Kegels and Kegel Exercises: The Ultimate How-To Guide
Kegels are AS IMPORTANT as brushing your teeth every day, but nobody seems to know it…yet
Every gender can benefit from stronger pelvic floor muscles (yes, you penis-owners should be doing your Kegels too!) A strong pelvic floor leads to increased sensitivity during sex, stronger orgasms, and reduced symptoms of erectile dysfunction. A weak pelvic floor leads to incontinence and prolapse. See why Kegels are just as important as brushing your teeth NOW?!
Your pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles, nerves, and connective tissues that form a sling, or hammock, that support ALL of your internal organs (also a whole extra person, if you happen to be pregnant!). They hold your bladder, vagina or penis, and back passage in place, and having a strong pelvic floor comes with a staggeringly wide range of health benefits:
- Prevent and treat urinary and faecal incontinence
- Prevent and treat pelvic organ prolapse
- Increased sensitivity during sex and stronger, more frequent orgasms
- Prevent and treat erectile dysfunction
- Pregnancy Benefits: shorter labour and faster post-birth recovery
Currently, half the population of people with vaginas will experience urinary incontinence at some time in their life. Likewise, more than half the population of people with a penis will experience erectile dysfunction as they get older. That is one in every two of us who will at some point suffer from problems caused by having a weak pelvic floor!
A stronger pelvic floor helps protect us against these issues AND can dramatically improve our sex lives…so, why isn’t EVERYONE doing them?!
It’s time to make incorporating regular Kegel exercises into your daily routine a priority. THE priority. Eventually, just as brushing your teeth twice a day comes naturally, your Kegel regime will too!
Step 1: Locate your pelvic floor muscles
Finding the right set of muscles so that you can perform isolated, targeted movements is really important for performing Kegel exercises correctly, and this can be a little tricky.
One way to locate your pelvic floor is to stop your urine stream mid-flow, this will be your pelvic floor muscles contracting. Get used to how they feel as they contract and relax (it’s important that you do not do this frequently or practice Kegels with a full bladder, as this can cause incomplete emptying of the bladder, urinary tract infections, and wider bladder issues!)
Another way is to clench your back passage as if you are trying to stop yourself from passing gas. Again, see how it feels to contract and release these muscles and tune in to your pelvic floor movements.
If you’re struggling to locate these muscles, try inserting a *clean* finger inside your vagina or rectum and try to squeeze it – without tightening your tummy, buttocks or thighs.
If you are lucky enough to have a vagina, Kegel balls can be a great way of helping you find and engage your pelvic floor muscles. Our Ami 3-step progressive Kegel balls are inserted inside the vagina, where your pelvic floor muscles will automatically tense around the balls and work hard in order to keep them in place. The smaller and heavier the weight, the harder your pelvic floor has to work (it’s basically like taking your pelvic floor to the gym!)
The great thing about Kegel Balls is that you can pop them in and go about your day as normal* while your pelvic floor is constantly training. Encased inside the velvety soft silicone balls are loose weights, that move around freely and create little vibrations inside your vagina which causes your pelvic floor to tense naturally in response. Not only is this great for strengthening these muscles, but it also feels pretty darn good as well…double win!
*You can wear Kegel Balls for up to six hours at a time, but we recommend starting with just 15 minutes or so and working your way up. Just like with any workout, you may not feel the ache until the next day!
Kegel Balls work even better when combined with pelvic floor exercises. There are a range of different exercises you can do to help build strength, stamina and flexibility. As with any exercise, you have to start small and build your way up to a longer, more intense workout.
Try the below exercises and of course remember to take every step in your own time. Listen to your body and seek medical advice if you experience any unusual pain.
Step 2: Master these pelvic floor exercises
Bellows breath: Energise your body and connect with your breathing
The inhales and exhales you’ll use to guide your next Kegel exercises should incorporate the following bellows breathing technique.
Bellows breath also called Bhastrika in Yoga, is where you use your abdominal muscles and diaphragm to draw air deeply in and out of the lungs. This will massage and tone your internal organs, increase digestive capacity, boost your metabolism, all while simultaneously clearing your nasal passages, sinuses, and lungs.
It’s important to stay mindful while you’re practicing this “bellows breath” technique as you’ll become increasingly aware of the different sensations in your lower body, helping you to identify and isolate your pelvic floor muscles over time.
To perform Bellows Breath:
Sit with a straight spine and take a few deep, even breaths through your nostrils. Exhale forcefully by drawing in your abdominal muscles quickly, followed immediately with a quick diaphragmatic inhalation of equal force, allowing your tummy to relax completely.
Inhale as if smelling a beautiful fragrant rose and exhale as if blowing out 100 candles on a birthday cake. Both the inhalation and exhalation should be audible through the nostrils.
Beginner: Start with 7-11 bellows breaths, followed by slow, deep breathing to rest. Aim for one inhale/exhale per second. Repeat this 5 times and try to increase the number of breaths in each set over time
Advanced: Over time you can increase the number of breaths you take in each set up to 60 breaths. Increase the speed and intensity of your breath, completing up to two breaths per second. Repeat this 5 times and try to increase the number of breaths in each set over time
Beautiful Flower: Opening and Closing
Imagine your pelvis is a lily pad and sitting on that lily pad is a large open flower. As you exhale, imagine tightening your pelvic floor muscles enough to close the flower. On the inhale, release your muscles and imagine the flower opening up again. Once you’ve gotten used to this feeling of squeeze and releasing, open and closing the flower, there are two main exercises to practice
- The Closed Flower: Your pelvic floor muscles need to have stamina. Start with a deep inhalation, then slowly tighten your pelvic floor muscles as hard as you can on the exhale, closing the flower. Try squeezing them for as long as you can while holding your breath after the exhalation. Inhale, open and rest for 4 seconds and then repeat the contraction. Build up your endurance until you can do 10 slow contractions at a time, holding them for 10 seconds each with rests of 4 seconds in between
1 Set = 10 x Slow Contractions, holding the flower closed for 10 seconds with 4 seconds rest, to open the flower
- The Pulsing Flower: Your pelvic floor muscles also need to react quickly to sudden stresses from coughing, laughing, or exercise that puts pressure on the bladder. So practice some quick pulsing contractions, closing the flower and holding it for just one second before relaxing. Try to achieve a strong muscle tightening with up to ten quick pulses in succession.
1 Set = 10 x Pulses (quickly opening & closing the flower)
Feather Light Touch: Slow Rising and Falling
Picture a feather lying at the bottom of your pelvis. As you exhale, squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as if you are using your breath to lift the feather up into the top of your chest. As you exhale you release your pelvic floor and allow the feather to glide gently back down to the bottom of your pelvis. You want the emphasis here to be on feeling your pelvic floor lifting up and down, as well as simply clenching and releasing.
Try to lift the feather up a little higher each time, and to control the feather as it comes down with a slow release. Try using a breathing ratio of inhaling for two seconds, exhale for three seconds. Remember it’s equally important to practice the controlled, slow release of the muscles as it is to practice tensing them uptight.
1 set = 10 x Feather Breaths (inhale for two, exhale for two). Try to lift the feather a little higher each time.
Balloon Blowing: Long inhale & explosive exhale
Imagine blowing up a balloon: you take a deep, long inhale then use your tummy muscles to exhale powerfully to blow up the balloon. Take this same action, but instead of using your tummy muscles, use your pelvic floor muscles to force the air out of your lungs. This is where you want to combine your bellows breath with lifting and tensing your pelvic floor. So, you’ll be using your abdominal muscles as well as your pelvic floor muscles to guide your breath. (movements you will have mastered from practicing the above three exercises!)
Inhale deeply for three seconds to fill your bellows, then exhale powerfully for one second while pushing your pelvic floor up towards your diaphragm. You should feel like you could blow up a balloon through your nostrils with this movement.
1 set = 10 x balloon breaths (inhale for three, exhale explosively for one)
Reverse Balloon Blowing: Long inhale & explosive exhale
This exercise works the same as the above but focusses on releasing your pelvic floor muscles. Remember, a muscle is supposed to contract and relax. It is not valuable and can be bad for you, to concentrate on just tightening. You don't just want a strong muscle; you want a flexible one too.
This time, squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as you inhale and forcefully breathe out while you forcefully release it. Kind of like you're pushing air out of your throat and vagina.
1 set = 10 x reverse balloon breaths (inhale for three, exhale explosively for one)
If you really want to see a difference, you need to treat your Kegel exercises like any other fitness routine. A minimum of 5 minutes, three times a day – or as many times as you can remember – is what we should be aiming for. If it’s easier for you to fit in two lots of 10 minutes, as soon as you wake up and before bed for example, then by all means go for that! If all you can manage is 15 minutes once a day while you apply your morning make-up or during your lunch break, then that’s still great too! It’s about finding a sustainable daily routine for you which will eventually become as natural as brushing your teeth!
You wouldn’t do the exact same thing at the gym every time you go, right? (Right?) So, why would you do the same Kegel exercises every single time? Just as important as consistency is variety. Instead of doing the same exercise for the same interval every few days, mix it up and try new patterns of contracting and releasing and adding in exercises that work several muscle groups. It’ll help keep things ~interesting~, too.
How long does it take to see results from Kegel training?
It takes time for exercise to make muscles stronger and as with any training, increased time and effort will mean results more quickly. Using weighted Kegel balls will also speed up your progress. Using Ami balls, you should start feeling results after 1 to 3 weeks of regular use (or even the day after if you’ve had a particularly strenuous session!)
If you already have symptoms for incontinence, you should start to feel better and have fewer symptoms after 4 to 6 weeks of regular Kegel training.
You will need to exercise regularly for at least 3 months before the muscles gain their full strength. Again, using weighted Kegel Balls should speed up this process.
Some things to remember:
Once you learn how to do them, do not practice Kegel exercises at the same time you are urinating. Doing the exercises while you are urinating can weaken your pelvic floor muscles over time or cause damage to bladder and kidneys.
In women, doing Kegel exercises incorrectly or with too much force may cause vaginal muscles to tighten too much. This can cause pain during sexual intercourse. Listen to your body and don’t do more than what feels comfortable for you.
It may take 3 to 6 months for your incontinence to lessen once you start doing these exercises.
You should find them easy and relaxing. If you get back pain or stomach pain after you exercise, you are probably trying too hard and using your stomach muscles. If you experience headaches, then you are also tensing your chest muscles and probably holding your breath.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if you are not sure you are doing Kegel exercises the right way. Your provider can check to see if you are doing them correctly. You may be referred to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor exercises.