If your go-to abdominal workout are crunches, you may want to sit down before you read the next bit. Crunches can strain your pelvic floor, resulting in pain during sex. 

According to pelvic floor physical therapist Dr. Karla Wente, crunches are not that good an exercise due to the pressure it puts on the pelvic floor, which is why she does not recommend them.

Doing crunches without proper engagement of your pelvic floor might actually cause leakage. On the flipside, women who already have strong pelvic floors and are doing crunches risk over-building and over-tightening their abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. Too much strength in these muscles can make penetration more difficult and, in some cases, painful. So instead of crunches, here are some alternative abdominal exercises you can consider.

Instead Of Crunches, Try An Isometric Core Contraction.

Laying on your back, bend your knees and put your feet on the floor and inhale, filling your low belly. This breath will lengthen the pelvic floor and abdominals. On your exhale pull in the pelvic floor and pull your bellybutton to your spine. That’s one rep. With this exercise, you aren’t moving like you would in a crunch, but you are turning on and turning off the entire pelvic floor area, and that’s a much more functional way to use your muscles.

The Plank Position Is Your New Best Friend. 

This is a neutral position and can work your deep transverse abdominis and your pelvic floor. To begin, assume a standard plank position paying special attention to spinal alignment. Tighten your abs to provide stability and make sure you don’t hold your breath.

All About The V-Ups? Try Modified Planks.

Starting in a plank position, pick up your right hand and tap your left should. Put your right hand down and repeat this with your left hand to your right shoulder. Now, bring your left foot towards your center and tap with your right hand. Repeat with left hand to right foot. This takes balance, breathing and core engagement. 

If You Love Bicycle Crunches? Try Proper Form Bicycle Crunches. 

While the bicycle is not a bad exercise, be mindful to keep your head down, as this puts your spine in neutral. The other common mistake people make in this pose is holding their breath. One of the easiest ways to throw off the balance of the system of your abs and pelvic floor is to hold your breath or not breath appropriately, so be sure to breathe.

No matter which exercise you try, Wente gets her patients to take a deep, “belly breath” after each ab set. “If you’re holding your breath your pelvic floor can’t move in the way that it’s supposed to, and your abs really can’t either,” she says. If you’re experiencing pain during sex or just had a baby, stop all ab exercises and visit a pelvic floor physical therapist.

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