Besides being hard to pronounce, do you really know what a Kegel is? It’s a strengthening exercise for your pelvic floor (PF) muscles which run from the basin between your pubic bone and tailbone.
If you think of the pelvis like a bowl, the muscles would cover the inside of the bowl (with some holes in the bottom depending on your gender). During a Kegel, you contract and relax those muscles. Even men can do them.
A lot of women believe it’s normal to leak as you get older when laughing, jumping, coughing, or running. That’s actually a sign of a weak pelvic floor.
And doing a 1000 crunches isn’t going to strengthen them!
Most likely your physician has told you to remember to do your Kegel’s at your annual visit. It’s common to have NO clue what you're supposed to feel. I've found that most of my clients are doing the Kegel wrong because they are pushing out during the exercise.
What does the PF do?
These important muscles form the base of your "core” and help with sphincter control, supporting the pelvic organs and are involved in sexual sensation.
What’s the big deal?
When they’re weak, you can have incontinence (leaking of urine or bowel), organ prolapse (bladder, uterus or rectum) and diminished sexual response. Again they form the base of a strong core.
Your core is your center from lower ribs to below your bottom. All movement begins here in the stabilizer muscles- Pelvic Floor, Transverse Abdominus, hip rotators, low back (Multifidus). The Transverse Abdominus (TA) muscles, your deepest abdominals that are so hard to workout, run across your lower abdomen from hip to hip and coordinates closely with your PF. When strengthening your core, you want to focus on PF first by doing the Kegel exercise.
Still not convinced it’s worth the effort?
Well how about if you knew it would help you have better sex (i.e. stronger orgasms) or to help flatten your belly? Besides those benefits, a strong core has been shown to decrease risk for injury in athletes.
Before I share how to do a proper Kegel and turn on your core, you need to know that:
Also ladies- you’ll notice that it’s easier to do them during the middle of your cycle and more difficult at the beginning of it due to hormone changes. Just keep at it!
How do you find your PF?
This exercise will help you feel the contraction of the PF muscles so you know when they are working:
What’s the proper way to strengthen your PF?
Most likely you were not breathing while you did the movement above. It would be embarrassing to pass out from a Kegel. So now we have to learn how to breathe while you do the contraction of the PF:
You can practice this exercise anytime- while driving, doing chores, lifting children, standing in line. You can do it while lifting weights or running. The more complicated the activity you are doing, the more challenging it will be to hold the Kegel and breathe. The more you do a few reps throughout the day, the stronger the PF and TA will become to help flatten your belly and increase your pelvic support as well as strengthen sensations during sex (i.e. stronger orgasms).
7 bonus resources for having or maintaining a healthy PF:
4. Unlock your hip muscles prior to doing Core exercises. Target the Psoas (hip flexors) and glut muscles with trigger point massage tools and stretching for example Pigeon Pose.
5. Want to challenge your core (and your injury free)? Find a Pilates or Pure Barre studio near you to strengthen your body at least 2 times a week.
6. Check out the Squatty Potty™- a toilet stool that puts your body in the best posture for pooping which will take pressure off your PF especially if you struggle with constipation.
7. Lastly, most women could use more pleasure and fun in their life. Right? Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts is a great resource for helping you get back in touch with your feminine (pleasure) side.
Mollie Miller, PT