Tackle the Unexpected Leak™ - It's All About Your Core
As men, we naturally love efficiency. In addition we pride ourselves on taking control. And when it comes to incontinence that’s even more important. The good news is there are in fact exercises you can do to support and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn can help with urine leakage. But what if we told you there was a way to not only strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, but also get the six-pack that we all know is hiding somewhere in that midsection? Well, incorporating your core into an exercise program may be an efficient way to do both.
It’s a common concern that it’s hard it is to make it to the gym on a consistent basis. That’s why we recommend a simple, easy-to-learn exercise that doesn’t require any weights or equipment. And the best part is you can do it in the comfort of your own home. The exercise we’re talking about is the Stomach Vacuum. Benefiting not only your pelvic floor muscles but your core as well, this workout is a perfect example of a pelvic floor strengthening exercise you can do on a daily basis. The stomach vacuum works the TA (transverse abdominis), which is the layer of muscle behind your rectus abdominis or "six-pack". Not only does it work on your core, it’s cardiovascular exercise, provides increased flexibility and builds muscle strength as well. You’re sure to feel the physical benefits (healthy heart, increased mobility and range of motion) as well as the emotional rewards of active living (positive attitude, improved mood, reduced stress). But let’s discuss the core a little further as it’s an instrumental muscle group in building stability and strengthening your bladder.
A significant component to the core is the innermost muscle of the abdomen, located immediately beneath the internal oblique muscle. This muscle helps to compress the ribs, providing pelvic stability.
Achieving pelvic stability is key in strengthening the pelvic floor. And as a bonus, working this muscle enhances muscular definition in your abs. So, not only are you experiencing functional benefits, you’re also reaping aesthetic advantages. The efficiency we men love.
So, about the Stomach Vacuum. The name may turn heads, but, you might too after perfecting this exercise. What exactly is the stomach vacuum? The stomach vacuum is a weightless exercise you can perform to improve the strength of your core, and your pelvic floor. The vacuum works the transverse abdominis, the layer of muscle behind that six-pack you’re hiding. As you build this muscle, you’ll be gaining more postural support. In addition, you’re newly added strength will assist in ‘pulling in’ your internal organs and giving you a slimmer waistline and more abdominal control. The Stomach Vacuum is also a pelvic floor muscle exercise (PFME), which involves the contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles to improve bladder support and closure pressure of the urethra. The pelvic floor muscles, together with the muscles of the lower back and abdomen, make up the core muscles and act like the strings in a hammock to support the surrounding structures of the pelvis. These muscles are also responsible for cutting off the flow of urine from the bladder and support the bladder and intestines. So, with a stronger pelvic floor, you’ll be able to have more control of the flow of urine passing through the bladder.
The exercise is quite simple. Here’s how to do it:
- The stomach vacuum can be performed either with your hands and knees on the floor or standing upright with your hands resting on a table – it’s important your back stays curved during this exercise
- First, blow out all the air from your lungs and squeeze your diaphragm
- Next, suck in your stomach and try to expand your lungs as if you were breathing in. But don’t let in any air!
- Use your diaphragm to suck in your stomach tightly (think of the iconic body builder pose, this should help with your form)
- Hold this for about 10 seconds
- Next, release and take a few deep breaths to recover
- Repeat the exercise
- Start off with 3 sets of 5 repetitions
Try doing this exercise 2-3 times a week to start. Once you’ve practiced this exercise, try to work your way up to holding for 20 seconds… and longer! The idea is to keep progressing in repetitions and in sets.
In addition to the Stomach Vacuum, there are several other workouts that can help strengthen your abdomen and increase your overall core strength. And not to worry, just like the Vacuum, these four exercises are simple and easy to learn. To get started, click here.
Remember, it’s super important to have a balanced lifestyle that incorporates regular physical activity and exercise. So, rather than simply working just your core, try a well-rounded approach to becoming more physically fit. Again, a gym membership is not a necessity! Here are 8 home muscle workouts provided by Men’s Fitness that will allow you to burn fat and build muscle. The best part is, all can be done within 5 feet of your couch. Just another benefit that will appeal to all the efficient men out there! A healthy lifestyle is within your reach. All you need to do is take control.