Stress Incontinence and CrossFit


Are you a female CrossFitter or weightlifter?

Or do you just enjoy a good old fashioned HIIT class?

Do you leak a little when jumping, skipping or during weight-lifting?

Every time you put your lifting belt on, do you have to try a little harder to hold your pelvic floor?

This is an important article that could make the world of difference to you.

Fortunately research surrounding Women’s Health is slowly evolving. Unfortunately, there have been some rather concerning statistics come to light.

One statistic that came out of a recent study is that 84% of female CrossFit athletes reported urinary incontinence during classes and more than half of these women reported their incontinence to be moderate to severe. When compared to another form of exercise class, 48% of women reported urinary incontinence.

Wow… That’s a HUGE percentage of women leaking. Especially in CrossFit.

This is a rather concerning number considering how popular HIIT style exercise and weightlifting has become. These sports are not only filled with female athletes, but also those who are returning to exercise post-partum.

So, let’s talk about a few things when it comes to leakage and lifting.



What kind of incontience is it? 

The specific type of incontinence that is experienced during activity is Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). This means that they are leaking when “stress” is put onto their body. Activities can include; sneezing, coughing, laughing, or in this case, jumping, weight-lifting, skipping or landing from the bars. This can range from a small dribble to a complete emptying of the bladder. There are a number of ways that urine is blocked from leaking involuntarily. These include: pelvic floor muscle strength, core strength, closure pressure of the sphincters and so much more. We could really get into the nitty gritty here but we will leave that for another day.

Are there other factors that make me more at risk?

There are a number of other factors which can lead to incontinence, these include: age, BMI, number of births and type of delivery (just to name a few). These factors impact the integrity of the soft tissue, strength of the surrounding muscle and pressure on the bladder/pelvic floor itself.

Do you know how to properly use your belt? 

A lot of people just put a lifting belt on, pull it tight and hope for the best. Unfortunately, it is a little more complex than that. If your belt is too tight and creates “rib boobs” and stops you from being able to take a big breath into your belly. If you can’t breathe in your belly, you can’t tighten your core. Then in this position you end up loading the pelvic floor. Then viola! Pelvic floor dysfunction. The correct way to use your belt is being able to 1: easily slide your hand between your belly and the belt 2: being able to press your core 360 degrees into the belt.

Where is my pelvic floor and how do I even contract it?

This is usually the biggest problem we see. A large number of women have no idea where their pelvic floor muscles are, what they do and have no idea if they are contracting properly or not. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that essentially complete a forward and upward movement on contraction. The best way to cue the pelvic floor is by thinking about holding in wind. How did you go? I know you just tried!

Urinary incontinence can cause embarrassment and significantly affect peoples quality of life. Yet it is something that is not spoken about. In a lot of cases, people don’t even know that this is something that their physiotherapist can help them with.



So how can we help? 

  • Detailed assessment (including an internal) to assess strength and length of the pelvic floor muscles, assess for prolapse and lifting technique
  • We can check how you use your lifting belt – so many athletes use these wrong. This increases intra-abdominal pressure putting unnecessary stress on your pelvic floor
  • Check your brace technique – some peoples bracing technique is cued poorly, again leading to downward pressure on the pelvic floor.
  • Give you tips and tricks to reduce the symptoms of SUI
  • Strengthen your core, pelvic floor and glutes to help with close pressures
  • There are a few more things but we can’t give everything away

The big take away here is although it may be common, incontinence is certainly not normal and there are many tools physiotherapists can use to help you with this problem if you are experiencing it.

Make sure you look after your pelvic floor. You only get one.

If you need help, make sure you book your appointment today.



Written by Anouska Symons (Women’s Health Physiotherapist)