Have a look around you right now. You wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking, but anybody could be doing a Kegel exercise, and you’d have no idea. These anytime anywhere exercises involve a contraction and relaxing movement of the pelvic floor muscles that strengthen our private parts. From sexual improvement to recovering post-pregnancy, Kegel exercises can benefit us all. But what are Kegel exercises and how do we do know if we’re doing them right?
Benefits of Kegel exercises
Dr. Arnold Kegel, an American gynecologist, developed Kegel exercises as a non-surgical treatment for female incontinence and prolapse (pelvic organs dropping down past their regular placement). These exercises have also gained traction in the sexual health field, as they can increase sensation and pleasure. For men, they can be used as a way to recover from prostate surgery, while for women they can support postpartum recovery and health.
Pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, aging, excessive strain from constipation, chronic coughing, and being overweight can also cause the pelvic floor to weaken. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissues that create a support net that keeps our bladder, uterus, and other organs in place. When it’s weak, it can lead to an inability to control your bowel movements or urination. Kegel exercises are one of the few ways to strengthen these muscles.
How to do Kegel exercises
Ready to learn how to do Kegel exercises properly? Oddly enough, executing Kegels properly is akin to the sensation of stopping your pee mid-stream. Another way to isolate the right muscles is to picture that you’re trying to prevent wind from passing.
We don’t recommend actually trying to hold in either urine or wind, as doing so can lead to urinary infections and other problems, but just use this comparison as a reference to find the proper muscles. The best time to do Kegel exercises is after visiting the toilet. Breathe steadily when performing Kegels and try not to hold your breath. Avoid squeezing your glutes, thighs or abdominal muscles at the same time.
You can do Kegel exercises lying on your back, sitting, or even standing. If you’re a first-time Kegeler or haven’t given those muscles the attention they deserve recently, we recommend beginning by laying down or seated, then work your way up to standing. If you’re new to Kegels, try not to get frustrated if you’re struggling at first – you’ll get the motion and target the right muscles with practice.
An excellent way to build any habit is to associate it with an existing one. For instance, maybe you can do Kegels while watching your favorite show, or checking your morning emails. Build up to doing them in line at the grocery store, or while putting gas in your car, or on your commute to work. Consistency and habit association is key.
Once you’ve got the movement dialed-in, decide on a realistic number of reps (the number of times you perform a specific exercise). Aim for at least 30 Kegels per day, spread out throughout the day. Here’s a good guideline to start:
- Contract and relax for three to five seconds
- Rest for three to five seconds
- Repeat this ten times
- Do this three times per day
Kegels while pregnant and postpartum
Post-pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles weaken. Engaging and strengthening those muscles will help prevent and even treat urinary (and anal) incontinence that often appears during pregnancy or after giving birth.
Kegels also help you perform abdominal exercises with better form to avoid possible back injuries, another concern while you’re supporting your baby bump or have your little one in your arms. Strong pelvic floor muscles keep your organs securely in place while also helping heal perineal tissue, allowing the muscles to return to a healthy, pre-pregnancy state.
The great thing about Kegel exercises is that you can start them before and during pregnancy as well as immediately after birth. Doing them during pregnancy can help develop the ability to relax and control the muscles in preparation for an easier labor and delivery.
How to do kegel exercises for men
Kegels aren’t just for women! They help men incontinence, bowel control, or post-prostate surgery. Ideally, you should start these exercises well ahead of surgery and continue them after. For any of you men out there, it’s the same drill as for women: think about trying to tense the muscles that keep you from passing gas or stopping the flow of urine. Try lying on your back with your knees bent and apart, with your feet on a flat surface. This is a good place to start before building up to doing them while sitting or standing. If in doubt, consult a health care professional or physician.
Give Kegels a go. Nobody will even know you’re doing these subtle exercises. Pelvic floor strengthening exercises like Kegels are a wonderful way to supplement your all-over core strength. Sign up for 8fit Pro and work on your core with beginner-friendly yoga and fitness routines all available in our handy app.