Are You Doing Your Kegels Incorrectly?
We've all been told we should be doing our Kegels, but what are these pelvic floor exercises, and why should we do them? We're demystifying Kegels so you know exactly how to do them.
Why Should I Do Them?
There are many factors that affect the pelvic floor's strength: pregnancy, childbirth, surgery, exercise, and the amount of pressure that the weight of the upper body exerts on the muscles.
- Kegel exercises will help you give birth more easily and with a lesser chance of tearing and episiotomy.
- Stronger muscles help prevent the prolapse of your pelvic organs such as your bladder and uterus, which without strong muscles can lead to painful and invasive surgery.
- Strengthening your pelvic floor will reduce fecal or urinary incontinence in general, as well as when sneezing or coughing.
- An added benefit from stronger muscles is more pleasure and better orgasms when having sex using sex toys, intercourse, or solo play with internal or external stimulation.
- Folks with penises can learn to control their ejaculations or have separate orgasms from ejaculation. Squeezing around a partner’s penis can bring the partner pleasure, too.
How Do I Do Them?
The next time you’re using the toilet, stop the flow of urine midstream if you can. If you’ve done that, you’ve found those muscles. Alternatively, if you put your fingers inside your vagina and feel the squeeze, you’ve found them. Before your workout, empty your bladder first.
It’s recommended for your sexual health that you practice squeezing for five seconds, then relax for another five seconds. You can squeeze against a sex toy, carrot (with a condom on it), finger, or nothing at all! Try ten repetitions at a time, a few times a day to begin, then go from there. If that’s too much, find what’s comfortable for you and work from there.
Squeezing the wrong muscles: Over one-third of people squeeze their butt, abdominal, and/or thigh muscles, especially if their pelvic floor is weak. Place your hand on those areas while doing your squeezes or look at your body naked in the mirror. If you notice those muscles contracting while you do your Kegels, then you're doing them incorrectly. Start slowly with a few short contractions and gradually build up your strength and endurance. It is much more effective to isolate the correct muscles and start small than to try to be a heavyweight at the beginning while using the incorrect muscles and techniques.
Doing the wrong thing with the right muscles: If you push out and down rather than up and inwards, you may actually make matters worse by pushing out your bladder or uterus. Imagine instead that your vagina is like an elevator, and you’re going up to the penthouse suite.
Stopping the flow every time: Once you have isolated the correct muscles, don’t stop your urine flow every time you use the bathroom. You can actually weaken your muscles this way and not fully empty your bladder, which can increase the risk of a urinary tract infection.
Contracting without relaxing: Most exercise routines include both contracting and relaxing the muscles. Make sure that you also relax for the same amount of time as your contraction. And if you already have a tight pelvic floor, you can modify Kegels by doing a short contraction followed by more emphasis on relaxation. Some people will use sex toys such as dilators to help them with this exercise.
Holding your breath: Find a rhythm, squeezing during the out-breath and relaxing during the in-breath or vice versa. Make sure that you’re taking in deep, full breaths and, in turn, exhaling just as deeply.
All in all, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t be afraid to speak to a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
What If It’s Not Working?
If you're having trouble doing Kegel exercises or not feeling like you’re making progress, ask your doctor, a registered pelvic floor physiotherapist, or other health care provider to help you learn to isolate and exercise the correct muscles. Don’t be afraid, either! It takes time. If you feel discomfort or pain in your abdomen or back, you may be doing them wrong, and you may need to seek professional help. They may recommend using a sex toy such as a Therawand or Honeydipper to help practice for your sexual health.
Variations on the Exercises
Try them in different positions and while you’re doing different activities. Start with sitting or lying down. Spread your knees apart to make it harder to just squeeze the pelvic muscles. From there, progress to standing, squats, doing a lunge (legs spread, one in front of the other) or a bridge (lying on your back, raising your butt off the floor), the plank (elbows and toes on the ground, body hovering), the clam (on your side, legs bent and knees apart), and standing on one leg. Try fluttering: squeeze for one second, contract for one second, then repeat. Do it while at the gym, in the pool, or when you have a free second in the grocery store line. Squeeze to the rhythm of your turn signals while driving a car, or to your favourite tune. You can also use a “Kegel Ball”: a small round toy that contains a smaller inner ball that moves, giving a gentle sensation when you move. It’s placed inside your vagina and it’s there to gently remind you to squeeze each time you feel it throughout day. Another option is the Steady: a small barbell using weight to further strengthen your muscles The more ways that you can practice your exercises, the stronger your muscles will become.
Have Sex, Too!
Try different positions and types of play for pleasure as well as sexual health. Sex of any kind including using sex toys, solo pleasure, and partner play is one of the best activities to exercise the pelvic floor. Not to mention, it’s one of the most fun, too!