Are you unsure about which Pilates exercises to avoid?
Unfortunately some classical Pilates exercises may increase your risk of pelvic floor problems.
This information helps you continue to enjoy the benefits of Pilates by knowing which intense core abdominal exercises you may need to modify or avoid.
Every woman has her own individual pelvic floor risk factors. Those Pilates exercises suited to some women may not necessarily suit others.
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- Understand unsafe exercises to avoid
- Choose pelvic floor safe exercises
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Pilates Exercise 1 – Hundred I
The Hundred I involves raising your head and both legs off the mat.
Maintaining The Hundred position uses your outer core abdominal muscles, creating downward pressure onto your pelvic floor from within your abdomen.
Modify Hundred I to reduce the load on your pelvic floor, by keeping your head, shoulders and one foot in contact with the mat throughout. Raising one leg reduces the load on your pelvic floor when compared with both legs raised.
Pilates Exercise 2 – Hundred II
Hundred II is a more advanced Pilates exercise with the legs extended shown above.
This Pilates exercise is an intense core abdominal muscle exercise that is difficult to modify so you may choose to avoid this exercise if your pelvic floor is at increased risk of injury.
Pilates Exercise 3 – Roll-Up
Pilates Roll-Up is a classic Pilates mat exercise designed to strengthen the abdominal core muscles.
If your pelvic floor can’t withstand the load created, it will be repeatedly forced downwards with each successive Roll-Up.
Pilates Exercise 4 – Single-Leg Stretch
Single-Leg Stretch strongly activates your outer core abdominal muscles increasing the load on your pelvic floor.
Modify Single-Leg Stretch stretch by keeping one foot and your head in contact with the mat throughout.
Pilates Exercise 4 – Double-Leg Stretch
The first of the classical Pilates “stomach series” is usually provided as a progression from Single-Leg Stretch.
Modify Double-Leg Stretch with both knees bent, both feet and head in contact with the mat and activate your deep core abdominal muscles while circling your arms out to your sides.
Pilates Exercise 5 – The Scissors
The Scissors Pilates exercise usually involves the head and both legs raised off the mat.
Modify Scissors by engaging your deep abdominal muscles correctly, raising only one straight leg at a time and keeping your head and shoulders in contact with the mat.
Pilates Exercise 6 – Teaser
Teaser is one of the more advanced classical Pilates exercises. This is an intense core abdominal exercise.
Teaser increase pressure on the pelvic floor (and the lower back). Teaser is a difficult exercise to modify to reduce pelvic floor loading and you may seek to avoid this exercise if your pelvic floor is at increased risk of injury.
Pilates Exercise 7 – Push Up
Push Up technique shown above is an intense core abdominal exercise that increases loading on your pelvic floor.
Push up can be modified to a kneeling Ladies Push Up to reduce the load on the pelvic floor.
Pilates Exercise 8 – Leg Pull Front
Leg Pull is a challenging abdominal core exercise often performed from full Plank position.
While Plank can be modified by kneeling, raising the leg single leg from kneeling plank should be avoided to prevent undue strain on the pubic symphsis (i.e. the joint where your two pubic bones meet).
Pilates Exercise 9 – Rollover
Rollover is a classical Pilates exercise for spinal stretching and core control.
Repeatedly raising both legs overhead strongly engages the abdominal muscles and therefore increases the pressure on the pelvic floor. If your pelvic floor is at increased risk of injury you may seek to avoid this exercise.
Rollover is difficult to modify to reduce pelvic floor loading.
Pilates Exercise Technique 10 – Imprinting The Spine
Many classical Pilates exercises are still performed with imprinting the spine or flattening out the curve in the lower back.
Joseph Pilates advocated imprinting the spine as a method to provide additional support to the spine.
Why does imprinting continue?
When Joseph developed his classical Pilates series in the early to mid 1900’s he didn’t have the technology we have today.
We now know from ultrasound studies1 that the deep core abdominal muscles work most effectively with the normal inward curve in the lower back rather than back flattened or imprinted position.
Imprinting the spine recruits or engages the strong outer abdominal muscles that are responsible for increasing the load on the pelvic floor.
If you’re seeking to strengthen your deep core abdominal muscles (i.e. transverse abdominis and internal oblique muscles) try to keep the normal inward curve in your lower back during your exercises.
Key Points For Pilates & Your Pelvic Floor
Every woman is different and there is no one rule fits all when it comes to how well suited some Pilates core abdominal exercises are to your pelvic floor.
If your pelvic floor is at increased risk of injury modify or avoid Pilates core abdominal exercises involving:
- Both legs raised off the mat
- Head and shoulders raised off the mat
- Weight bearing through the hands and feet only
1. Sapsford RR, Hodges PW, Richardson CA, Cooper DH, Markwell SJ, Jull GA. Co-activation of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles during voluntary exercises. Neurourol Urodyn. 2001;20(1):31-42.