Are you worried about gym exercises worsening your prolapse?
You’re not alone!
Many women’s gyms carry exercise equipment that is potentially hazardous for women with prolapse problems. Women often unknowingly risk pelvic floor problems with some of their regular gym exercises.
If you’re trying to exercise and strengthen with a prolapse or after prolapse surgery this information is designed to help you keep exercising safely.
Read on now for Physiotherapist information on:
- 7 risky equipment-based gym exercises for women
- How to modify these exercises
7 Equipment-Based Gym Exercises to Modify for Prolapse
Women with prolapse and after prolapse surgery are at increased risk of pelvic floor injury with some unsafe gym exercises. Before reading this list, bear in mind that everywoman is different when it comes to the load her pelvic floor (and prolapse) can withstand.
This list of exercises is not exhaustive – the examples used here are intended as general information to help you avoid potentially unsafe gym exercises in your strength workout and choose pelvic floor safe alternatives so that you can stay active and strong.
1. Leg Press Gym Exercises
Heavily loaded leg press is a key exercise to avoid with prolapse problems. The leg press machine generates a large amount of downward pressure on the pelvic floor; the heavier the load you press with your legs the greater the potential for strain and injury.
Leg press machines variations to avoid:
- Incline Leg Press
- Seated Leg Press
- Standing Leg Press
Modify intense leg strength exercises with:
2. Squat Exercises
Heavy loaded deep wide leg squats have the potential to generate forceful downwards pressure on the pelvic floor. The heavier the load you squat the greater the pressure on your pelvic floor, particularly if the load is carried with a bar across your shoulders or chest.
Squats can often be modified with pelvic floor safe alternatives for leg and buttock
Heavily loaded squat exercises to avoid include:
- Smith machine squats (shown right)
- Barbell squats
Modify heavy weighted squats with:
- Modified squats (watch now)
- Mini squats
- Back to ball wall squats
3. Dead Lifts
Dead lifts involve deep forward bends and wide leg deep squats using weights often holding a heavy weighted barbell. Weighted squat and deep forward bend actions have the potential to strain the pelvic floor (and the lower back).
Dead lifts can be modified for some women who are not at high risk of prolapse using light dumbbells, reducing the depth of the squat and forward bend, keeping the dumbbells above mid thigh level.
Dead lift exercises to avoid:
- Barbell heavy weighted dead lift (shown right)
- Medicine ball squat dead lift
Modify heavy weighted dead lifts with:
- Mini squats
- Back to ball wall squats
- Alternate arm and leg raise (watch now)
- Modified mini squat dumbbell dead lift (for some women only)
4. Abdominal Core Gym Exercise Machines
Abdominal exercise machines are designed increase the resistance to abdominal exercises. Many of the traditional abdominal exercise machines train the strength of the upper abdominal muscles. When the upper abdominal muscles contract strongly they generate pressure that is transferred downwards onto the pelvic floor. In women with pelvic floor weakness this downward pressure may contribute to pelvic floor overload thereby worsening pelvic floor problems including prolapse.
Abdominal gym exercise machines to avoid:
- Abdominal crunch machine
- Abdominal glider
- Abdominal wheel or roller
- Captain’s chair (shown right)
- Seated rotation machine (also increases strain on the spine)
- Weighted cable crunches
Modify intense abdominal gym exercises with:
- Seated gym ball deep core abdominal exercises (watch now)
- Low intensity Pilates mat deep abdominal exercises (watch now)
- Seated gym ball light dumbbell seated upper body exercises,
- Whole body exercises (wall push ups, pelvic floor safe lunges)
5. Kettle Bell Gym Exercises
Some kettle bell exercises have potential to overload the pelvic floor; like many exercises using kettle bells safely requires an understanding of pelvic floor safe strengthening principles. Low load kettle bells may be used by some women to add resistance to train pelvic floor safe exercises outlined below.
Kettle Bell Exercises techniques can increase the load on the pelvic floor including:
- Lifting kettle bells from ground level
- Lifting heavy kettle bells ( facilitated by the handle grip)
- Bending forward exercises holding the kettle bell in front of the body
- Deep squat exercises holding kettle bells
Kettle bell weighted exercises to avoid include:
- Kettle bell squat (shown right)
- Two-hand swings (squat and dead lift),
- Clean to rack (squat and raise over shoulder),
- Push press (squat and press overhead),
- Lateral lunge holding kettle bells
- Unmodified Plank or push ups using kettle bells
- Kettle bell burpees
Modify inappropriate heavy kettle bell exercises with pelvic floor safe alternatives:
- Seated light kettle bell upper body strength exercises
- Kneeling bench low dumbbell or kettle bell row exercise
- Pelvic floor safe lunge exercises using light kettle bells
6. Gym Ball (Swiss Ball) Exercises
While the gym ball is ideal for some pelvic floor safe strength exercises, not all gym ball exercises are appropriate for women with prolapse and those at increased risk of pelvic floor injury. When gym ball exercises involve intense core abdominal muscle exercises they have potential to overload the pelvic floor potentially worsening prolapse problems.
Gym ball exercises to avoid include:
- Gym balls sit ups (shown right)
- Men’s push up (legs on ball hands on ground)
- Double leg raise (raising ball between legs)
- Roll out and hover (kneeling with ball under elbows)
- Plank (ball under feet or upper body)
- Plank to abdominal curl (Plank position with feet on ball rolling ball inwards tucking thighs to chest).
Modify intense abdominal core gym ball exercises with pelvic floor safe alternatives:
- Seated upper body dumbbell exercises (watch now)
- Seated ball leg exercises
- Alternate arm and leg raises forwards over the gym ball
7. Incline Bench Abdominal Gym Exercises
Incline Bench increases the intensity of traditional mat-based abdominal curl exercises. This has the effect of making the upper abdominal muscles generate more downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
Incline bench abdominal exercises to avoid:
- Incline sit ups or abdominal curl exercises (shown right)
- Reverse crunch or double leg raises (head at the high end of the incline)
- Incline weighted curl exercises using a weight plate or medicine ball
- Roman Chair sit ups (incline bench with ankles hooked under padded bar)
Alternative pelvic floor safe abdominal gym exercises as outlined in modifications suggested in number 4 (above).
Key Points for Safe Gym Exercises
As you can see there are many commonly performed and potentially risky gym exercises designed for strength training. Every woman is different when it comes to choosing appropriate gym exercises; some women may be able to withstand more pressure on their pelvic floor than others.
This list of popular equipment-based exercises provides you with information about those gym exercises that may be unsafe if your pelvic floor is at increased risk with prolapse problems. Modify your risky gym exercises so that you can keep strengthening safely and protect your pelvic floor.
ABOUT 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.