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Modifying Deadlifts for Individuals with Incontinence

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SHOP Cerberus Strength

While powerlifters showcase their immense strength on the platform, the strain they exert during heavy lifts can sometimes lead to an unexpected and often unspoken issue. 

Yes, you heard it right!  Urinary incontinence. A condition marked by the involuntary leakage of urine that can affect even the most dedicated powerlifters, revealing the intricate relationship between intense physical exertion and the body’s response. 

Modifying exercises for individuals with incontinence, such as modifying deadlifts, is an important consideration to ensure their comfort and safety during workouts. 

Incontinence can vary in severity and type, so it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or physical therapist before making any modifications. Here are some general guidelines that could be considered, but remember that individual needs vary:

  1. Consultation

Before making any modifications, consult with a healthcare professional, preferably a physical therapist, who can evaluate the individual’s condition and provide tailored advice.

A physical therapist possesses the expertise to comprehensively assess their physical condition, including any underlying health issues, muscular imbalances, and potential risks. 

When addressing a condition like urinary incontinence within the context of powerlifting, a physical therapist can provide personalized advice and recommendations on absorbent underwear for incontinence. They may suggest exercises to teach proper breathing techniques to enhance core stability, and evaluate the individual’s overall biomechanics to determine the most suitable modifications.

  1. Core and Pelvic Floor Strengthening

Strengthening these muscles can potentially help manage incontinence and provide better stability during powerlifting movements. Perform Kegel exercises as part of your warm-up routine before deadlifts. Engage your pelvic floor muscles by imagining you’re stopping the flow of urine. Hold the contraction for a few seconds and release. This can help activate and strengthen the muscles supporting your pelvic region.

Focus on proper breathing during your deadlifts. Inhale deeply before you start the lift and exhale as you lift the weight. This coordinated breathing can help engage your core and pelvic floor muscles, enhancing stability throughout the movement.

Remember, while these exercises can contribute to overall pelvic floor and core strength, it’s essential to maintain proper form during your deadlifts to minimize the strain on these muscles. 

  1. Proper Technique

If you are experienced with deadlifts and don’t experience discomfort or worsening of incontinence symptoms, they might be able to continue performing the exercise with proper form. Emphasize maintaining a neutral spine, engaging core muscles, and using the hips. This way less pressure will be put on your abdominal muscles, thereby helping you lift without any leakage.

  1. Reduced Weight

If deadlifting is causing strain or exacerbating incontinence, consider reducing the weight lifted. Using lighter weights or even bodyweight can reduce the pressure on the pelvic region.

Pay close attention to how your body responds during and after deadlifts. If you notice that lifting heavier weights is contributing to discomfort or incontinence symptoms, it’s a clear signal that a change is needed. If you decide to continue deadlifting, consider incorporating a progressive approach. Gradually increase the weight as you feel more comfortable and confident. However, always prioritize your well-being over pushing yourself to lift heavier weights.

  1. Elevated Platform

Elevating the barbell or using blocks to reduce the range of motion in a deadlift can indeed be a useful modification, especially for those with pelvic floor concerns. 

By reducing the range of motion, this modification helps decrease the stress on the pelvic floor while still allowing you to engage the muscles involved in the deadlift. It’s important to start with a lighter weight than you’re used to and gradually increase the load as you become more comfortable with the modified movement.

  1. Alternative Exercises

If deadlifts are uncomfortable, consider substituting them with exercises that provide similar benefits without putting excessive strain on the pelvic floor. 

Here are some alternatives:

Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs): RDLs focus on the hamstrings and glutes while putting less emphasis on the lower back and pelvic floor. Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs, hinge at the hips, and lower the weights toward the ground while maintaining a straight back. Keep a slight bend in your knees.

Hip Thrusts: Hip thrusts isolate the glutes and hamstrings while providing stability to the pelvic region. Sit on the floor with your upper back against a bench, place a barbell or weight over your hips, and lift your hips toward the ceiling.

Sumo Deadlift High Pulls: This exercise combines elements of the deadlift and a high pull, engaging the posterior chain while incorporating explosive movement. It can be less taxing on the pelvic floor compared to traditional deadlifts.

Goblet Squats: Goblet squats work the lower body muscles while maintaining a more upright posture. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell close to your chest and squat down while keeping your core engaged.

Seated Leg Press: The seated leg press machine can be a good option for targeting the lower body muscles without putting strain on the pelvic floor.

Lunges: Lunges can help work the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps. Step forward or backward and lunge down while maintaining proper form and balance. 

  1. Breathing Techniques

Proper breathing techniques can help support core stability. Teach yourself to exhale during the lifting phase of the exercise and inhale during the lowering phase. After completing a set or exercise, take a few deep breaths to relax and recover. Controlled breathing can also help manage any tension that may have accumulated during the movement.

  1. Monitoring

You should pay attention to how their body responds to exercise and how their incontinence symptoms are affected. If there is discomfort, leakage, or any negative effects, it’s important to adjust or discontinue the exercise. Maintain a record of your exercise routines, the exercises you perform, and how your body responds. Note any positive or negative effects to help you track patterns.

  1. Hydration and Timing

Encourage yourself to manage their fluid intake before workouts and to use the restroom before exercising to minimize the risk of worsening incontinence.

Remember that every situation is unique, and modifications should be tailored to their specific needs and comfort levels. Consulting a healthcare professional is essential to ensure that modifications are safe and effective for the individual.

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