Risky Equipment-Based Gym Exercises to Modify for Prolapse

Are you worried about gym exercises worsening your prolapse? Gym exercises

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:

Seated leg press

Seated Leg Press

  • Incline Leg Press
  • Seated Leg Press
  • Standing Leg Press

correctModify 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

Smith Machine Squats

Smith Machine Squats

strengthening.

Heavily loaded squat exercises to avoid include:

  • Smith machine squats (shown right)
  • Barbell squats

correct

Modify heavy weighted squats with:

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

Dead Lifts

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

correct

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:

Captain's Chair

Captain’s Chair

  • 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

correct

Modify intense abdominal gym exercises with:

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:

Kettleball Squat

Kettle Bell Squat

  • 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

correct

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 Ball Abdominal Curls

Gym Ball Abdominal Curls

  • 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).

correct

Modify intense abdominal core gym ball exercises with pelvic floor safe alternatives:

7. Incline Bench Abdominal Gym Exercises

Incline Bench Abdominal Curls

Incline Bench Abdominal Curls

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.

 

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.

Comments

  1. Hello Michelle,
    Using an Exercycle is not mentioned in the list of risky gym equipment. I’m thinking about getting one for home use. Is it safe? I would use it in conjunction with all the pelvic floor exercises you recommend. I have not had surgery and won’t be …I have a partial prolapse and am hoping the exercises will help greatly.
    I don’t really want to get pessaries inserted. Thank you for your marvellous website!

    • Michelle Kenway says:

      Hi Judy

      Exercise bikes are ideal for most women for pelvic floor safe exercise (low impact and well supported). Just to be clear on this – there are some cycles with handles that move during the cycle rather than staying fixed in position when cycling. I am inclined to think that a stable handle base is the best option (obviously most are adjustable but not moveable during the exercise if this makes sense).

      This article on cycling and prolapse should give you more information too Judy

      All the best
      Michelle

  2. Is it safe to use the vibrapower machine one year after having surgery for a prolaspe uterus

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Tracey
      It really depends what exercises you’re planning on doing on the vibrapower. After prolapse surgery I would personally avoid vibration plate exercises however this is not equipment I use so I can’t comment definitively.
      Cheers
      Michelle

  3. Can I use a Bowflex Treadclimber after the prolapse surgery recovery time?

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Lisa

      Stair climber is a low impact form of exercise. Low-impact exercise is a type of exercise usually recommended for most women after prolapse surgery recovery. You may like to watch this video on keeping stair climber or elliptical machines pelvic floor safe.

      Michelle

  4. Hi Michelle, prior to my pregnancy I did quite s bit of strength training and loved it. My little boy is 9 months old. I was diagnosed with a mild vaginal prolapse after I had him but it seemed to have gone away over the last few months. I decided to join a group personal training group to try kickstart my strength training again and have been squatting quite low (with quite light weights at the moment although the aim is to get much heavier). After each squat session I’ve noticed that my pelvic floor doesn’t feel quite right and that heavy feeling is back. I did a little googling and have read some horror stories about women with prolapse being told never to squat or deadlift again. If I work more on my core and pelvic floor etc, should I ultimately be able to squat and deadlift or will I just keep exacerbating the problem? Would I be better off keeping squats shallow (or doing lunges instead). Or are there any other modifications you would recommend? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks

    • Michelle Kenway Physiotherapist says:

      Hi Laura
      This is a good question and I understand your concern which is very valid. Laura deep squatting and deep deadlifts may exacerbate pelvic floor problems. Having said that with a mild prolapse and reasonable pelvic floor function I don’t see a problem with shallow squats, lunges and/or deadlifts that are not too deep. There is no additional functional benefit from doing deep squats so it’s really not worth the risk in many cases. You’re right to listen to your body and when you notice symptoms think about what you’ve been doing that might have caused them and avoid these exercises or modify them in the future.
      All the best
      Michelle