Hows your Bend? From squish to Squat

The pelvic floor.

So much is written and thought about this group of muscles. But at the end of the day, they are muscles like any other. They are happy when they move. They like to move a lot. They like to move aaaaaalll the way through their range of movement. If they don’t move, they get tight and stiff. Tight and stiff muscles won’t be able to generate a lot of force.

Lets take your arm muscles as a simple example of this: If you break your arm and it’s made to be completely still in a cast for 6 weeks – when it comes out of the cast, it’s all tight, and weak and your arm really rather likes to stay in the position in which it was casted. These are the adaptations of muscles to immobility – tight, and weak and stuck – to use the technical terms!!

Pelvic floor muscles are no different. It just is a little – well, a lot – more difficult to see them moving. Or not moving.

You move the pelvic floor muscles when you move your hips, at the same time toning and strengthening them, so good quality hip movement and function is essential for a healthy pelvic floor.  And a fab way to move your hips is to bend at the hips!

But I do bend, and use my hips, I hear you cry. Yes, that’s true, BUT – do you use them through their FULL range?

It is also important how the muscles are working to achieve the hip flexion – and if your feet are planted on the floor while you bend from the hips the muscles are loaded by gravity and the weight of yourself and have to work to lower you down and keep you there and get you up again. Here, we have all the ingredients of healthy muscles – work, maximum range and lots of movement.
This is where our lifestyle and habits really come into play with pelvic health. A full range of hip flexion with feet down is a full squat, right down to the floor, like this:

 

squatting-man
I have pictured this gentleman from another culture because in western culture, due to the way our bodies have adapted to our lifestyles of sitting in chairs a lot, it is very very very rare to see someone being able to do this. But, you can see that his feet are very straight – his knees are very bent and his hips, most of all, are very very bent (flexed). The body can really do this. And this chap aint no spring chicken. It’s not to do with age!!! He has done this movement countless times, and so its as easy for him to do as it is for most of us to perch on a stool!

What I am saying is not that you should be able to do this full squat (yet!)- but just to put into perspective the amount of movement that our bodies are missing in most of our lives.  Are we ‘casting’ our bodies, like the cast that is put on a broken arm, by sitting in chairs so much?

Unless you are up and down from the floor or in a squat many times a day, your pelvic floor is operating through a minuscule amount of its potential, and its suffering for it! But again the message is a hopeful one – ANY movement that you do towards improving this, is a really positive step for your body and can see big changes towards improving the overall pelvic health. This is one reason why squatting – effectively – is an important part of getting your pelvic floor working better for you!

If you want some more info on how to start to squat effectively – head to this blog post from Katy Bowman:

You Don’t Know Squat

Please note: For this I am taking all my inspiration and understanding from a lady called Katy Bowman and I would recommend anyone to visit her site Nutirious movement.com for a wealth of wonderful – and readable – information on pelvic floor and movement in all ways possible.

Susanna