing down some pills or potions as the only way of managing our bowels. For some ladies unfortunately this is a given however for many of us, if we can eat the right things for stool management we can help protect our pelvic floor and save ourselves a world of trouble that’s for sure.

      All the best to you Peggy and thanks again

  7. Hi there, my very most favourite form of exercise is walking uphill. It gets the heart rate going without hurting the joints. Is this dangerous to my pelvic floor repair? Cheers M.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Mary

      Walking is a wonderful low impact exercise and pelvic floor safe so kind to your repair. Walking uphill should not be a issue – I do think that you would be wise to walk down the hills in a gentle measured fashion rather than stepping heavily to avoid too much downward pressure on your pelvic floor.

      All the best & enjoy!

      • I am 4 weeks post op perineoplasty, AP repair, enterocele repair, Altis sling placement, and manipulation of the sacrospinous ligaments. I am only getting vague activity advice from my GYN: no lifting.
        I am taking it slow, but every time I try to walk for exercise my vulva becomes inflamed and I have to rest in bed for 2 days until the swelling resolves. I thought I’d heal much faster, and it has caused a lot of anxiety for me, especially when it comes to returning to an exercise program.
        I am an ER nurse, and am required to stand for long periods and lift 50lbs at frequent intervals. I will have to return to work soon and don’t want to injure myself there because I have declined physically.
        I’d like to start back on the incline treadmill at the gym. I can go at a slower pace with a higher cardiac output. I typically walk at 2.0mph on a 30% incline. Is this ok? I’m afraid it will put too much strain on my pelvic floor.

        • Michelle Kenway says:

          Hi Kelly
          Yes treadmill walking is usually one appropriate low impact option for women post op to recover. I suggest keeping the treadmill flat, starting slowly, progressing gradually and doing intermittent bouts of exercise rather than long continuous sessions. You will benefit from returning to pelvic floor friendly strength exercises when you are permitted to as well in order to keep your whole body strong and reduce the load upon your pelvic floor. You will find a great deal of pelvic floor friendly strength training information on this site.

          Have you been using cold therapy for your vulval swelling? Small cold packs can be made out of condoms and wrapped a couple of times in fabric dish wipes so they don’t directly contact the skin. These can be applied at 5-10 mins at a time.

          Hope this answers your question Kelly

          All the best

  8. Hi Michele,

    I have a mild prolapse that I’m managing with kegels and a kegel 8. For fitness I mostly rely on a stationary bike, walking and your ‘inside out’ DVD. I have a reebok step that I used to use a lot, but after my prolapse I’ve been wary of using it in case it’s too high impact for my pelvic floor. Do you have any advice? I’m keen to lose a bit of fat off my belly, so I’d like to mix up my exercise a bit. I have young kids so I tend to exercise at home in the evenings when they’re asleep, which limits the exercises I can do. Thanks for any help, and for this fabulous website which has been such a great source of information and advice.

  9. I had a hysterectomy a year ago due to a prolapse, with a posterior and anterior repair. I try to do a lot of walking and have recently started using a cadio glide machine again. It is a seated action and you pull the handle towards you. I am wondering if this has reversed some of my pelvic strength? It uses your core abdo muscles a lot.

    I am wanting to buy an exercise machine to use at home and am wondering if there are any you would recommend? I was looking at an eliptical cross trainer?
    Any advise greatly appreciated.
    I was recommended your books post surgery and found them very useful

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Kim

      Yes agreed the machine you describe will involve some intense abdominal activity.

      Kim What is your major goal with your fitness machine? Are you seeking general cariovascular fitness? Strength? Toning? Weight management? What do you enjoy most – elliptical? cycling? walking? stepping?

      Let me know and I can make a more informed suggestion.

      Kindest regards

      • Thank you Michelle for your reply. It is more the cardiovascular exercise and upper body toning but I would like to lose a little weight! I do walk most days. I tend not to gain weight on my lower body but on my trunk. I would like to lose 5kg’s. I do get that it is a calories in versus calories out thing, so really am keen to burn as many calories as quickly as possible! Like everyone I guess. I so have some hand weights so can do some toning work with those.
        Thanking you

  10. Hi Michelle
    I joined a gym about 8 months ago and I have absolutely loved it. It is a small gym and I only attend the Pump class which is with weights, and the Box Fit class. I was getting really fit (I cycle 80 to 100 kms a week as well) and toned, and I found the classes very liberating, if that’s the right word. I just felt strong….and then I found out I have a bladder prolapse, only mild at this stage, but there nonetheless. My gynaecologist referred me to a physiotherapist, and she has opened my eyes to the fact that the exercise that I have been doing (apart from cycling) has been very bad for my pelvic floor. Thinking back, I realise that I only started having problems a couple of months after starting at the gym, and increasing my weights and repetitions. I know that this not good for me, but I miss it very much. I have suspended my membership, hoping to be able to go back one day, but I’m at a loss. I haven’t really done any strength workout since I was told I shouldn’t be doing what I was doing, but I want to do something. I miss the weight workouts for my arms and upper body, but I am very cautious about doing anything like this. I have worked really hard to get to this point, so what can I do to keep my strength level up. Please help.

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Pauline

      Thank you for your question – yes correct gym based exercises can be an absolute minefield to navigate with pelvic floor problems. It is difficult to answer your question in a nutshell to be honest as this whole site is dedicated to safe exercise for the pelvic floor – if you use the search menu and type in what you are looking for e.g. squats you will be directed to that exercise or if you look under “Prolapse” in the library menu you will access many links to this information.

      If you want a concise version to help you strength train in the gym with a full pelvic floor safe strength training program then refer to the Inside Out book and Strength Training DVD which teaches you what to do in the gym and how to workout with weights safely and protect your pelvic floor.

      Hope this helps you get started, all the best

  11. Hi Michelle,
    I find your posts really helpful and am always so glad of the advice and reassurance they give to me. Can I ask you a question about sports? I’m aware of the dangers of some high impact sports but could you tell me if I would be taking a risk by paddling a canoe on holiday? I went out in one for half a day last summer but it was a 2 person canoe and my son did almost all the work because I was very nervous about doing damage to my repairs. All advice gratefully received!!


    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Juliet
      Yes this is a tricky one – the most important thing is to avoid straining. So if you were sitting in a canoe doing a little light paddling this would be quite different to heavy fast regular paddling. There’s no research on paddling and the pelvic floor. What’s more there are other factors such as the strength of your upper body,/back and pelvic floor. You need to choose activities that you feel most comfortable with and that you enjoy. I wish I could give you a yes/no however unfortunately I can’t. If you sense that an activity might be risky and you’re not going to enjoy it because you feel nervous about it, then that may be telling you something.

      Enjoy your holiday Juliet!

  12. This article “Unsafe Exercises for Women with Prolapse & after Prolapse Surgery” has been excellent reading. I have just had Prolapse surgery a couple of weeks ago (Laparoscopic hysteropexy and vaginal repair (anterior and posterior – no mesh) and am trying to follow all the guidelines from my surgeon and have been walking (short walks), not lifting etc but I need some advice as no matter how gradual or how long it takes I want to eventually return to my sport of Dragon Boat racing (it is paddling not rowing). I read somewhere on your website that you cannot do canoeing or rowing as lifting the boats would preclude this sport after surgery. But as there are 20 paddlers in a Dragon Boat others can move the boat to the trolley and the shed so I would not need to do this.
    I am 60 and was fit before surgery, going to the gym and Dragon boating. I am prepared to not lift anything heavy (now 1-2 kg later not over 10kgs) in the gym etc but can I ask your opinion on following an exercise program aimed at returning to my sport perhaps in 9 months to a year.
    Thank you

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Julie

      Thanks for your question. Hmmm not sure that I advise against dragon boat racing because of lifting the boat, I just suggest that this is one of the potential risks involved. Unfortunately this is one I can’t answer Julie other than to say that this is very individual and comes down to many factors unknown to me; your pelvic floor strength, upper body strength, how much load is transferred to the pelvic floor with paddling (currently unknown but I would think looking at the muscles involves and position there may be some potential for pelvic floor loading). The best way to get some idea would be to see a Pelvic Floor Physio for an assessment of your pelvic floor support down the track. Important to be mindful of the fact that prolapse surgery increases the risk of repeat prolapse so this needs to be considered in your decision too. Wish I could give you a yes/no but it’s not possible.

      All the best for your rehab & return to fitness Julie.

  13. Hi Michelle
    Thank you for all your wonderful advice for we ladies with pelvic floor problems. I have had two stints of surgery and am anxious not to undo them. However, I now have an intractable achilles problem where the physio (very specialised) has me on an intense leg strengthening program. Today he has moved the program on to include leg presses of 50kg plus building up to more than my body weight. I note in the article above you have advised against leg presses altogether and suggested alternatives. Is there any way at all to do leg presses safely? The machine I can access is a seated leg press.
    Many thanks

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Maree

      I understand your challenge and yes I agree with you that having had 2 stints of pelvic floor surgery you need to be very careful indeed. The exercises prescribed for you are well intentioned for your achilles however leg press is one of the first exercises I take out of a program for women who are at high risk. I think you need to ask your Physio for alternative exercise and being specialised he will have a range of calf strengthening exercises in his repertoire.

      All the best for your rehab.

  14. Hi Michelle,

    Is it safe to take body pump classes if I had an abdominal exploratory surgery approximately 16 years ago? I have a scar that runs from right below my chest to right above my belly button. I have had no problems since the surgery. I started this class a few weeks ago and attend 2 times a week. I am already feeling stronger but started worrying that it might not be wise. Thanks if you can help answer my question.

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Carol

      The safety of your pump class for your body really depends upon how well your pelvic floor and core muscles are functioning – this is a very individual thing. I find it challenging but not impossible to modify Pump classes for pelvic floor safe exercises. Pump often includes intense core abdominal training exercises towards the end of the class and in view of your history of abdominal surgery you may need to modify these exercises from the outset at the very least.

      All the best,

  15. Which exercise bike do you recommend? Recumbent or upright?

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Miriam
      Whatever is most comfortable for you to use – try to ensure it had adjustable gears and seat height if upright.

  16. Hello I have a problem of continuous bleeding. Even when m not in my periods little or more blood is coming out. But I want to do exercises to shape my lower abdomen. Sit Ups N Crunches Will Be Good Form Me? Please tell me if u can diagnose my problem coz here Dr’s are not saying much. Please help.
    Sonam jha

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Sonam

      It’s very important that you get medical assessment to diagnose the cause of your bleeding. Bleeding can be associated with a range of problems, if one doctor can’t give you a diagnosis ask for a referral to a specialist gynaecologist – this is important.

      All the best