How To Do Kegel Exercises
If you're wondering how to Kegel correctly, you have come to the right place. Pelvic floor exercises should be an important part of both men and women's daily exercise routine. Pelvic exercises strengthen the core muscles that support your pelvic organs such as your bladder, bowel and uterus, and a strong and healthy pelvic floor means no leaks, less chance of prolapse and greater intimate sensation for both you and your partner.
Did you know?
Pelvic floor exercises aren't a new thing – they were developed in 1948 by Dr Arnold Kegel (hence 'Kegel exercises') who realised the importance of strong pelvic muscles to help with prolapse, help with natural childbirth and prevent incontinence.
So, how do you Kegel?
- Slow Kegel Exercises - Sit, stand or lie with your knees slightly apart. Slowly tighten your pelvic floor muscles starting with your anus (as if you are trying not to pass wind – the biggest part of your pelvic floor muscle is located here), then tighten around your vagina, squeeze both areas and lift (or 'suck-up' your muscles) as hard as you can. Hold for the count of five, then relax, repeat 5 times.
- Fast Kegel Exercises - As before (Anus/Vagina/Squeeze/Lift) but quickly for two seconds, then relax for two seconds. Repeat five times
- Try to vary your Kegel exercising by alternating between 5 slow kegel pull-ups and 5 fast Kegels. Ideally for five minutes.
- Ideally you should do your Kegels for about five minutes at least three times a day – if you have time try to do more. Preferably 6-10 times a day.
Tip: As your Kegel muscles become stronger increase the length of time you 'squeeze and lift' You should aim to hold each slow Kegel for a count of 10 (about 10 seconds).
Tip: Try to make sure you exercise your Kegel muscles only, not your bum, thighs or legs. You might find it difficult at first especially if you have weak Kegel muscles, but after a few weeks you will be amazed how you will be able to perfect the Kegel technique.
Tip: This Kegel exercise routine should take 8-20 weeks for most improvement to occur.
Kegel Exercise Positions
When you’re learning how to do pelvic floor exercises most guides will tell you that they can be done anywhere at any time – lying down, sitting or standing up. But is this really true? Everything in your body is connected, so the position you’re in when exercising impacts how engaged each muscle group is. This applies to your pelvic floor! We’ve done some research into what the best position for Kegel exercises is, here’s what we found out:
When you start doing kegels, particularly if it's to recover from surgery, you'll probably find it easiest to do them lying down. This is totally fine if it's the most comfortable position for you. Lying down offers the least amount of resistance for your pelvic floor muscles, making it much easier to contract them. Sitting or standing will make it harder as gravity pushes down on your muscles and makes them more difficult to move.
Lie on your back with your legs stretched out. Relax and do a Kegel - if you're using a Kegel8, insert your probe before lying down or use the electrode pads on your lower back. If lying on yoru back is uncomfortable you can try lying on your side with your legs bent at an angle instead. Do as many contractions as you can - it's important to go at your own pace and not strain yourself. Just keep at it every day and you'll improve! As you get stronger you can try more strenuous positions like sitting up. This will increase the amount of resistance and help you to gradually do more intense and effective Kegels.
People suffering from incontinence or prolapse need a pelvic floor that works properly when they're standing up - this is when there's the most pressure on your pelvic floor, causing symptoms to worsen. If you suffer from stress incontinence, Kegel exercises are useful throughout the day to prevent leaks when sneezing, coughing or laughing. Pelvic floor physiotherapist Sue Croft advises that the best standing position for Kegels is with you feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing inwards. This makes it easier to focus on your pelvic floor muscles rather than accidentally tensing your inner thighs .
One study discovered that doing Kegels while standing often leads to the glutes and abdominals also being strongly tensed. We'd all like a firmer bum and stomach, but this is not actually a good sign! Working other muscles at the same time as yoru pelvic floor means that you won't get the full benefits of Kegels. It can also be dangerous - contracting your abs too much puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor, causing painful spasms and potentially making condtions like prolapse worse by straining.
Our research on Kegel positions came up with a definite winner - sitting down. This positiong enables you to target the right muscles with the right amount of resistance, as it's midway between standing and sitting. The Australian Journal of Physiotherapy confirmed this in a 2006 study . It looked at three different positions for pelvic floor exercise - slumped and supported by a backrest, upright but unsupported and very tall and unsupported. As the women in the study sat more upright, the level of activity in their pelvic floor muscles increased. Sitting up straight in a 'very tall' position was found to be the most effective position for Kegels.Think of how a dancer sits, with great posture and everything aligned properly; this is the key to a great Kegel workout and is a good way to sit in general to avoid back pain.
Perfect Posture for your Pelvic Floor
When you sit in a slouched position, your tailbone ends up tucked underneath you. This contracts your pelvic floor muscles so that when you do a Kegel you are straining them rather than exercising them – not what you want at all! Try to think about the following points when you sit down to do your pelvic floor exercises:
- Choose a sturdy chair, stool or yoga ball
- Support yourself and sit up straight
- Your feet should be touching the floor, hip width apart
- Balance evenly on your pelvis
- Keep your head straight, looking forwards
- Lengthen your spine and sit up nice and tall like a dancer
You can make sure you're sitting properly by supporting your lower back with a wedge cushion. Consider using a posture cushion next time you’re doing Kegels to see what a difference it can make. By standing up straight during the day you can make sure that your pelvic floor is always properly supported – when you slouch, this increases the amount of strain and pressure on your muscles, increasing the risk of leaks and damage.
When you stand properly, your core muscles become activated and are better prepared to support your pelvic floor. You'll also look a lot better and reduce back pain! Stand against a wall to test your posture - your head, shoulders, bum and feet should all touch the wall, with your lower back slightly curved. Try to stand as much like this as you can throughout the day to keep your pelvic floor in good condition.
Now that you know how to do Kegel exercises correctly you’re ready to take charge of your body and health!
Do Kegels Work for You? 5 Mistakes You Could Be Making
Now that you know how to Kegel, and the best position to do it in, it's time to make sure you're doing it properly! If you've been doing pelvic floor exercises for a while but aren't seeing much benefit then you could be one of the many people who are making little mistakes. The pelvic floor is complicated and it’s easy to make a mistake without realising – we’ve got a list of the 5 most common mistakes we’ve come across and how to fix them…
1: Bearing Down Instead of Lifting
Do you feel a downwards motion when you Kegel? This is a really bad sign and could be causing you damage! Bearing down will strain your pelvic floor muscles, overstretching them and making them weak. If you've found your symptoms getting worse since you started Kegeling then you need to fix your technique ASAP!
During a Kegel you should feel like your muscles are lifting upwards. Imagine trying to stop the flow of pee mid-flow - this is the right sort of movement. This is easier to practise while sitting on an exercise ball or chair. While you contract your muscles, try to lift your vagina and anus away from the surface of the chair without lifting your pelvis - this will help you to make the right sort of movement.
2: Not Activating Every Muscle
Your urethra, vagina and anus are all part of your pelvic floor. A proper Kegel will contract the muscles around all three of these openings at once. It's quite common for people to think that they're doing a Kegel when they#re actually just squeezing their bum cheeks - does this sound familiar? You'll probably end up with a nice toned behind from doing this, but it won't do anything for your pelvic floor!
When Kegelling, make gentle contractions to start, concentrating on isolating your pelvic floor muscles. If your buttocks start contracting, release everything and try again. If you’re having a lot of trouble finding the right muscles, then you’ll benefit from using a Kegel8 Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner. It will exercise exactly the right muscle group for you, with 90% of your pelvic floor stimulated compared to 40% or less with manual exercises.
3: Contracting but Not Relaxing
A complete Kegel should involve total relaxation of your muscles at the end. Not relaxing after you contract can cause strain, muscle spasms and fatigue. It can also cause hypertonic muscles (muscles which are too tight). Overly tight pelvic floor muscles lead to conditions like chronic pelvic pain and constipation.
Breathe deeply while you Kegel - this will make sure that you are fully releasing your pelvic floor after each contraction. Count slowly to 5 and breathe in while you contract your muscles, then breathe out to a count of 5 while you're relaxing them. Deep breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) helps you to fully activate your muscles and make sure they don’t get tight.
Poor posture is a big problem - it's really easy to end up slouching if you sit down a lot during the day. This will cause bad back pain and other health problems, including problems with your pelvic floor. As mentioned earlier on this page, sitting up straight while you do kegels makes them 24% more effective . This is because when your torso is properly aligned everything is much more supported and your pelvic floor can contract more efficiently.
For perfect Kegels every time, sit up stright - lengthen your spine and make sure you bum is at the back of the chair. A posture cushion can help you to do this. Our Kegel8 Pelvic Floor Exercise Wedge Cushion has been specially designed with Kegels in mind. It even has room for your Kegel8 probe!
5: Bracing Too Much
Contracting your abdominal muscles while you Kegel will lessen how effective they are. Activating your core muscles too much puts a lot iof strain on your pelvic floor, especially if you suffer from a prolapse. Abdominal strain can also make your pelvic floor muscles spasm, leading to pelvic pain that can be life altering.
Do your best to isolate your pelvic floor muscles as you Kegel. It's normal to experience some abdominal contraction while you Kegel, but you shouldn't do it intentionally. If you’re having trouble avoiding this type of strain, a Kegel8 Biofeedback Pelvic Trainer is a good idea as it will ensure that you are just activating your pelvic floor muscles and not your abs. Using a Kegel8 unit makes Kegels 50% more effective as it isolates the pelvic floor muscles for you .