Last week I attended a “body sculpting” group exercise class at a local gym. I hate to say it, but I was disappointed with the instruction and concerned for the safety of the participants. We were only lifting five pound weights, but as my eyes scanned the room I saw women hoisting their weights overhead past the point of fatigue (and proper form). Their knees were locked, their hips jutted forward, and their lower backs were arched. Unfortunately, the instructor rarely prompted participants to engage their core. I fear that more harm than good was done when it came to the women’s lower backs and pelvic floor muscles!
Sadly, we’re expected to know how to lift yet never really taught HOW. Recently, I received the following email from a FemFusion friend:
“I’ve had four children, and I’m concerned about my pelvic floor. I’ve been lifting weights, but “feelings” (no pain) have been telling me to pay attention to how I lift, how much, etc. I’m an ordinary Josephine when it comes to weight training, so I’d like to know more about what is best for women’s bodies.”
As I mention in my new book, Lady Bits, weightlifting is fantastic. It increases muscle mass and bone mineral density, it makes you stronger so that you can be more active throughout the day, and it boosts metabolism for all-day fat burning. But you’ve gotta do it RIGHT to stay safe! If you don’t, you can hurt your back and even increase risk of pelvic organ prolapse. Think of toothpaste splurting out of an uncapped toothpaste tube… This is a great (if not disgusting) analogy to what can happen if you’re lifting weights with an un-engaged pelvic floor.
I recorded the following 4-minute video in a gym with fans blowing all around. The sound quality is terrible (sorry!) but I cover some important weight lifting tips for women, including pointers about how to lift weights SAFELY for your back and pelvic floor.
- First, you need to zip up (i.e. engage your core muscles starting with the pelvic floor).
- You need to keep your spine long (don’t overly arch your low back).
- You must also keep your knees soft (don’t lock them!), and don’t lean back. Leaning back is easy to do, especially when lifting heavier weights… But it will do a number on your low back and it’s *cheating* anyway! Use your muscles — not momentum and/or physics — to lift the weight.
- Finally, it’s super, super, SUPER important to exhale on exertion. Watch ’til the end!