Learn How To Do A Kegel Exercise Correctly
Many (most?) women have heard it’s important to do kegels… but what is a kegel? Do you know how to do a kegel workout correctly?? Did you know it doesn’t do any good if you do kegel exercises wrong?
If you’re pregnant, or have children, kegels can help prepare and repair your body. (You can also check out these post partum exercises to get back into a fitness routine after you give birth.)
Fortunately, Andrea is an amazing physiotherapist that is the mastermind behind myladybits.com, who has a special interest in women’s pelvic health and she is going to provide the answers to your most burning questions about how to do a kegel exercise correctly.
Vaginas Are My Specialty
I’m Andrea and I am a women’s health physiotherapist. To be clear, I specialise in vaginas, which by the way is NOT a dirty word!! I was not always interested in this field of work, but after running into some breastfeeding issues, I soon realised just how clueless and ill-informed I was. This led me on an incredible fact-finding mission, leaving me with one conclusion, I was not the only unenlightened woman on earth. I have since directed my career (and free time) in this path… and have been learning ever since.
My main aim in life is to educate and empower women of all ages to be more curious and informed about their pelvic health and to appreciate the complexity and beauty of it all.
Am I Doing Kegels Correctly? Everything You Need To Know To Get Started
I’m sure you must have come across this word at some point in your life.
There is all this media and advice out there with slogans like, ‘I’m doing my kegels right now’, or ‘do your kegels’ but what EXACTLY is a kegel?!?! Do you know how to do a kegel properly?!?!
And even if you DO know what a kegel is, the chances are good that you are doing them wrong.
For that reason, I have compiled a list of everything you need to know about kegels and how to do them CORRECTLY. To make sure that you fully understand the mechanics of it all, I need to give you the grand tour of your pelvic floor.
Meet Your Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles which act like a sling, supporting the bladder, bowel and uterus from prolapsing (slipping downwards).
Apart from that it also:
- controls your bladder and bowel with sphincters which, like a tap, tightens to prevent you from having any ‘accidents’ when you cough or sneeze and releases when you are ready to go.
- It’s important during pregnancy and stretches to make way for baby during natural childbirth
- It’s vital during sexual intercourse for arousal and orgasming
So as you can see, it’s a pretty important muscle that is constantly multi-tasking behind the scenes to keep us functioning effectively.
So What Can Go Wrong?
Just like any other muscle in the body your pelvic floor can become tight or weak. Weaker pelvic floors can result in conditions like incontinence and organ prolapse (drooping of the pelvic floor organs like the bladder,bowel or uterus).
A tighter pelvic floor, on the other hand, could cause problems in the bedroom.
Now that you have a bit of background, let’s get back to the question at hand…
What Are Kegels?
Kegels are pelvic floor exercises which (just like any other exercise) help to condition the pelvic floor muscles. By doing these basic exercises, you can improve symptoms like incontinence… as well as your sex life.
Where Do I Begin?
Although kegels are important, it’s not for everybody. If you are experiencing lower back or pelvic pain, dysuria (pain with urination), urinary urgency (the sudden and overwhelming urge to go to the loo NOW), urinary frequency (going all the time) or pain during sexual intercourse, then it would be advisable to consult with a women’s health physiotherapist first.
Just like exercising with an injury, kegels could worsen your symptoms, so address these issues before attempting them.
How To Activate The Correct Muscles
Locating your pelvic floor muscles isn’t always easy, so it is best to do a little ‘tester’ to create awareness. The easiest way to do this is to stop your urine mid flow when you on the loo. It should feel like your muscles are tightening and moving upwards, just like closing an umbrella.
Remember: this is just a little tester and should not be done repeatedly to avoid bladder issues.
Kegels can technically be performed in any position, but lying on your back with your knees bent (known as crook lying) is a good starting point. You can eventually progress to sitting, standing or walking (in that order) once you have mastered this position.
Now contract your pelvic floor muscles. It might be helpful to imagine your muscles moving upwards and inwards like closing a telescope.
To determine your baseline, hold the contraction WITHOUT gripping your buttocks as long as you realistically can. Relax completely. Even if you were only able to hold it for as little as 2 seconds, this should be your ‘before shot’. You can always retest in a week or two to see if you have improved (the ‘after shot’).
Try to hold the contraction for as long as you possibly can. WITHOUT TENSING YOUR BODY OR GRIPPING YOUR BUTTOCKS, motivate yourself like you would during your normal workouts. The pelvic floor IS a muscle after all and also requires some pep talk!
Once you can’t hold it any longer, then relax your pelvic floor completely. Do this ten times and aim for 10 second holds.
Progress this exercise by contracting it a little longer.
Variation Is Key
Generally the human body is equipped with 2 types of muscle fibres; the slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres. It is important to exercise all aspects of the pelvic floor.
The slow twitch muscle fibres can be equated to a marathon runner, and is important for maintaining the endurance of the pelvic floor. Having good tone for these types of muscles are vital in order to support the bladder, bowel and uterus.
The fast twitch muscle fibres (think 100m sprinter) are important for preventing those nasty accidents when laughing or sneezing unexpectedly. To get these muscles going, contract your pelvic floor muscles completely, 10 times, as fast as you can. Don’t cheat by do half contractions…quality is better than quantity.
Do 3-4 sets of 10 reps per day for each exercise. If you add it to your morning routine, it’ll get you off to a good start.
- Avoid trick movements like squeezing your buttocks, thighs and abdomen or even your shoulders when doing the contraction.
- Do not do your kegels on the loo.
- Keep your breathing as normal as possible.
- For more feedback, sitting on a rolled up towel (like a saddle) and ‘lifting’ your pelvic floor away from the towel can be quite helpful.
- If you start to feel pain at any point, then discontinue the exercise and seek help from a health care practitioner. You can always resume your kegel workouts once the issue has been resolved.
It may take between 4-6 weeks, or even up to 6 months before you start to see improvements in your symptoms. So hang in there and keep at it… your pelvic floor will thank you for it!