All About Kegel Exercises: Your Guide
During training, we try to work out all the muscles: tone our arms and shoulders, pump our abs, and strengthen our legs in lunges. But there is an important group of muscles that standard training does not affect – the pelvic floor muscles. They are not noticeable, but their development will make you more beautiful and improve your quality of life: from increased pleasure from sex to the prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence.
- To develop the pelvic floor muscles in the late 1940s, the American gynecologist Arnold Kegel developed special exercises suitable for both women and men. From this article, you will learn everything about the pelvic floor muscles and Kegel exercises,
So, let’s begin.
What are pelvic floor muscles?
The pelvic floor muscles are a group of muscles that control urination. There are three such muscles:
- sphincter muscles – help open and close the urethra – the tube through which urine is excreted from the bladder;
- The pelvic floor muscle proper (PC muscle) – supports the bladder, rectum, and uterus in women.
Sometimes these muscles become weak and do not perform their function well enough. There can be many reasons, for example:
- the general aging of the body;
- physical exercise;
- excessive “straining”;
- weight gain;
- recovery after pregnancy and childbirth;
- recovery after gynecological surgery (in women);
- recovery after prostate surgery (in men);
- diseases of the nervous system;
- genetic features, etc.
Even if you don’t have these problems, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help prevent normal and controlled urination.
What are the benefits of Kegel exercises?
In some situations, Kegel exercises are the only way of rehabilitation and prevention:
- Rehabilitation after prostate cancer treatment;
- Prevention of prostate cancer and uncontrolled urination;
- An increase in the level of control over the muscles of the pelvis and abdomen;
- Prevention of prolapse of internal organs (in particular, the bladder).
- Treatment and prevention of stress urinary incontinence (for example, when coughing or laughing);
- Treatment and prevention of uncontrolled stools;
- Treatment of urinary incontinence with an overflow of the bladder;
- The stronger pleasure from sex (including for a partner) by strengthening the muscles of the vagina;
- Thin waist due to the training of the transverse abdominal muscle;
- Reducing the risk of muscle strain or strain and further incontinence during pregnancy and after childbirth;
- Increased muscle control;
- Prevention of prolapse of internal organs, including the bladder and vagina.
Why, then, don’t Kegel exercises do everything? Unlike the muscles of the arms or legs, the pelvic floor muscles are located inside the body, and they are quite difficult to “grope,” so it is often unclear to those who first encounter the exercises what exactly needs to be trained. This is where preparatory work is required.
How to find the pelvic floor muscles?
Imagine that you deliberately interrupt the process of urination – this way, you will find a part of the pelvic floor muscles with which to start training. If you are still determining if you have found the muscles you need, try to stop urinating; just do not get carried away – otherwise, you can cause inflammation of the urinary tract.
Next, do the exercise “Lift” from Pilates: it will help you find and feel all the muscles that support and control the organs of the genitourinary system.
Starting position: Sit straight on a chair with a straight back and evenly distribute the weight on both buttocks.
Performing the exercise:
- Take a deep breath, drawing in the stomach and sides, and stretch along the spine.
- Exhaling, pull up the pelvic floor muscles (“lift”) that you found earlier.
- As you inhale, return the “elevator” down, relaxing your muscles.
- Exhale and raise the “lift” higher than in stage 2; most people simultaneously feel how the transverse abdominal muscles come into play.
- Relax as you inhale.
- As you exhale, try to raise the “elevator” even higher; you should feel the transverse abdominal muscles even more strongly.
- Breathe in and relax.
- Repeat the cycle several times.
- Keep your buttock muscles relaxed;
- Do not strain the lower jaw;
- Do not raise your shoulders along with the pelvic floor – they should be lowered and relaxed all the time;
- Try not to strain the muscles around the hip joints;
- Keep your pelvis and spine still.
As a result, you will learn to feel the tension of the pelvic floor muscles as a contraction of the internal muscles in the back of the pelvic region and the lower abdomen. Do the exercises several times to correctly identify the muscles you need: about a third of men and women who do Kegel exercises pump the lower abs or inner thighs.
Kegel Exercise Technique
So, when the pelvic floor muscles are found, you can start the exercises:
- Choose a comfortable position. It is best to do the exercises while lying on your back until you start to feel the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. Once you’re comfortable, practice sitting and standing. It is necessary to perform exercises with an empty bladder.
- Consistently contract and relax the muscles. The contraction/relaxation intervals should be 3-5 seconds long. Repeat the cycle ten times, three times a day. Keep the rest of your muscles relaxed: don’t hold your breath, don’t tense your abs, legs, or buttocks, and don’t lift your pelvis. Gently place your hand on your stomach to detect unwanted movements of the “extra” muscles.
- Increase duration. Gradually increase the duration of contractions and relaxations (it is optimal to reach 10 seconds over time). Increase the frequency of training: ideally, you should do 30-40 cycles of Kegel exercises per day (but not more, otherwise, you can overdo it). It is better to distribute them throughout the day than to do everything at once (for example, perform ten cycles 3-4 times a day).
- Do exercises everywhere. The process of performing the Kegel exercise cannot be seen from the outside. So when you get comfortable, train your muscles in moments of inactivity: standing at a traffic light, riding an elevator, or standing in line for groceries. Alternate short, 2-3 second contractions and relaxations (“quick clicks”) with longer ones.
Don’t forget a few more important points:
- Do not perform Kegel exercises simultaneously, such as urinating more than twice a month. This can cause inflammation in the urinary tract and, over time, weaken the pelvic floor muscles or cause damage to the bladder and kidneys.
- Do not exercise more than recommended: excessive strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles leads to difficulty in urination. In women, improper or excessive Kegel exercises lead to overstretching of the vaginal muscles, which causes pain during intercourse. Remember: it is always better to do less but better.
What are the benefits of Kegel exercises?
Make Kegel exercises a part of your daily routine; As with any habit, it’s best to do them around the same time every day.
If you suffer from stress urinary incontinence (when you cough, sneeze, laugh, bend over, or lift something heavy), doing one or more Kegel exercises may prevent “leakage.” If you have the urge to urinate and doubt that you will make it to the toilet, the Kegel exercise will allow you to hold out for the necessary time.
What are the exercise restrictions?
Kegel exercises are suitable for many, but there are limitations. In women, any symptoms of a tight pelvic floor when the muscles are already overstretched, for example, with vaginismus. For men, Kegel exercises are contraindicated if they have a catheter to drain urine after prostate surgery. Also, the exercises should be stopped if their implementation causes discomfort in the pelvic region or weakness in the body.
Before starting Kegel exercises, it is better to consult with your doctor. Even if you are sure there are no contraindications, he can help you find the pelvic floor muscles and start exercising correctly.
If something went wrong
If you’re having trouble doing Kegel exercises, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Your doctor will be able to give you the right feedback so that you learn to isolate and strengthen the right muscles and do the exercises correctly.
Vaginal weights can help women find pelvic floor muscles. This is a special silicone cone that must be inserted into the vagina and held there by contraction of the pelvic muscles. Also, in some medical centers, a service for measuring the activity of the pelvic floor muscles is available. During the session, a pressure sensor is inserted into the vagina or rectum, which measures and displays the activity of the muscles during their relaxation and tension.
After 4-6 weeks of daily training, you will feel better, and your symptoms will subside. But do not stop training: if you stop exercising, the muscles will begin to weaken, and uncontrolled urination will return. Therefore, Kegel exercises should become a lifelong habit.
The article provides an in-depth look at Kegel exercises, which are used to develop and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These muscles, which control urination, can become weak due to a variety of factors such as aging, physical exercise, pregnancy and childbirth, and certain diseases. Kegel exercises can help prevent and treat urinary incontinence in both men and women, as well as increase pleasure during sex. The article also provides guidance on how to find and properly engage the pelvic floor muscles, and how to properly perform Kegel exercises. Overall, the article emphasizes the importance of pelvic floor muscles and the benefits that Kegel exercises can provide for overall health and well-being.