In the world of sexual health and women’s health, you may hear buzz about the concept of “vaginal weightlifting”. While this can conjure up some bizarre images, it is just a new term for a therapeutic intervention that pelvic health physical therapists have been using for years.
Vaginal weightlifting – also known pelvic floor strengthening - has many benefits for sexual health, urinary continence, and pelvic support.
Vaginal weightlifting is simply a popular term for specific training exercises to strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles form a sling-like structure in the lower pelvis and support the pelvic organs, surrounding the vaginal wall.
Weakness or underactivity in these muscles can lead to issues such as urinary incontinence (leaking of urine) or pelvic organ prolapse, which is when the pelvic organs start to collapse into the vaginal wall. Reduced strength in these muscles can also lead to a less satisfying experience during intercourse.
Pelvic floor muscle weakness most commonly results from pregnancy, vaginal delivery, and age, but can also be the result of a traumatic injury, obesity, pelvic surgery, or chronic constipation.
The good news is that just like any other muscle, the pelvic floor muscles respond well to strength training. By nature of their unique location, the equipment to train these muscles needs to be specifically designed for the vagina.
While most people have heard of Kegel exercises, the use of vaginal weights is less well known. Kegel exercises involve tightening and relaxing the muscles of the pelvic floor to increase muscle strength and endurance, particularly after a vaginal delivery or surgery.
Vaginal weightlifting using vaginal weights takes pelvic floor strengthening farther by adding more resistance than what can be achieved by Kegels alone, allowing the pelvic floor to become even stronger.
Vaginal weights are usually made of medical-grade silicone for comfort, come in cylindrical or tear-drop shapes, and are inserted into the vagina like a tampon. A set of weights will come in several different weights, often from about 25 grams to 125 grams.
As with any strength training program, initial training begins with repetitions using the lightest weight and progresses as strength increases. For an additional challenge, you can add dynamic activities like walking, stair climbing, squats, or lunges while keeping the weight in place.
The weights are only kept in during training, not worn for long periods of time. A pelvic physical therapist can help you tailor your training to meet your specific needs.
Vaginal weights should not be used during pregnancy or immediately after childbirth, during an active vaginal infection, or immediately after gynecological surgery.
Increased pelvic floor strength through vaginal weightlifting has many benefits that can improve your quality of life. These benefits include an enhanced sexual experience, improved urinary continence, and others.
Pelvic floor strengthening has many benefits for sexual health. Training these muscles increases blood flow to the vaginal area, which leads increased arousal, lubrication, and intensity of orgasm.
Strong, well-trained pelvic floor muscles can also contribute to more intense and longer lasting orgasms. Stronger muscles also allow a better grip during intercourse, which can improve intercourse for the partner as well.
Stress urinary continence is the leaking of urine that happens during a strenuous movement like sneezing, coughing, exercise, or lifting. When the pelvic floor muscles are weak, there is inadequate support around the bladder and sphincter, allowing leakage to occur. Stronger pelvic floor muscles prevent this from happening.
Because the pelvic floor muscles are an essential part of supporting the pelvic organs, weakness can lead to pelvic organ prolapse, which is the descent of the uterus, bladder, or rectum into the vaginal wall.
While a strong pelvic floor can prevent it from happening, especially after vaginal delivery, pelvic floor strengthening can also reduce its severity, so it does not interfere with everyday life.
The muscles of the pelvic floor are part of the “core” muscles, along with other pelvic, low back, and abdominal muscles, to name a few. A stronger pelvic floor provides support to the spine and joints of the hips and pelvis, improving posture and preventing pain and injury to these areas.
Vaginal weightlifting has multiple benefits for your pelvic health. Speak to a pelvic physical therapist to help you get started safely, to maximize your experience.