The aim oft his study was to compare the effects of 10 common exercises to traditional pelvic floor muscle (PFM) contractions (Kegel) on levator hiatus (LH) area and PFM length and strength.
This is a cross-sectional study of 15 healthy postpartum women. Ten exercises were studied. These were common variations of leg, core, and back exercises used in yoga, Pilates, strength training, and physical therapy. Each participant performed all 10 exercises at a single visit in 2 examination settings: transperineal ultrasound and perineometry. Ultrasound measured the LH area and PFM length, and perineometry measured the muscle strength (peak squeeze pressure).
Kegel generates an increase in squeeze pressure (24.3 cm H2O), shortens the muscles (−0.46 cm) and narrows the LH (−0.13 cm2). The bird-dog and plank exercises were not different from Kegel in any measurement. While the leg-lift ultrasound dimensions are similar to Kegel, leg lifts generated peak squeeze pressures stronger than any other exercise (including Kegel). Whereas ultrasound dimensions were similar to Kegel, tucked and untucked squats and thigh adductions generated weaker contractions than Kegel. While crunch generated a squeeze pressure similar to Kegel, the ultrasound dimensions showed a significantly wider LH and longer muscle than Kegel. Bridge, clam, and plié exercises affected the PFMs differently than Kegel in all measures.
Bird-dog, plank, and leg-lift exercises should be evaluated as alternative exercises to Kegel as they affect PFM strength and length and LH area similarly to Kegel, and leg lifts generate a stronger contraction than Kegel.