The Infamous Kegel Exercise
I’m sure by now everyone has heard of the term kegel with pregnancy, post partum, urinary incontinence etc. But what is a true kegel and are you doing it correctly? Kegel exercises are meant to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. These muscles basically support your vagina, uterus, bladder and bowel. Yes you read that right, your bowels too! Your pelvic floor muscles actually run from your tailbone to your pubic bone so it’s really important to exercise them as a whole. Most people think that doing a kegel is just squeezing like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine. BUT you really need to squeeze like you’re trying to hold in wind/gas from your rectum as well. Then, not only squeezing them as a unit but lifting them up! Always think UP!
What most women don’t know is that if you have tight or weak pelvic floor muscles doing kegels could be a bad thing! Or at least too many of them. Think if your muscles are already tight and you make them tighter, it’s not necessarily a good thing. Also, these muscles are very small so doing too many can also weaken them. So it’s best to get guidance from a pelvic floor physical therapist (PT).
So to start, you need to find these pelvic floor muscles before you start exercising them.
While sitting or lying down, everything relaxed, squeeze your rectum like you’re trying to prevent wind from coming out. Basically squeezing like you're trying NOT to pass gas. The important thing to remember here is to NOT contract your glutes!
Once you’ve got that, squeeze your urethra like you are trying to stop the flow of urine.
Do these a few times to make sure you’ve got each separately. BOOM you’ve found your pelvic floor muscles.
Now to exercise these muscles as a unit!
Squeeze the muscles around your rectum and vagina together and lift up. Just think squeeze and lift, like there are strings attached to your pelvic floor going into your abdomen and up through your head. Again, being sure not to squeeze your glutes!
With each squeeze, hold them for a count of 1 second at first for about 5 reps at a time. Try to these in different positions. So lying on your back, on your side, all fours and then opposite side.
Remember to breath correctly during this exercise as well. Inhale, belly relaxes, exhale belly towards the spine and do your kegel. Squeeze and think UP! Inhale relax the belly and repeat.
Again, there is such thing as overdoing it! Who knew right?!? When you do too many kegels/pelvic floor exercises without supplemental exercises, you can actually weaken the pelvic floor. These muscles do get fatigued easily since they are smaller. So no squeezing for a prolonged period of time. Again you can also have tight pelvic floor muscles so don’t kegel if they’re tight. So if you’re having painful sex, leaking urine or having painful bowel movements, best it to get evaluated by a pelvic floor PT.
Here’s other exercises you can do to strengthen your pelvic floor.
Squats: 10 reps, 2 sets
Standing with feet slightly hips width apart and toes pointed out in an angle. Squat until your hips are parallel to the ground and if you’re able, go pass parallel. Remembering to lead with the hips back and squeeze the glutes on the way up.
If you’re pregnant, you can split the squats to 10 reps at least twice a day. Also, making sure you have a chair next to you or as a base for support.
If you have symphysis pubis disorder (SPD), then I would modify the squat and squat with a chair behind you and touch the chair with each squat. I also recommend the feet be no wider than hips width apart and do not squat pass parallel.
Wall sit: hold for 10 seconds working your way up to 30 seconds, perform 2-4 times throughout the day.
Standing with back against the wall, squat down to where the back is supported and flat against the wall. Feet hips width apart and go to parallel. Remember to squeeze tour belly button towards your spine and keep the core braced.
If you’re pregnant or have SPD, modify the wall sit to your comfort level and stop just above parallel or higher. Listen to your body. If your legs start to shake first, it's a sign to come up and work your way to getting them stronger. It will get better!
Bridge- 10 reps, 2 sets
Lying on the floor with knees bent, feet flat on the ground and hips width apart. Tuck your belly button in towards the spine and brace your core.
Lift your hips up towards the ceiling and hold for a count of 1 second. Then slowly come back down letting your glutes be the last thing to touch the floor.
You can also do a kegel at the top of the bridge for an added bonus!
If you’re pregnant or have diastasis recti, make sure to roll on your side before getting up!
Never sit straight up from a lying down position.
You can also split the sets up and do them twice a day instead.
There are plenty of great programs and exercise steps out there, these are just my personal recommendations to you! I hope this gives you a better idea of how to kegel and to better strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. This helped me so much during my pregnancy and postpartum as well! Definitely helped with those unfortunate leaks during laughs, coughs and sneezes that's for sure! As always, thanks for reading and please email me at email@example.com for any questions!