Everyday Life | Active living
The link between weightlifting and bladder leakage
Discover the link between weightlifting and bladder leakage and how you can prevent it. If you experience urinary incontinence whilst lifting weights then you may benefit from our urinary incontinence pads range.
Copyright: PAUL HARTMANN
What is incontinence?First, we need to start by defining precisely ‘what is bladder leakage?’. Bladder leakage or incontinence is a medical condition that causes an involuntary loss or leakage of urine (wee) from the bladder or faeces (poo) from the bowel (bowel incontinence). It’s usually associated with infants, the elderly, and individuals with certain medical conditions. However, the National Health Service (NHS) estimates that between 3 to 6 million individuals in the UK suffer from some form of urinary incontinence. Additionally, "major faecal incontinence" affects approximately 1.4% of Britons over 40 years of age.
Incontinence can be a minor problem, just a small leak here and there, to a complete lack of bladder and/or bowel control, even during the night (Nocturnal Enuresis). One of the most important factors of incontinence is the strength of the pelvic floor.
What does the pelvic floor do?First, we need a little understanding of the pelvic floor, and of muscles in general. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, just like your quads or your triceps. Our quads allow us to jump and squat, and to explode with leg drive in a snatch or clean and jerk. On a more practical level, they also let us sit with control and to walk down the street.
The pelvic floor also allows you to control the flow of urine and waste from your bladder and bowel. And of utmost importance to weightlifters, it’s the stopper at the base of your body that allows you to maximize intra-abdominal pressure when you’re executing a lift.
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The link between bladder weakness and weightliftingStress incontinence is defined as when urine leaks from the bladder during times of stress, such as when laughing, coughing or lifting heavy objects.
Which exercises are the best for strengthening the pelvic floor?
Personal trainer Sam Higginbotham explains some of the best exercises for strengthening the pelvic floor. His advice, without a doubt, is compound exercises.
Compound movements are so called because they use or “compound” multiple muscle groups during the exercise, which is why they are primarily used in programmes due to the fact:
- Activates more working muscle, leading to more calorie burn during training.
- Requires more neural control, improving functional performance and maintaining proper posture and muscle control.
- Allows lifting of higher weights, engaging more muscle fibers and building more muscle tissue, resulting in quicker performance improvements.
- Better represents daily life activities, leading to faster improvements in mobility and overall quality of life.
As with any type of training, there are specific considerations you need to have in place, even more so with compound movements, as more muscles are used. If you do compound movements incorrectly, you can damage your body – and specifically your pelvic floor muscles.
Manage bladder leakages during exercising using these strategies
1. Core Stabilisation
Your core is essentially the “middle man” between your lower and upper body.
- Pull shoulder blades back and down for upright chest/torso
- Deep breath in to abdomen, exhale forcefully to engage deep core muscles
- Continue breathing while maintaining tension in the stomach
- Squeeze glutes together to stabilize the hip joint
- Push feet into the floor and twist them away from each other to build torque along the hip joint and secure the leg in place.
2. Controlled Breathing
To avoid building up pressure in the body during exercise, it's important to develop a stable and consistent rhythm of breathing. This ensures that you place the weight in the right areas at the right time.
- Inhale during the "loading" phase of any movement to support your body under load
- Exhale as you perform the movement and contract your muscles
- Maintaining control over your respiratory system is crucial during high-intensity and heavy-load movements.
3. Break The Movement Down
Breaking down compound movements into manageable patterns can help perfect your form and lift correctly. For instance, a deadlift can be split into an initial leg press followed by a hip extension to stand up fully.
- The deadlift activates muscles in the upper back, glutes, and deep core muscles to provide stability for the body.
- To improve your performance and avoid issues, break down individual components and use isolation movements to improve these areas.
- Use exercises like crunches, planks, face pulls, and high seated rows to build strength and stability in specific muscle groups that contribute to the deadlift.
4. Practice With a Light Load
- Don’t overestimate your abilities! It is worthwhile beginning with a lightweight to make sure you understand the basics and can apply them dynamically when working with weight and under pressure before increasing the weight you follow.
- Focus on the basics and the improvement will come naturally.