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Are Hypopressives more effective than Kegels?

Maintaining good pelvic floor health is crucial for both men and women. Over the years, Kegel exercises have been widely recommended as a means to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. However, a revolutionary approach called hypopressives has gained popularity, challenging the effectiveness of traditional Kegels. In this blog, we will delve into the realm of pelvic floor exercises, explore the differences between hypopressives and Kegels, and present compelling research. 

Understanding the pelvic floor

Before we dive into the debate, let’s understand the pelvic floor muscles and their importance. The pelvic floor muscles form a sling-like structure that supports the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus (in women), and rectum. Weakness in these muscles or damage to the tissues can lead to various issues, such as urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and sexual dysfunction.

 

Kegels - the traditional pelvic floor exercise

Kegel exercises, named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. These exercises primarily focus on strengthening the muscles responsible for controlling urination and sexual function. Kegels are often recommended to individuals with urinary incontinence or weakened pelvic floor muscles after childbirth.

I think Kegels are a great place to start in building awareness of, and connection to the pelvic floor muscles. However, they do have their limitations especially if you’re wanting to get back to high load or intensity exercise. Plus, whilst they can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, they may not elimate POP or leaking symptoms, because these conditions can be more complex and ‘beyond the pelvic floor’

Hypopressives - a new approach to pelvic health

Hypopressive exercises, also known as low-pressure fitness, take a different approach compared to Kegels. Developed by Dr. Marcel Caufriez, these exercises aim to not only strengthen the pelvic floor muscles but also reposition the organs within the pelvis.

Unlike Kegels, hypopressives involve a series of postures and breathing techniques that generate a vacuum effect within the abdominal cavity. This vacuum effect reduces intra-abdominal pressure and activates the deep core muscles, including the pelvic floor. The combination of postural adjustments and breathing techniques provides a comprehensive workout for the entire core, resulting in improved pelvic floor function.

Research supporting Hypopressives

Recent studies have shed light on the superior effectiveness of hypopressives compared to Kegels:

A study published in the journal International Urogynecology Journal found that hypopressives were significantly more effective in reducing urinary incontinence symptoms compared to traditional pelvic floor exercises (including Kegels).

Another study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies demonstrated that hypopressives resulted in greater improvement in pelvic floor muscle strength and endurance compared to Kegels.

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine revealed that hypopressives were more effective in reducing pelvic organ prolapse symptoms and increasing pelvic floor muscle strength compared to Kegels.

What makes Hypopressives beneficial?

Comprehensive Core Workout: Hypopressives engage not only the pelvic floor muscles but also the deep core muscles, resulting in improved overall core strength and stability.

Postural Improvement: Hypopressives promote correct alignment and posture, which can alleviate back pain and improve body mechanics.

Organ Repositioning: By reducing intra-abdominal pressure, hypopressives help reposition organs and relieve pressure on the pelvic floor, potentially reducing the risk of pelvic organ prolapse.

Breathing Benefits: The emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing during hypopressives enhances lung capacity, reduces stress, and improves overall respiratory function.

Conclusion

Hypopressives are most definitely gaining in popularity. I think this is partly down to the nature of the practice, but also because many women have tried kegels and felt they did not deliver. 

There are many reasons why this may have been the case; 

  • they were being done incorrectly  
  • strength wasn’t actually the issue or the cause of symptoms so didn’t actually address the problem 
  • they were not being done consistently enough 

Pelvic health issues are often as a result of more than what’s happening at JUST the pelvic floor muscles. Looking at a practice that incorporates breathing, posture AND a way of connecting to the pelvic floor, can tick more boxes. 

I think it’s also worth pointing out, there is also evidence supporting the effectiveness of pelvic floor muscle training (a blog for another day). 

Find the system or practice that works best for you!

Beth Davies is a highly experienced personal trainer and coach specialising in female health, pelvic health, pelvic organ prolapse, and exercise. Her programmes educate, empower and support women back to training or their active life, eliminating symptoms and building strength and confidence. She has been featured in publications such as Stylist, Marie Claire UK, Woman & Home, and Metro

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