Medically reviewed by Amanda Savage, edited 20/07/2023
Pelvic floor exercises are a crucial part of both men's and women’s daily exercise routines. These muscles are critical for supporting a range of pelvic organs including your bowel, bladder, and reproductive system. Strengthening your pelvic floor helps you get on top of potential health problems later down the line, like bowel or bladder leakage, risk of organ prolapse or decrease in intimate sensation.
Worryingly, 50% of women that perform pelvic floor exercises do them incorrectly. Luckily, you’ll find everything you need to know about Kegel exercises and how to perform them correctly, right here.
What are Kegel Exercises?
A Kegel exercise is the repetitive contraction and relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles to stimulate growth in strength, endurance and co-ordination. You can train your pelvic floor the same way you exercise any other muscles. While our pelvic floor muscles naturally weaken over time, some activities – like pregnancy and childbirth, a chronic cough, or straining for constipation can also put immense additional pressure on your pelvic floor.
When our pelvic floor muscles weaken, we can develop health problems, such as bowel and bladder leakage, pelvic organ prolapse and reduced sexual sensation. Sometimes muscles can become tense or tight causing problems with pelvic pain or difficulty with bowel or bladder emptying or discomfort during sex.
Thankfully, there are exercises we can do to reduce the impact of a weakening pelvic floor and regain control of our health.
How To Do Pelvic Floor Exercises For Women (A Step-by-Step Guide)
1. Find your pelvic floor
Research has shown us that most women can massively improve the strength, tone and skills of their pelvic floor muscles by simply doing pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels). A strong healthy pelvic floor supports your pelvic organs to prevent prolapse, helps closure of the bladder tube to prevent leaks, and helps you control bladder urges. The pelvic floor muscles also have to release to fully empty the bladder and bowel. You need to be able to both contract and relax the muscles for comfortable sex and sexual pleasure.
A Kegel is basically a pelvic floor contraction, achieved by squeezingand lifting the pelvic floor muscles.Try this; tighten the muscles around your anus and vagina and lift them upwards towards your navel. Imagine you are trying to stop wind or hold in the contents of your bladder. Can you do it? If you find yourself squeezing your legs together, or tensing your buttocks, this is a sign you haven’t located the correct muscles, and may need some assistance - see page 10. If you are confident that you’ve performed a Kegel, then you can start to do them regularly to improve your muscle strength, co-ordination and ability to relax too.
2. Practise holding your conntractions
3. Make it a routine
Try using the 10 - 10 - 3 method as way of incorporating pelvic floor exercise into your daily routine:
1. Perform a 10 second slow Kegel:squeeze and lift the muscles around your anus and vagina. Repeat up to 10 times.
2. Perform 10 fast Kegels: Squeeze and lift quickly for 2 seconds and then fully relax. The relaxation part is important!
3. Repeat 3 times a day. Repetition and persistence are key!
Kegel exercises - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
When should I call a doctor? / When to ask for help with a weak pelvic floor
If you’re experiencing pain in your lower back and pain in the genital, rectal and pelvic areas, you should refer to a GP or a urogynaecologist as soon as possible.
Other symptoms like persistent constipation and loss of bladder and bowel control are also reasons to see a doctor. However, it’s reason enough to go to the GP even if you just don’t feel right down there – a professional can help diagnose potential problems before they worsen.
When to do your Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises can be done anywhere and everywhere, depending on how comfortable you feel doing them on the go.
Vary the positions you choose to challenge the muscles, try lying, sitting and standing exercises.
How many Kegel exercises should I do?
When it comes to a recommended number of Kegel exercises, you should be aiming for – or building up to – a minimum of three sets of 10 Kegel contractions each day until you achieve your goals.
When you feel confident that your pelvic floor is strong enough, do one set of targeted pelvic floor contractions each day and then begin to incorporate Kegel exercises into your workouts and other activities.
How long does it take for Kegel exercises to help symptoms?
Provided you’re following a regular Kegel exercise programme and doing the required repetitions every day, you’ll likely notice significant changes in your body in as little as 8-12 weeks.
You’ll find you have better control when you need the loo – and you may even find sex more pleasurable in just a couple of months.
Can you overdo Kegel exercises?
Like any form of strength training, it is possible to overdo Kegel exercises.
Performing Kegel workouts that are too strenuous can cause your pelvic floor to become too tight. If your pelvic floor is too stiff, you can experience painful muscle tension, spasm, and uncomfortable intercourse.
Similarly, overdoing your Kegel exercises can cause the muscles to become tired, which can lead to, or even exacerbate, the symptoms of a weak pelvic floor.
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!
"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.
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.