This 20-Minute Lower Ab Workout Will Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

portrait of a man and woman relaxing on yoga mats in meditation
close up of people lying on the floor, doing pelvic floor strengthening ab exercises
These gentle moves strengthen your pelvic floor and lower abs at the same time.
Image Credit: Space_Cat/iStock/GettyImages

When it comes to strength training specific muscle groups, your pelvic floor probably isn't at the top of your to-do list — but it should be.

Your pelvic floor muscles perform a plethora of important functions from stabilizing your pelvis and hips to helping you control bladder and bowel movements. But they don't do these essential jobs alone.

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"Your core works in unison with your pelvic floor to stabilize your pelvis and support your pelvic organs," says Carolyn Wright, PT, DPT, a pelvic health physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments.

Yep, your abs and pelvic floor are a terrific team. "The respiratory diaphragm, abdominal wall, paraspinals and pelvic floor muscles all act together to regulate intra-abdominal pressure as we perform motions like lifting a heavy object from the floor," Wright explains.

But if your pelvic floor or core muscles are too weak (or too tight), it can produce unpleasant problems like leaking urine (among other issues).

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That's why building a strong pelvic floor is fundamental, and strengthening your core is a critical part of the process. But before you start cranking out crunches, keep in mind: Not every ab exercise is made equal for your pelvic floor.

"Certain abdominal exercises, such as traditional crunches, rely more on your rectus abdominis [think: the six-pack muscles] than the deep core muscles (like the transverse abdominis)," Wright says.

The problem is, these types of exercises can increase intra-abdominal pressure and, in some people, potentially exacerbate pelvic floor dysfunction and/or diastasis recti, a condition in which the abdominal muscles separate, she explains.

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Bottom line: If you want to avoid doing more damage to your pelvic floor muscles, you must choose your core work wisely.

​​​Check out more of our 20-minute workouts here – we've got something for everyone.

A 20-Minute Lower Ab Workout for Your Pelvic Floor

Courtesy of Wright, this 20-minute lower ab workout will strengthen your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis while keeping them both safe.

Do 15 to 20 reps of each exercise (resting when needed) and repeat two to three times. The moves are ordered from least to most challenging. So start slowly with the first exercise and listen to your body.

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"If you feel that you lose the engagement of your transverse abdominis or you're not able to maintain a level pelvis, keep practicing that exercise without advancing to the next level," Wright says. Eventually, as you build strength in your core and pelvic floor, you'll be able to progress to the more advanced moves.

Move 1: Bent-Knee Fall Out

Reps 15
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands on the front of your hip bones.
  2. Tighten your core by pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Keeping your pelvis level, slowly move one knee out to the side and then return it to your midline.
  4. Repeat on the other leg, and continue alternating sides.
  5. Be sure to breathe with each rep.

Move 2: Transverse Abdominis March

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 15
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands on the front of your hip bones.
  2. Tighten your core by pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Keeping your pelvis level, slowly bring one knee up toward your chest and then return it to the floor.
  4. Repeat on the other leg, and continue alternating sides.
  5. Be sure to breathe with each rep.

Move 3: Transverse Abdominis Shelf With March

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 15
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, shins parallel to the floor and hands on the front of your hip bones.
  2. Tighten your core by pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Keeping your knees bent at 90 degrees, slowly tap one foot to the floor and return to the starting position. Maintain a neutral pelvis and don’t let it tip side to side.
  4. Then tap your other foot to the floor and continue alternating.
  5. Be sure to breathe with each rep.

Move 4: Transverse Abdominis Shelf With Leg Extension

Reps 15
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, shins parallel to the floor and hands on the front of your hip bones.
  2. Tighten your core by pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Keeping your pelvis neutral, slowly straighten one leg and hover your heel just above the floor, then return to the starting position.
  4. Then extend the other leg and continue alternating.
  5. Be sure to breathe with each rep.

Move 5: Dead Bug

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 15
Body Part Abs
  1. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, shins parallel to the floor and arms pointing up toward the ceiling.
  2. Tighten your core by pressing your lower back into the floor.
  3. Keeping your pelvis neutral, slowly straighten one leg and the opposite arm — allowing them to hover just above the floor — and then return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat with the opposite leg and arm and continue alternating.
  5. Be sure to breathe with each rep.

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