Learn Two Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and contribute to the integrity of the core of the body. Kegels are the most well-known and specific pelvic floor exercises. However, exercises that put the pelvic floor muscles in a movement context in relation to other muscles are a more fully functional approach to pelvic floor strengthening. 


Palm Press with Magic Circle

pelvic floor exercise
(c)Marie Monahan

Pilates instructor Marie Monahan is the creator of the acclaimed DVD Beyond Kegels. Here, we have two Pilates-based pelvic floor exercises from the DVD - the palm press and the lean back with an intermediate modification. Both exercises take advantage of resistance from the Pilates magic circle to help activate the pelvic floor.

Pelvic Floor Exercise Instructions:

Important tip for pelvic floor exercises: As with all Pilates exercises it is important to begin the exhale BEFORE you activate the motion of the exercise. In doing this you maximize the control and benefit of the exercise in the targeted muscles.

Palm Press with Magic Circle:
In the palm press, the position of the body combined with the pressing of the magic circle with flat palm activates and lifts the pelvic floor muscles while strengthening the obliques (waist and lower abdominals surrounding pelvic floor). Pressing with the flat palm also brings the pectoral [chest] muscles and mid-back into play.>

Set Up:
Neutral spine or a slight C-curve and shoulder blades reaching down for the mat. Place the magic circle on the mat in front of you with one pad touching the mat. Both palms are flat on the top pad, fingers extended and elbows soft.

The Exercise:


Exhale: contract and lift the pelvic floor muscles, then press down on the magic circle. Press down only as far as you can maintain the constant position of the spine.
Visualize lifting the pelvic floor muscles up to the belly button, and the belly button reaching back to the spine with the tailbone attempting to round toward the sky.

Inhale as you release the pressure on the magic circle.

Complete 10 reps initially. Additional reps as strength and awareness increase.

Initially, a slight C curve in the lower spine rather than a neutral spine facilitates easier access to the pelvic floor. Whichever is chosen, maintain it while pressing magic circle -- do not lean forward or round the shoulders while pressing the magic circle. Focusing on the shoulder blades sliding to the mat while pressing strengthens the mid-back and pectoral muscles. Knees should elevate very slightly during motion.

Next Pelvic Floor Exercise: Lean Back with Circle


Lean Back with Magic Circle as a Pelvic Floor Exercise

pelvic floor exercise
(c)Marie Monahan

This exercise strengthens and lifts the pelvic floor muscles, incorporating the pectoral, mid trapezius and seratus. Addition of the ball between the thighs activates the inner thigh, focusing on more contraction and lift of the pelvic floor group.

Set Up:

Sit on the mat, knees bent and feet flat hip-distance apart.
Place the magic circle between your hands, palms on the pads, fingers together and extended.
Maintaining a neutral spine, lean back slightly with a small tuck of the chin.
Elbows are soft by your sides, shoulder blades reaching for the mat.
Knees are bent with the soft ball placed the between the thighs, not the knees.

The Exercise:
Inhale to prepare.

Exhale to activate the pelvic floor, then press on the magic circle and simultaneously squeeze the ball with the thighs. Maintain the neutral spine.
Visualize the pelvic floor muscles lifting up to the belly button and the belly button reaching back to the spine.

Inhale, releasing pressure on the magic circle and ball.

As this an intermediate pelvic floor exercise, maintaining the neutral spine while executing the exercise adds a level of difficulty. It also adds benefit to the exercise as the deep lower spinal muscles are activated and strengthened.

Complete 10 reps initially. Additional reps as strength and awareness increase.


As you advance with the lean back, eliminating the ball between the thighs can add a level of intensity, as you no longer have the ball as a prop to stabilize and activate the inner thighs. Incorporating the inner thigh muscles aids in strengthening the pelvic floor muscles.

The pectoral muscles, mid trapezius and seratus, in combination with the stabilizing position of the shoulder blades, are strengthened with the palms pressing on the magic circle.

Marie Monahan is a Pilates instructor and founder of The Pilates Studio LLC. Her DVD Beyond Kegels is reviewed here and her website is onbeyondkegels.com.

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