Healthy Beginnings

Exercises to Address Pelvic Instability in Women


We women have complex physiologies, especially in the pelvic region. But the ingenious design of the female physique leaves us at a slight disadvantage in terms of knee, hip and back stability if we don’t work to stabilize and strengthen the pelvic region. Weakness and imbalance in the muscles surrounding the pelvis can lead to all kinds of issues including incontinence, pain in the hips, back and knees, balance issues and injuries, as well as not getting the full benefit of our workouts.

So what can we do to be proactive in addressing pelvic issues and preventing future complications? Though each individual is a unique case, strengthening a couple of the most commonly weak muscle groups in the body will help. Two examples are the gluteus maximus (buttocks) and the transverse abdominis (lower abdominals that span across the hip bones). Something I often recommend is that every time you get up from sitting, stand tall, place the feet parallel and hip-distance apart, then do 10 buttock clenches, as if you’re trying to crack a pencil between your butt cheeks. While squeezing the buttocks, note how the lower abdominals automatically activate. When we sit, especially for extended periods of time, our buttocks and abdominal muscles shut off and don’t magically turn back on when we get up to walk around. Making a conscious effort to intentionally squeeze the buttocks can help activate these key muscles to support you in your steps ahead.

Another exercise to address pelvic support is the bridge. In this exercise, lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. The goal is to lift your hips by rolling up. Start by lifting from the pelvis to prevent the back from arching and the ribs from flaring out; rather keep your ribs down close to your hips. Hug in on your pelvis from all sides so your buttocks are squeezing up and your abs are hugging in. (Make sure that you do not feel a pull or cramp in the back of the thighs, or any strain or discomfort in the lower back.) While holding the bridge, you can add buttock pulses to recruit more and more core muscle fibers (not relaxing in between buttock contractions). Pulse until you feel a nice burn in the buttocks while being able to maintain the muscle work in the core with no pain or joint discomfort.

Standing buttock squeezes and bridges with buttock pulses are two simple, portable and effective ways to turn on the muscles of the pelvic region to address the instabilities we women are prone to having. It’s important to train the core in endurance and with variety in order to support our body all day long and also to be able to handle the varying demands of our everyday lives. Seek guidance from qualified professionals for new variations and progressions. But, this is a great place to start!

JoAnna Papageorgiou Brennan is a medical exercise specialist with 9 years of experience. She is trained in how to manage medical conditions with exercise. JoAnna trains at The Change Place in Carson City. If you have any questions or would like a consult, please contact her at or at 775-283-0699.