Peeing with Lifting is Fixable!
Are you a female CrossFitter or weightlifter that grabs a pad or puts on black pants when you see a heavy lift on the daily workout? Peeing with lifting can be frustrating, embarrassing, and may actually be holding you back from reaching your full lifting potential!
Well I have some good news for you – there is actually a lot that can be done to end peeing with lifting! (And it’s more than just doing Kegels!) There are four important things I work with female weightlifters and CrossFitters on to end peeing with lifting. They are bracing, breathing, lifting form, and (of course) properly functioning pelvic floor muscles.
Proper Bracing with Lifting
Bracing correctly during lifting can make a huge difference in your intra-abdominal pressure and where forces are directed. Incorrect bracing can actually cause extra pressure downwards onto your pelvic floor, which can lead to peeing with lifting. Let’s talk about what should be happening in your abs and in your pelvic floor during bracing.
Pelvic Floor During Bracing
Picture your pelvic floor like an A-frame house. When you are at rest, your pelvic floor is on the first floor. When you perform a Kegel, your pelvic floor moves upward into the attic. Bearing down moves the pelvic floor into the basement. When you are bracing during a lift, your pelvic floor should remain in the first floor, not go into the basement. You should NOT be bearing down during any part of the lift. Bearing down can lead to peeing with lifting.
Abs During Bracing
Now, let’s address what is happening in your abs. When you brace your abs, you should NOT be pushing outward, down, or sucking in. It should feel like you’re pulling your hips together or like you’re zipping up your abs. Watch the video below to learn how to correctly brace your abs.
Fixing Your Brace
So are you bracing correctly? If not, this is a great place to begin to end peeing with lifting. Practice correct technique with bracing your abs. If you have difficulty keeping your pelvic floor in the first floor or attic, purposefully perform a Kegel as you brace just prior to performing the lift. Once you’ve got that down, add some weight!
Have a coach observe you or ask a friend to take a video of you lifting. How’s your form during your lift? And more specifically, can you maintain a neutral spine? Difficulty maintaining a neutral spine can also lead to peeing with lifting.
Imagine your pelvis and ribcage as two bowls. Those bowls should remain stacked on top of each other during the entire lift. Anytime their alignment is off (butt wink, back arching or rounding, ribs flaring out), that also places more pressure downward onto your pelvic floor and you may pee your pants. Sometimes just cleaning up your lifting technique can make a big impact!
Breathing with Lifting
We hold our breath during lifting to create more spinal stiffness in order to lift more weight (because that’s always our goal, right?). Additionally, we often automatically hold our breath with fatigue or when we get close to lifting 80% or more of our max.
Did you know that holding your breath during lifting increases your intra-abdominal pressure by two to three times?! That’s a pretty significant increase in pressure! Sometimes that big jump is just more pressure than your pelvic floor can counteract.
So how do I add in breath holding and lift more weight if I’m peeing with lifting? Start with exhaling during the more difficult part of the lift (which is usually the ascent during a squat or deadlift). Inhale during the descent. Did you pee? If not, great!
Now, add in breath holding. Try holding your breath at the middle or end of an exhale versus at the end of an inhale. (Your pelvic floor has an easier time staying engaged during an exhale versus an inhale.) If you leaked with the addition of the breath hold, decrease the weight on your barbell and try again. Still struggling? Your pelvic floor muscles may also need a little work. We’re going to dive into that next.
Improve Your Pelvic Floor Function
Peeing with lifting can also occur due to tightness or weakness in the pelvic floor muscles. Both ends of the spectrum can actually be problematic. Check out this blog post or send us a message for help in figuring out which you may have.
Depending on what we find, you may need to work on pelvic floor relaxation, strengthening, or endurance in order to end leaking with lifting. In some cases, it may be more of a coordination issue. You may need to purposefully perform a Kegel prior to your lift to remind your pelvic floor that it’s time to kick in!
Once you are addressing your pelvic floor tightness or weakness, it’s time to load up that barbell! First, you want to find your sub-leaking threshold. Build volume at that level for about a week – do that same weight and reps/sets on three days. Then increase one intensity factor (weight, reps/sets, etc) at a time each week. This should be done slowly, such as increasing weight by only 5 to 10#.
Then, repeat! Build volume for a week, increasing one intensity factor until you are where you want to be! This slow progression and building volume helps your pelvic floor get stronger and adapt to higher intra-abdominal pressure.
Lift More Without Peeing!
Don’t let peeing with lifting hold you back from getting that 1RM or PR! Clean up your bracing technique, lifting form, breathing, and pelvic floor function and start lifting more! If you’re looking for more guidance in this process, send us a message and we’d love to help you reach your goals!