Me too! I repped the maxi pad in heavy squat, clean, and deadlift sessions. (Where’s the Super-Heavy-With-Wings-For-Lifters commercial?)
But guess what, my friend? I haven’t used a feminine product in a workout in months.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’m tired of the talk around pelvic floor health and lifting. It’s all the same.
- Sounds like crickets. Women are “hush hush” about it like it’s not even happening.
- We laugh about it like it’s perfectly normal and part of the process (when inside we’re cringing hoping no one sees us pee on the platform).
- We hear it’s not okay, but we’re offered little help in resolving the issue. The suggested solutions are Kegels or to stop lifting so heavy that it happens.
Telling a powerlifter, Oly lifter, strongwoman, or CrossFitter to keep it light when there’s a barbell in front of her is like telling a gymnast to stay on her feet. You can do it…but that’s not where the fun is.
I have different advice for you, sister. After researching the shit out of this topic, experimenting with my own body, and having discussions with other lifters about what works, I’ve compiled the process into five simple steps to stop peeing when you lift.
But first, we need a little understanding of the pelvic floor (PF) and muscles in general.
Your Pelvic Floor is a Group of Muscles Just Like Your #Quadz
Look down at your quads. Use your hands to give them a little love squeeze. You’ve worked hard to build those babies and they deserve respect and admiration. Give those thick thighs a kiss. (Could you do it? I know I’m writing to a group of lifters and not yogis, hehehe.)
Our quads allow us to jump and squat. To explode with leg drive in a snatch or clean and jerk. To sit with control and to walk down the street. And most importantly, to get Instagram likes and followers. #quadzilla
Your Pelvic Floor is just like your quads. Both are formed by layers of beautiful muscles. (And if you posted PF pics, I’m sure your Instagram account would get thousands of views before it got reported).
But seriously, sister, your PF is amazing! By commanding the contraction of it you can heighten your experience of sex, and gain greater control of your orgasm(s). By flexing those muscles and your lower abdominals you can say goodbye to back pain when you sit. Heck, the muscles at the base of your body even allow you to move a tiny human from inside your uterus to outside your body.
Your PF also allows you to control the flow of urine and waste. And of utmost importance to us, it’s the stopper at the base of your body that allows you to maximize intra-abdominal pressure when you’re executing a lift.
And so, to hit a new PR in the gym (without peeing), start treating your pelvic floor with the same respect you give your quads. (We’re almost at the five steps! Click here to get all five to read later.)
Healthy Muscles Require Strengthening and Stretching
Like any group of muscles, our PF needs both strengthening and stretching to be its healthiest. To have maximum control contracting any muscle group: quads, PF, or traps, the muscles must be able to relax.
I mention traps because I think that’s the best example. My traps used to always be rock solid. I couldn’t shrug explosively at the top of my Olympic lifts until I loosened them. Our muscles need to be loose to be fast, but they need to be tight to be strong.
CrossFitters, Oly lifters, and even strongwomen need looser muscles than powerlifters, but we all need to have a relaxed and strong pelvic floor.
If your PF is tight, stretch and massage it and the surrounding muscles. “How do I know if my pelvic floor is tight?” you might ask. Chances are, if you lift it is! But here are a few ways to tell. Your PF is definitely tight if:
- When you pee, you have to push the urine out or the flow naturally stops or slows.
- A guy compliments you on it during intercourse and you smile to yourself because you don’t even practice Kegels.
- You can go to the washroom right before a lift and complete the attempt with what you thought was an empty bladder only to find urine running down your leg.
If your PF is loose, or if you don’t have control of it, practice tightening/flexing it for various lengths of time (practice Kegels). This is you if:
- You pee when you cough, sneeze, or lift.
With a tight PF, you’re not going to be able to perform and hold a proper Kegel throughout an entire lift. You need to first learn to relax the muscles of your pelvic floor, then learn how to contract them, and lastly learn how to hold a contraction throughout an entire lift to maintain maximum intra-abdominal pressure.
And finally, we’re there!
The Five Steps to Stop Peeing When You Lift:
1. Loosen Your PF and the Surrounding Muscles
a) Use deep breathing or “Reverse Kegels” to stretch your PF
Yes, imagine breathing all the way down to the tip of your cervix: another name for the pelvic floor is “pelvic diaphragm”. (Our regular diaphragm allows us to pull air into our bodies when we breathe.)
I want you to try this exercise to learn to relax your pelvic floor:
- Lay on your back.
- Take a big breath, expanding your rib cage from your collar bones all the way down to your belly and don’t stop when you get to your lower belly.
- Bring your breath into your lower belly and imagine your PF is like a balloon. You’re going to push that breath right down to the base of your PF like you’re trying to expand the balloon (almost like you’re trying to push urine out). Imagine your PF spreading in all directions (down to the floor, up to the sky, towards both your legs, and towards the wall in front of you).
- Hold this full expansion of your PF for ten seconds and then relax. You might have to take a few breaths while holding, but I encourage you to work on your breathing so you can hold this inhale.
- Repeat three to five repetitions of this ten second hold, three times a day. Eventually you’ll be able to practice this standing or even walking.
Once you can relax your PF, you can learn to contract it explosively, for extended periods of time, and during dynamic movements – like during a grinder max deadlift or a clean you catch forward.
For the other 4 steps which include:
- learn how to contract your PF explosively and for an extended period
- develop a PF training regime
- cut back on sitting and improve your posture while seated
- change your bracing technique when you lift
click here to get my Pelvic Floor Guide for Women Who Lift. I’ll send it to you as a printable PDF you can take to the gym. When your training partners see you standing (or laying) there staring off into space and ask, “What are you doing?” You can hand them the guide and say, “expanding my pelvic floor like a balloon.”
A healthier pelvic floor means you can maintain greater intra-abdominal pressure – and that means more red plates on your barbell.
Get your guide and then share this blog with your friends so that together, we can ensure there will never be a maxi-pad commercial for lady lifters.