You're Probably Not Doing Your Kegels Right
DEAR DR. JENN,
I’m aware of Kegels, but as a woman in my 20s who hasn’t experienced childbirth, I never considered them an essential part of my fitness routine — until my friends started talking about their daily exercises. Am I way behind? —Newbie
In short, yes, you should be doing Kegels regularly to build pelvic floor strength — and no, it’s not just for women after childbirth or menopause. Women are generally familiar with some of the sexy perks of the move, but one of the most common reasons women start doing Kegels is because of urinary leakage, which is way more common than people think. In a study of almost 28,000 women aged 20 and up, more than a quarter of women experience some kind of urinary leakage, typically the result of a weak pelvic floor.
So basically, the benefits of doing your Kegels are wide-ranging:
• They can give you better posture.
• They reduce urinary leakage.
• They help prevent pelvic organ prolapse (a.k.a when your organs drop from their regular position into your vagina. No, I'm not kidding. This is a thing.)
• They prevent fecal incontinence. (Not making this up either.)
• Onto the more fun menu options: They help you orgasm faster and more easily.
• They often give way to more, and more intense, orgasms!
• They help make your vagina feel tighter during intercourse, which also pleasures your partner.
Whether you’re opting into Kegels because you’ve recently given birth, because you’re experiencing leakage, or because you want to intensify your orgasm and set yourself up with a strong pelvic floor, it’s time to get training!
What Are Kegels?
For starters, they’re named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, a brilliant American gynecologist who was way ahead of his time and realized that exercising the pelvic floor muscles had huge medical benefits for women. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and tissue that form a hammock at the bottom of your pelvis, helping to hold your organs in place.
When your pelvic floor is weak, it can lead to issues like the inability to control your bladder or bowel. That’s what Dr. Kegel had in mind when he put his patients on his exercise regimen — but bonus: he discovered that patients doing these moves regularly not only had reduced incontinence issues but also reached orgasm more easily, frequently, and intensely. (God bless that man.)
VIDEO: 5 Real Women Reveal the Sex Positions That Always Make Them Orgasm
How to Do Kegels
First, you have to find the muscle. The easiest way? Place a clean finger inside your vagina and tighten your muscles around your finger. Another way is to stop the flow your urine when you are peeing. You don’t want to regularly exercise your pelvic floor muscles that way because you could end up with a urinary tract infection, but it’s a simple way to get in touch with the proper muscles that you will need to access. If you’re still not sure you’ve identified yours, talk to your gynecologist, who can give you a more hands-on guide and might even have biofeedback sensor equipment to help you isolate and train your pelvic floor.
The first time you try Kegels, sit up or lie down without any distractions so you can focus on identifying the correct muscle. But once you’re a pro, you can do them while driving, at lunch, in a boring meeting — basically anywhere, anytime. Always make sure that your bladder is empty before you begin.
Then, simply flex. Most doctors recommend tightening your pelvic floor muscles and holding the contraction for five seconds, then relaxing for five seconds. Try this four or five times in a row, and work up to three sets of 10 repetitions a day.
Take Your Kegel Workout to the Next Level
1) Try an app. My personal favorite is MyKegel. The app has 40 levels (I'm proudly at level 21), tracks your progress, and allows you to set up reminders throughout the day so you don’t forget to do your exercises.
2) Vagina Weights. Mastered the basics? Add some resistance. Intimate Rose Kegel Exercise Weights offer six progressive weights you can insert in your vagina that force you to use your pelvic floor muscles to keep the BPA-free, non-porous, hypoallergenic weights in. They recommend committing to a workout of 2-15 minutes a day. Looking for something a little more Goop-y? I'm intrigued by Yoni Egg Weights, which are made of Jade and are based on an old, Tantric practice that promises to not only improve your orgasms and reduce bladder leakage but also balance your chakras.
3) Kegels for the Smart Age. Believe it or not, there are biofeedback-based pelvic floor exercisers that can measure the strength of your muscles, track progress, and help you set a Kegel regimen designed specifically for your abilities. Check out the Luna Smart Bead by Lelo, or let your vagina play games on the Joy ON Kegel Exerciser and app, which measures your success in interactive Kegel games and transmits that information to your smart phone. Think Fitbit — but for down there. The Luna Smart Bead even offers “therapeutic massage modes” to “relieve stress on your pelvic floor muscles after each training.” Kind of like treating yourself to a massage after you work out at the gym!
4) Pelvic Workouts That Go Beyond Kegels. Urogynecologist Dr. Bruce Crawford created a Pilates routine for your vagina by studying volunteers hooked up to an electromyography machine perform 120 moves from Pilates, yoga, and other disciplines. He identified 10 moves that best engaged the pelvic floor, transverse abdominals, gluteals, and thigh adductors, which all contribute to pelvic floor strength. If you can’t find one of his Pfilates trainers in your area, you can get an at-home kit that includes an instructional DVD. A less expensive option is Hab It, a DVD and band trainer practice created by a physical therapist and focusing on the pelvic floor.
5) Bibliotherapy. If you're intimidated by apps, equipment that requires insertion, and anything called "eggs" going near your lady parts, a good old-fashioned book may be the answer for you. Check out The Bathroom Key by physical therapist Katheryn Kassai, who successfully treated her incontinence with the 8-to-12-week program she outlines and offers a great education about how your muscles work and what you can do in the short and long term to take care of them.