A Kegel exercise involves a “squeeze and release” motion to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These exercises are also called pelvic floor exercises or pelvic floor muscle training and can be done anywhere and anytime.
The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles between your hips that support your internal organs. These muscles are responsible for the stop motion of your urine flow that you can perform as it travels towards your body and into the toilet. When a person’s pelvic floor is weak, they are likely to develop problems with bowel and bladder control.
There are several benefits of performing Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises strengthen and tighten the pelvic floor muscles and help prevent urine leakage (bladder incontinence) and bowel incontinence. They also help you avoid passing gas accidentally. These exercises can also affect sexual function and have stimulating effects on the quality of your orgasms.
What are Kegel exercises?
The purpose of Kegel exercises is to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. Thus, they are also often referred to as pelvic floor muscle exercises or pelvic floor muscle training.
Your pelvic floor is the muscular region of your lower abdomen that connects to the pelvis. They are present in both men and women, and their muscles support your pelvic organs, such as the bladder, rectum, and uterus (or prostate for men).
Kegel exercises help strengthen these pelvic floor muscles. This helps prevent urine from leaking out of your bladder and prevents accidental passing of stool or gas. A strengthened pelvic floor could also help improve your orgasms.
If your pelvic floor muscles are out of shape, it could lead to a medical condition known as pelvic organ prolapse. This condition occurs when an organ (or organs) in your pelvis shifts out of position and bulges or sags in the vagina or anus area. This condition can cause extreme pain and discomfort, but is not fatal.
In your exercise journey, muscle building supplements can also help. Click here to find out more.
Common Symptoms of Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Pelvic organ prolapse affects approximately 3% of women in the United States. When your pelvic floor muscles are too weak or damaged to support your organs, it leads to pelvic organ prolapse. Some of the common symptoms of this condition include:
- A feeling of “heaviness” around your genitals and lower abdomen
- Lower back pain
- Feeling a lump in your vagina that feels like you’re sitting on a small ball
- A “dragging” sensation inside your vagina
- Having frequent small leaks of urine, especially when you sneeze, laugh or cough, or during your workouts (urinary incontinence)
- Sensation of genital discomfort or numbness during sex (sexual insensitivity)
- Feeling the need to pee frequently
- Feeling that your bladder is not completely emptied after peeing
- Experiencing faecal incontinence i.e. your poo/feces leaking
- Feeling sudden urges to pee which could lead to leaking urine
Causes of pelvic organ prolapse
Here are some of the common reasons why a person may develop pelvic organ prolapse.
- Vaginal births, especially if you had a difficult labor or gave birth to a large child
- C-section or any surgery related to the pelvis
- Aging and menopause
- Being overweight or obese
- Frequent heavy lifting
- Frequent sneezing or coughing fits
- Certain exercise programs like weightlifting and jumping
- Prolonged constipation
- Have a medical/respiratory condition that causes you to cough and strain frequently
- Have a hysterectomy
- Have cancer in the pelvic area
- Genetics – Some people may have a predisposition to develop this condition if family members have experienced it
How to locate your pelvic floor muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles are involved in some important movements that we perform throughout the day and are quite easy to locate. This muscle group is shaped like a sling or hammock; they extend through your front pubic bones to your tailbones.
To get an idea of where these muscles are, start by lying down or sitting in a chair. Now imagine trying to stop urinating midstream or stopping yourself from farting. The muscles you feel contracting or lifting are your pelvic floor muscles.
If you have trouble locating these muscles, try stopping when you urinate. You use your pelvic floor muscles to perform this action. Make sure you don’t do this often, as it could lead to medical issues like urinary tract infections. Also, do not perform Kegel exercises when you have a full bladder as this may cause health issues.
Specific to women
For women, another way to locate these muscles is to stick your finger inside your vagina and try to squeeze your vaginal muscles around the finger. These muscles that tighten around your finger are your pelvic floor muscles and are the focus of Kegel exercises.
You can also explore the best vitamins for energy to support your Kegel exercise.
How to Perform Kegel (Pelvic Floor) Exercises
Performing Kegel exercises is simple and requires no equipment. After identifying your pelvic floor muscles, simply “lift” them, hold them in that position for a few seconds, and then release them.
You should hold for about 3-5 seconds and then relax for that same time. Repeat this squeezing and releasing movement 8 to 12 times (one set), taking short breaks in between. You should do these sets at least twice a day.
As you become familiar with the movements, you can begin to increase the frequency of your Kegel exercises. You can do this by increasing the hold time and the number of reps in a set. Finally, you need to increase the number of sets you perform daily.
You can perform this internal exercise while sitting, lying or standing. During this exercise, make sure not to hold your breath. Instead, try to relax your thighs and buttocks while breathing normally.
Men can also perform Kegels by simultaneously squeezing their pelvic muscles as if to shorten the penis and lift the base of their scrotum. Try to hold this position for 3-5 minutes or more. Then relax your muscles to complete your Kegel exercise.
Other Assisted Ways to Perform Kegel Exercises
Some people may have difficulty lifting or even finding their pelvic floor muscles. If you have trouble performing Kegel exercises, a medical professional can help you find the right muscles to exercise. Doctors can use urethral and pelvic devices to treat urinary incontinence (frequent leakage of urine) in women. There are also a few other ways a doctor or pelvic floor therapist can explore to help you identify and perform Kegel exercises appropriately:
Biofeedback involves using sensors attached to your pelvic area to help you develop proper control over your pelvic floor muscles. Your healthcare professional will perform this therapy to help you determine if you are contracting the correct muscles. To perform this therapy, your doctor will place adhesive pads on your vagina or place a probe there.
Then you have to perform Kegels while the professional determines from the monitor if you have isolated the correct muscles. The professional will then teach you how to isolate the correct muscles until you can perform the Kegel exercises correctly. It can take hours or days, depending on the underlying cause.
Another method your doctor might use is to insert a cone into your vagina. After inserting it, your doctor will ask you to use your pelvic muscle contractions to hold the cone in place without falling out.
This method sends a mild, painless electrical charge through your pelvic region. This helps to contract the muscles, simulating what a good Kegel exercise looks like.
Tips for Performing Kegels
Kegel exercises must be performed with precision to have health benefits. Follow these tips to perform Kegels correctly and keep your pelvic floor strong.
- When you start doing Kegel exercises, be sure to follow a routine that works for you. If that means three seconds fit five times in a set, then do it. As you begin to get comfortable with the routine, you can make it more frequent.
- Do not perform Kegel exercises when your bladder is full
- Practice your Kegel sets at least twice a day while sitting, standing, or lying down.
- If your pelvic floor muscles are weak, you should do your Kegel exercises while lying down first.
- Be sure not to squeeze other muscles like your butt or thighs when performing a Kegel exercise.
Kegel Exercise FAQs
How soon will I see changes after doing Kegel exercises?
Depending on the severity of the case, women can see a significant improvement in the frequency of their urine leakage within weeks or months. If you think your Kegel exercises aren’t working, see your doctor.
Do Men Need Kegel Exercises?
Even though these exercises are more beneficial for women, men have a lot to gain from practicing them. It might be useful for men who have recently had prostate surgery and suffer from stress incontinence or those who suffer from premature ejaculation.
To conclude: do Kegel exercises have any benefits?
Physical exercises, including Kegel exercises, have therapeutic benefits. In addition, these Kegel exercises are beneficial for your pelvic health. As an adult woman or man, performing these muscle exercises at least twice a day is essential if you want to keep your pelvic floor in shape.
Kegel exercises are simple to practice; thus, you should do them as often as four times a day if possible. If you’re having trouble doing your Kegels, your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist.
Learn more about your body with an ovulation calculator.