There has been a recent viral post showing a female weightlifter completely losing her bladder during a heavy lift. This is called athletic stress incontinence. Leakage with sneezing, coughing, and/or running is not the same as leakage with lifting over 150lbs, and this is called stress incontinence. Lifting 150lbs is extremely hard on the pelvic floor. Constipation, delivering babies, and living a sedentary lifestyle are also hard on your pelvic floor. Research has shown that simply lifting heavy is not associated with prolapse or increased rates of incontinence.
A 2021 study looking at 480 female power lifters, 43% of the women had experienced urinary leakage at some point in their life while only 23.1% had experienced leakage with power lifting. Just because you lift heavy does not automatically mean you will leak or destroy your pelvic floor! One of the biggest impacts on whether women who Powerlift leaked urine was not how heavy the load was but whether they had a pelvic floor assessment! Of interesting note, 5.2% of women in this study experienced urinary leakage with regular daily activities but no longer leaked with daily activities after starting to power lift; however, they began to leak again with heavier lifting (Type 2 Athletic Incontinence).
With this being said, surprisingly only 14% of female power lifters get a pelvic floor assessment even through this assessment alone was strongly associated with whether or not they leaked urine.
Antoher surprising study looked at 3.934 women who either lifted light weights (less than 30#), lifting moderate weights (between 30-110#), and those who lifted heavy weights (greater than 110#). The women who regularly didn’t lift at all or lifted light weights had a higher association of pelvic organ prolapse.
Anyone who has urinary leakage with lifting weights needs a pelvic floor assessment by a qualified Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist! This will help identify what the pelvic floor muscles are doing and identify any dysfunction. This will help you learn how to properly manage pressure, breathing mechanics, and weight distribution.
Call us today to schedule your pelvic floor assessment to decrease any incontinence you may have!
Magic City Physical Therapy
Wikander, L., Kirshbaum, M.N., Waheed, N. et al. Urinary Incontinence in Competitive Women Powerlifters: A Cross-Sectional Survey. Sports Med – Open 7, 89 (2021).
Wikander L, Cross D, Gahreman DE. Prevalence of urinary incontinence in women powerlifters: a pilot study. Int Urogynecol J. 2019 Dec;30(12):2031-2039. doi: 10.1007/s00192-019-03870-8. Epub 2019 Jan 21. PMID: 30666426.