Many of us are familiar with the term kegels – we’ve read about them on blogs, chatted about them with friends, and practiced them by stopping our pee midstream. As a pelvic health physical therapist, I talk about the pelvic floor muscles (the muscles we contract when we do kegels) all day, so I’d like to impart a little bit of kegel wisdom to you all!
When Should I Begin Kegels?
It can be hard to know when you should start doing kegels. Is the timing right when you become sexually active, before having a baby, after having a baby, after menopause?
The answer is that you always want a healthy pelvic floor, one that can both contract (kegel) and relax (reverse kegel), so the best time to start is now!
What Are Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles located in the bowl of your pelvis. These muscles create a hammock from the pubic bone in the front of the pelvis to the tailbone in the back of the pelvis.
When we squeeze these muscles, we can hold back urine, gas, and stool. We have to relax these muscles to urinate, pass gas, or have bowel movements.
So, if you have a pelvis, you have a pelvic floor!
What Are the Benefits of Kegel Exercises?
These muscles are working throughout the day when you do any activity (walking, lifting, kicking, etc.). Doing specific contractions to help strengthen these muscles can be helpful in a variety of situations.
The pelvic floor helps with preventing leaks, supporting the pelvic organs, stabilizing the pelvis, and with sexual functioning.
I recommend kegels specifically to those patients who are looking to improve orgasms, who have urinary, fecal, or gas incontinence, and to those patients seeking to enhance deep core strength. Learn more about the anatomy of these muscles here!
What is Best Form to Get Maximum Kegel Benefits?
Our pelvic floor moves as a unit as we breathe. As we breathe in, our pelvic floor muscles move down and relax as our diaphragm moves down.
As we breathe out our pelvic floor muscles move up and contracts as our diaphragm moves up.
So you should be kegeling (contracting) as you exhale and reverse kegeling (relaxing) as you inhale!
Let’s Practice Perfect Kegels!
Start by sitting and focus on your sitting bones (those bony parts of your butt located on either side of the anus). Inhale and feel those two bones moving away from each other and the area between the two sitting bones move into the chair. Exhale and draw up the pelvic floor focusing on the sitting bones moving toward each other, drawing the area between the sitting bones up and in toward your head.
Alternate inhaling, relaxing, exhaling, and squeezing for ten contractions.
Other cues for correct kegel performance include:
- Move the pelvic floor up and in like an elevator going from your sitting bones toward your head.
- Imagine the vagina drinking of out of a straw.
- Move the testicles upward.
- Imagine stopping the flow of urine (I discourage anyone from doing this over the toilet, though, as you may not fully empty your bladder and can get a UTI!).
Tips to reap the full extent of kegel benefits:
- Don’t hold your breath!
- Don’t squeeze your butt muscles or squeeze your legs together. It’s okay to squeeze around your anus, but you shouldn’t be bouncing as you perform a kegel. You should be able to contract your pelvic floor muscles without needing to use these other muscle groups.
- Make sure you relax completely between each squeeze.
- Stop doing them if you have any pain or discomfort.
If perfecting your kegels while sitting feels challenging, try lying down with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground or in this same position with a pillow under your hips.
When sitting starts to feel easy, try standing!
You can begin with quick contracting and relaxing (use your breath) and then try some longer holds of these contractions, up to about 15 seconds. I recommend doing them daily and doing about 3 sets of 10 repetitions for maximum kegel benefits.
Kegel exercisers can help you amp up your progress, so I recommend the following two:
famous for being in the Oscar swag bags a few years ago and definitely worthy of the hype. This device fits comfortably inside the vagina and provides tactile feedback to help you recognize how to squeeze the muscles of the pelvic floor correctly. It is very user friendly and also has an app that helps you utilize all aspects of your pelvic floor (contracting, relaxing, and doing longer squeezes). Why not give them a try?
Vibrant Has a Fantastic Collection of Kegel Exercisers!
From simple weights to technologically advanced toys with instant feedback capabilities, Vibrant has a wide range of toys that can help you reap all of the kegel benefits. Chat with us, and we can help recommend the kegel products that are perfect for you. We’re available 9am-9pm EST daily on our website chat (just push the purple button at the bottom right!) or call us at 866-316-VIBE (8423).