You've probably been hearing a lot of buzz about the squat. And many have been touting it as the go-to thing to do for pelvic floor health. The more squats you do, the stronger your pelvic floor, right?
I shall begin with a quote:
What I can totally see happening twenty years from now is people doing as many squats a day as they were kegel exercises. Magazines will be touting the squat as the go-to exercise for pelvic floor disorder. Every physical therapist and every birth educator and every personal trainer will be handing out the squat ExRx like it’s a dollar bill. And we’ll have the exact same problem: the sarcomeres of the pelvic floor being positioned away from neutral. And guess who’s going to look like a jackass in 2033? I am.
I'm a squat lover FOR. SURE. But I think that it's so easy for us to take a very small piece of the huge picture and boil it down to one thing: squats=strong pelvic floor. Have urinary incontinence? Squat more. Want to have an easier birth? Squat. Want to strengthen your pelvic floor for whatever reason? Squat. No lie, people really *are* handing out the squat exercise prescription like it's the new kegel. And SQUATTING IS NOT THE NEW KEGEL. Squatting is one part of a whole body movement program and a systematic re-learning of how to use your human machine (body) is ways that optimize: birthing space, functionality, well-being and minimize: pain and disease. There is not one exercise that is going to be THE exercise that you need to do, it's about how you carry your body most of the time. Exercise does not replace movement. Restorative Exercise is just that, designed to restore us to the way we were designed to be. And we were really designed to move a lot more than we do right now. We were not designed to sit on couches and chairs all day. We were designed to squat to eliminate. To walk many miles a day. So, it isn't really about the exercises at all. It's about getting to a place where you don't even need to correct yourself through exercise at all because your body is moving optimally all the time. We live in a modern world, of course, and alignment is a journey and not a destination. There is SO MUCH that we can do to bring ourselves in a place of more natural movement. And squatting is one of those exercises. It is one piece of the puzzle.
If most of the time you are sitting. With a tucked pelvis. And thrusted ribs. Then I can promise you this: doing 50 squats a day isn't going to do what you think it's going to do. And you are not going to be able to do the squats like you think you are doing them. Don't get me wrong, I am all about doing something is better than doing nothing, but if you're lazy like me and want the most bang for your buck, you might as well get the most out of every squat you do! Here is a photo of me, squatting. Except I'm not getting all the benefit of the squat that I could be getting.
Let me say it again. Squatting is part of a whole body movement and systemic re-learning of how to use the body.
So as I've said and will say again (broken record, much?) it's not about the squat, itself, but the strength and the range of motion/length of the muscles that we need to get into an aligned squat and the strength that this squat will build. This, then, aides us in being able to walk in a more aligned way- with a neutral pelvis and hip extension. This, in turn, will engage the glutes during walking rather than all the muscles that we are probably currently using that are not really designed to be used in that way. Namely, the quads and psoas.
"it’s what the glutes do while walking that gives the pelvic floor, always contracting under the load of the abdominal and pelvic floor organs, the constant resistance to generate an eccentric force that it needs to keep from shortening." Katy
So, you say, "Lindsay, this is all good and well, it's not just about the squat. So what should I do?" I am glad you asked (okay, I know that was really me, but you KNOW you were thinking that question).
Here are some pointers.
1. Work on the squat prep.
Squat prep in going to help you to be able to have the range of motion for a good ol' awesome squat.
2. Get a squatty potty
This is going to get you into a squat as often as you go to the bathroom. Use it for both #1 and #2 (I've had that question so feel the need to clarify). This is a great way for your body to find the range of motion of a squat while eliminating. This is how we are designed to eliminate. In my opinion, the porcelain throne is a huge contributor to the vast amount of people in our western society with pelvic floor issues. Statistically, we have a lot less babies than cultures with a lot less pelvic floor disorders, and there are just as many people with PFD that have not given birth. Ah... another tangent. Just get a squatty potty, yo!! And use my affiliate link and I'll give you a high five (virtual if you're not local).
3. Every time you get up from sitting, try to use vertical shins! Here's a short video. How many times a day do you have to get up? Probably a lot. Every time, see if you can engage your posterior leg muscles by not allowing your knees to go past your ankles. You have to get up anyway, right? So might as well get this added benefit, right?
4. Get out and get to walking! Humans are really designed to walk 5-6 miles a day. Don't start there, start with walking more than you are currently walking and build up! It does not have to be all at once. But circling around the parking lot for the closest spot is not going to aide you in your alignment journey. Just sayin'. Walking with hip extension engaging the posterior leg muscles is going to start happening once we lengthen and strengthen the muscles that will allow us to do so. If you don't know what that means, just get out and walk more for now.
5. More Restorative Exercise! Click here and get a really good alignment snack that is only $5 and you can download it and watch it as much as you want and learn about hip extension and the pelvic floor. It's called "All Fo' the Pelvic Flo'" and you'll love it! Additionally, I'm putting together a LOT of classes and always have private sessions available! Learn how to use your human machine optimally!!
6. And squat, too. I'm not anti-squat and I hope this post didn't come off that way. I am just anti-ONLY squatting and not doing anything else. Or handing out the Squat recommendation without any of the other stuff. Does that makes sense like it does in my head? I sure hope so!
Here's a series of photos of me attempting to squat in alignment, with my kids. Is my squat perfect? No. BUT, I've learned what my limiting factors are, and I'm working on them so that I can squat better. I'm also using my squatty potty, walking, and doing my Restorative Exercises. And I am taking deep breaths and not stressing about it, because it's not about the final destination, and the movement choices that we choose to make, every day.
Seriously, as you can see by the ridiculousness of all these photos, a lot of work goes into blog posts! I thought it'd be fun to just post all the outtakes (since they turned out to ALL be outtakes!) of me squatting while also taking care of little tiny children. As you can see, it's a journey, a MOVEMENT journey. And I'm on that journey as well!
Check out Susanne's awesome work in Restorative Exercise on her webpage and on Facebook
Share this post with childbirth educators, doulas, yoga instructors, moms, and everyone who is thinking that it's all about the squat. Remember I'm pro-squat, but anti-only squatting.
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Mama Aligned is Lindsay McCoy.