Whether you're expecting, a mom, or none of the above — give your pelvic floor muscles some love with these pelvic floor exercises for women designed by a doula and personal trainer.
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Your pelvic floor probably isn't top on your list of "things to strengthen," if you didn't just have a baby, but listen up because pelvic floor exercises for women are important.

"A strong pelvic floor helps prevent incontinence and improves your core's stability," says Rachel Nicks, a doula, certified personal trainer, and founder of Birth Queen, a philanthropic organization that supports Black mothers. (Related: 4 Important Things to Know About Your Pelvic Floor)

"Many people don't know that your pelvic floor is part of your core," says Nicks. "So if you don't know how to engage your pelvic floor, you can't accurately plank, do a push-up, or any other exercises that depend on core stability."

What, exactly, is your pelvic floor? Basically, it's made up of pelvic muscles, ligaments, tissues, and nerves that support your bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum, says Nicks. You might not think about it, but it's extremely important to make sure your body is functioning properly.

Before getting into how to strengthen your pelvic floor with pelvic floor exercises for women, it's important to learn how to access and isolate it. If you're not sure how to do this, Nicks says to sit on the toilet because you're bound to naturally relax in that state. From there, begin urinating and then stopping the flow. The muscles you use to make that happen are what make up your pelvic floor and should be activated while performing the pelvic floor exercises for women below. Keep in mind that this pee trick is simply a way to become more aware of those hard-to-access parts of your body, and not something you should be doing all the time, Nicks cautions. Holding in your urine can lead to a UTI and other infections. (BTW, Here's How to Tell If It's a UTI vs STD)

Once you've got that motion down, you can graduate to these four pelvic floor exercises for women that Nicks swears by when it comes to a strong and stable pelvic floor.

Pelvic Floor Exercises for Women

The Classic Kegel

As a refresher, Kegels are the process of clenching and relaxing the muscles that make up your pelvic floor. You can do these lying down, standing up or in tabletop (lying on your back with knees bent at a 90-degree angle stacked over hips), but like any other exercise, breathing is key. "You want to exhale on the exertion and inhale on the relaxation," she says. (More: Sitting on This Vibrating Chair Is Basically the Same as Doing 20,000 Kegel Exercises)

A. Lying down, standing up, or in table top position clench and relax pelvic floor muscles. Exhale on the clench, and inhale when the muscles relax.

B. Hold for 2 seconds, and repeat for 10-15 reps. Start with 4 or 5 reps, the goal would be to get up to 10-15 reps each time, 2-3 times a day.

Extended Kegel

This exercise elaborates on the classic Kegel but requires you to clench your pelvic floor muscles for up to 10 seconds before releasing. Nicks suggests giving these a try after you've mastered the classic Kegel since it is more challenging.

A. Perform a kegel, working up to holding it for 10 seconds by adding a second each week.

B. Repeat 10-15 times per session, 2-3 times a day

Blink

Similar to pulsing during squats or lunges, the goal here is to engage and release your pelvic floor muscles at the pace of an average blink of your eyes. "If you can't manage to do it at a really quick pace, then slow down," says Nicks. "It's okay to work yourself up to it."

A. Engage pelvic floor muscles and release at the pace of the blink of an eye.

B. Do this 10-15 times, 2-3 times a day.

Elevator

For the more advanced move, try this pelvic floor exercise that asks you to gradually increase the intensity of your hold and then gradually release. "I usually do this in three stories," says Nicks. "So you engage a little bit, a little bit and a little bit more till you're at your max and then let go in the same stages until you're totally relaxed." The release tends to be the hardest and is very difficult for everyone. "Not to get discouraged, but the more you learn to engage and be aware of your pelvic core, the less foreign these exercises will feel." (More: These Drills Will Teach You How To Reengage Your Core After Childbirth)

A. Perform a kegel and gradually increase the hold as much as possible.

B. Gradually release in the same pattern as the increase, until fully relaxed.