The integration of core training into athletic development and as part of post-pregnancy rehabilitation has been on the rise. Training to increase the ability of the deep, internal stabilizers to improve function has been increasing both in gyms and in rehab centres. As this occurs, a question naturally arises- does pelvic floor training work?
Ferreira and Santos 2011 wrote a systematic review of 10 years of pelvic floor training articles. They focused on stress urinary incontinence since it is widespread within the population (35% of women and 17% of men over 60) and a measurable result (urinating less frequently and with less urgency) is easily measured and reproducible.
Several types of pelvic floor muscle training (vaginal weights, manual therapy, electrical therapy and biofeedback training) were used in studies; with no one form apparently outdoing the others in terms of results.
They found that pelvic floor muscle training in conjunction with traditional therapy cured 70% of cases of stress urinary incontinence and improved 97% of cases!
This data is still preliminary and standardization of treatment protocols has not yet been put into place. This demonstrates that with almost any form of training, underdeveloped deep, internal muscles will respond and strengthen like any other muscle in the body. Exposure to an external, progressive load will demand an adaptive response from the body- even if it’s for something as basic as urinary continence.
While we cannot directly transfer this data to an athletic population, given our previous post concerning pelvic floor training, the implications are obvious. During the off/pre-season cycle, integrate some pelvic floor control work into your training and do better during competitions.