You’ve likely heard that Kegel exercises are good for the pelvic floor for a while now, and for good reason. Regularly incorporating Kegels into your workout helps strengthen the pelvic floor, which can prevent bladder leaks and other pelvic floor problems. You may even notice stronger orgasms!
But before you’re able to perform Kegels, you need to know which muscles to target. This is harder than you may think – many women perform Kegels incorrectly, or focus on the wrong muscles. Follow the instructions below to locate the pelvic floor muscles and learn how to properly contract, and relax, the right muscles.
Identify Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Find a comfortable place to lie down, or sit in a comfortable upright position. To start, you will need to focus on the perineal area – that’s the area between the genitals and anus. The pelvic floor muscles should be soft and resting comfortably. Now, imagine that you are trying to stop the flow of urine and prevent yourself from passing wind by slowly contracting or tensing your muscles inward. If you can do this without squeezing your buttocks or inner thighs, you’ve correctly identified your pelvic floor muscles. After you feel the contraction, relax your muscles by letting them return to their resting position.
Men can follow the same method of finding their pelvic floor muscles. Additionally, men may wish to stand naked in front of a mirror and contract or tighten their pelvic floor muscles. If you are using the correct muscles, you should feel the base of the penis draw in and see the scrotum lift.
Perform A Kegel Contraction
Once you’ve identified your pelvic floor muscles, practice contracting them (trying to avoid tightening your abdominal muscles while you do) and relaxing them to become more familiar with this feeling. As you become more aware of the muscles and better coordinated with these exercises, you may experience a lifting-up sensation along with the squeeze-in feeling of the contraction. This means you’re gaining more motion in these muscles, which will help with their overall strength and endurance.
Contracting the muscles helps to strengthen them and, in return, improves the support of your sphincters, bladder, and other pelvic organs. Remember to be sure to take the time to relax your muscles after each contraction. The full process of squeezing and releasing is the correct way to perform a Kegel, and you’ll get more benefit from performing them this way.
What If I Don’t Feel Any Movement While Doing A Kegel?
If you’re having trouble finding or feeling your pelvic floor muscles, try some of these tips:
Relax all your muscles. Take several slow deep breaths in and out through your mouth and/or nose and try to let go of any tension you feel surrounding your pelvic floor – including your thighs or buttocks – before trying your exercises.
Make sure you’re taking the time to fully relax your pelvic floor after each squeeze. Sometimes, if you have a weakened or compromised pelvic floor, the “release” part of the Kegel is very subtle or happens before you can sense it. Hang in there, this should improve to the point that you can feel both the contraction and relaxation over time.
Change position to see if you can get a better sensation of the squeeze. Some different positions to try are side-lying, sitting, or lying on your belly side.
Don’t forget about your breath! Make sure you’re breathing and not holding your breath while performing a Kegel. Normal, relaxed breathing is all you need.
What Sort of Exercise Routine Should I Follow?
Now that you’ve mastered the Kegel, your next step is to put it into practice. There are a couple of different types of Kegel exercises you can do, and this variety can help work your muscles in different ways. You should use these exercises in combination to get the greatest benefit:
Quick Flick or Short Muscle Contractions – This exercise works the muscle fibers that respond quickly to compress the urethra and shut off the flow of urine to prevent leakage.
To perform these contractions, quickly tighten your pelvic floor muscles, lift them up, hold the contraction for 1-2 seconds, and then release the muscles back down. You should continue to breathe normally as you do these.
Long-Hold Muscle Contractions – This exercise works on the supportive strength and endurance of the muscle fibers and is referred to as a long-hold contraction.
To perform these contractions, the same muscles you used with the quick contractions are now going to be gradually tightened, lifted up, and held for several seconds.
At first, it may be difficult to hold the contraction for more than 1 or 2 seconds. Ultimately, the goal is to hold the contraction for 10 seconds and then rest for 10 seconds between each long contraction to allow enough time for the muscle to recover for the next contraction.
How Many Kegel Exercises Should You Do?
Just like any muscle, the pelvic floor requires a consistent routine to keep it strong and healthy. It’s important to try to do these exercises daily if you want to see improvement. Here are our suggestions for a routine to start this week:
Practice your long hold Kegels, increasing the amount of time you hold each set as you get stronger. Start with 8 – 10 reps of 3 – 5 second holds. As you do these exercises more often and build strength, work up to 5 – 7 seconds, and finally 7 – 10 seconds.
Perform 10 quick flick contractions.
Perform these reps 2-3 times daily until you feel good control and a lift of up to 10 seconds consistently during your long hold Kegels.
The good news is that once you get the hang of it, you can do Kegels anywhere. Try incorporating a set while you’re waiting at a stoplight, in line at the grocery store or watching your favorite television show.
Want to log your progress? Download our free kegel guide here. This is a great way to measure how you’re improving over several weeks.
If you’re having trouble, or notice any pain, stop doing Kegels right away and see a trained physical therapist. Kegels are not always for everyone and in some cases can exacerbate a pelvic floor that is already too tense. A physical therapist can help properly evaluate your pelvic floor to ensure that kegel exercises are appropriate, help guide you in how to do them, and create a more personalized plan for you moving forward.