What Are Kegel Exercises & How To Do Them
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.
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. Yet, 1 in 2 women don't know how to produce an effective pelvic floor muscle contraction.
What are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are the repetitive contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles, also known as the Kegel muscles. Regular pelvic floor exercises help to improve and maintain the strength of your pelvic floor, in the same way as you workout other parts of your body.
Kegel exercises may not be something you expect to include in your exercise routine, but they should be a focus for everyone. This act of squeezing and relaxing your pelvic floor is vital to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong and supportive. They are even more essential if you workout often, as high impact exercises such as running and lifting weights put an immense pressure on your pelvic floor - leading to the muscles weakening or overstretching if they are not cared for. But, do Kegels actually work? How do you know if you’re performing them correctly? For how long should you hold your pelvic floor muscle squeeze?
To reap the benefits of Kegel exercises, you must first learn the correct technique.
How To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises For Women (A Step-by-Step Guide)
- 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. It may take between 8-20 weeks to see improvement in your pelvic floor muscle strength.
"If you're not exercising them (pelvic floor muscles) the problem is you could start to become incontinent and the problem could get steadily worse... The good news is that if you do exercise them regularly you can prevent it."
Pelvic 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. Lying down offers the least amount of resistance for your pelvic floor muscles, making it much easier to contract them.
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 your back is uncomfortable you can try lying on your side with your legs bent at an angle instead. 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.
Most pressure is on your pelvic floor when standing, 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, Amanda Savage, advises that by positioning the feet differently when in a standing position, you can target and exercise/strengthen different areas of the pelvic floor. View our Kegel exercise techniques video with Amanda Savage for more information.
Ensure you don't tense the glutes and abdominals. Working other muscles alongside your pelvic floor prevents full Kegel benefits. Contracting your abs too much puts a lot of pressure on your pelvic floor, causing painful spasms and potentially making conditions like prolapse worse.
This position enables you to target the right muscles with the right amount of resistance, as it's midway between standing and sitting. But do sit well! 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.
How Long Do Kegel Exercises Take to Work?
It is recommended to do classic independent Pelvic Floor Exercises, as described here, 3 x a day for 12 weeks. In this time, you should see improvement in both your skills and your symptoms. If you don’t, it is time to seek further assessment & advice. If you are making some progress, but it seems slow or you find it difficult to remember to exercise, you could introduce an exercise device to help you and motivate you.
Some women have such weak pelvic floor muscles, they are unable to even gently contract them effectively in order to strengthen them. This is common for women who have been pregnant and post-menopausal women. If the pelvic floor is very weak it is recommended to do assisted pelvic floor exercises using a stimulation device.
With independent Kegel exercises, it's hard to pinpoint when you will see improvement. Everyone will see results at different times and if you don’t suffer with leaks or other signs of pelvic floor weakness, progress can be difficult to identify. And this is where ‘giving up’ comes in; but with Kegel8 it is easy to keep motivated with one of our biofeedback devices.
Make it Easy with a Kegel Exerciser
The same as an ab belt will do for your stomach, an electronic pelvic exerciser will do the work for you! The Kegel8 Ultra 20 is the UK's No. 1 pelvic toner, with clinically proven programmes to ensure your pelvic floor is strong and healthy. Using neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES), Kegel8 ensures your kegel exercises are efficient by stimulating your pelvic floor muscles to contract in the right way; and of course, relax. In fact, there’s even a programme designed specifically for relaxation, so if you do suffer with pelvic pain or muscle tightness, Kegel8 can train your muscles to relax and recover.
The Kegel8 Vaginal Cones are a complete at-home pelvic floor strengthening system that can give you fast, effective results in just 12 weeks. Designed with top UK physiotherapists and available on prescription, these cones allow you to target the correct muscles and exercise effortlessly.
The Kegel8 Vaginal Cones feature a unique indicator tail that shows you, in real time, whether you're exercising your pelvic floor muscles correctly or not. Simply squeeze and lift your muscles, and the tail waves down!
"My physio said that I would need these because they have resistance - something to squeeze against, with weight as well for best results. Love these, notice the difference already even after 2 weeks."
Review by Ginni
The Kegel8 Biofeedback Pelvic Trainer is like weighing scales are to your diet; without them you feel like you’re getting nowhere but getting on them every day and watching that number drop with the pounds week on week keeps you going.
The Kegel8 Biofeedback Pelvic Trainer measures your squeeze giving you a Squeeze Scale™ score. Record your progress and watch your Squeeze Scale™ climb as you squeeze! You’ll know you’re doing it right and you’ll know how effective your Kegel exercises are!
"The real bonus for me is to be able to see the results of what I am doing on the screen, it really encourages me to squeeze harder and get a higher reading. I am only on level 4 but I actually look forward to using it each time."
Review by happy lady
Get in the Kegel8 Habit for the Best Pelvic Floor Exercises
This is the biggest hurdle for many of us; finding the time or getting into the habit. So here are some handy tips on how to make your pelvic health a habit:
Kegel exercises should be an every day essential to your health, just like brushing your teeth… so why not do them at the same time, morning and night!
We can spend the majority of a day getting from A to B. Use this time wisely; every time you hit a red light – kegel, every time your bus comes to stop – kegel, every time your train is delayed – kegel!
You could use your favourite TV programme that you make sure you never miss; kegel during the opening credits, again during the ad breaks and then during the closing credits.
‘Whistle while you work’ – how about kegel while you work? Pick a chore: vacuuming, ironing, pot washing; and kegel while you do it!
These are all options but a simple must is the Kegel8 12 Week Exercise Plan – sign up for FREE and we’ll send you a fortnightly email full of useful tips, pelvic health information and a kegel challenge to really keep you motivated!
"The probe stimulates the muscles - the right muscles in the right way."
Dr. Chris Steele
Does Kegel Exercise 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! 1 in 2 women perform Kegel exercises incorrectly. 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
The most common mistake when it comes to Kegel exercising is that instead of correctly squeezing and lifting the pelvic floor muscles, you push and bear down on them, causing further strain. This can make weak pelvic floor symptoms even worse!
Instead, you should feel like your muscles are lifting upwards. Imagine your pelvic floor as an elevator - take your muscles upwards to each level.
2: Not Activating Every Muscle
Your urethra, vagina and anus are all part of your pelvic floor. A proper Kegel contracts these muscles together. It's common for people to think that they're doing a Kegel when they're actually just squeezing their bum cheeks!
If you’re having a lot of trouble finding the right muscles, you’ll benefit from using a Kegel8 Ultra 20 Electronic Pelvic Toner.
3: Contracting But Not Relaxing
A complete Kegel should involve total relaxation of your muscles at the end. Failing to relax can cause strain, muscle spasms and fatigue. It can also cause hypertonic muscles (muscles which are too tight) and an overly tight pelvic floor can lead to conditions like chronic pelvic pain and constipation.
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, and breathe out to a count of 5 while you're relaxing them.
4: Bad Posture
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, your pelvic floor included. Sitting up straight while you do Kegels makes them 24% more effective  as your torso is properly aligned and your pelvic floor can contract more efficiently.
A posture cushion can help you to perfect Kegels. Our Kegel8 Pelvic Floor Exercise Wedge Cushion has been specially designed with Kegels in mind.
5: Bracing Too Much
The pelvic floor muscles should work in harmony with the abdominal (core) muscles. However, activating your core muscles TOO much puts 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.
If you’re having trouble avoiding this type of strain, a Kegel8 Biofeedback Pelvic Trainer will ensure that you are just activating your pelvic floor muscles and not your abs. Using a Kegel8 unit makes Kegels more effective as it isolates the pelvic floor muscles for you.