Are the muscles in your pelvic floor strong? Don’t know? Well, it’s really easy to find out. If you pee a little when you laugh, sneeze or cough loudly, there are good chances your pelvic muscles need a little workout. Medically, these are referred to as “Kegels” or simply pelvic floor exercises that strengthen the muscles surrounding your vagina and rectum to ensure better bladder control and even stronger orgasms. And while these exercises are really easy, it’s also just as easy to get them wrong. Here’s what you need to know about them.
What Are Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises are centred around your hips and pelvic region in a way to strengthen the muscles around these areas. Apart from helping in bladder control and giving great orgasms, it has also helped multiple women with:
- facilitating vaginal delivery
- period cramps
- painful urination
- chronic pelvic pain
- ease menopause symptoms
- coping with postpartum depression
Because of their various health benefits, they have been recommended far too often by gynaecologists since it’s a natural way of keeping the body healthy and fit.
How To Perform Kegels Correctly?
The key to performing correct Kegel exercises is isolating the pelvic floor muscles and then squeezing and lifting. However, it’s not as easy as it reads as you might squeeze the wrong muscles like your abdomen or butt cheeks. So here are some of the ways in which you can perform your Kegels right.
It is suggested that you should breathe normally when you do your Kegels. The idea is to relax your pelvic floor muscles and to get the most out of these exercises. Holding your breath increases intra-abdominal pressure which can give you the illusion that you are doing something even though you may be isolating the wrong muscles. This can also push the pelvic floor muscles down, just the opposite direction you want them moving.
A common mistake seen in women performing Kegels is that they bear down as if performing bowel movements. Kegels should ideally cause an inward or upward lift in your vagina as if you are picking something up with it. Many have described this feeling as controlling urination or gas in a way that you are contracting the vaginal muscles inwards and upwards.
Pelvic floor muscles are small muscles that do subtle movements and like most sets of muscles in your body consist of two different muscle fibres-
- Fast-twitch- enable muscles to respond rapidly to an increase in pressure
- Slow-twitch- present for your pelvic organs' long-term support
Understandably, to strengthen your pelvic floor, you need to exercise both of these equally.
To fully strengthen your entire pelvic floor and get the most out of every workout, your routine should consist of both quick contraction/release exercises and strong contractions held for a longer count.
Like most exercises, it is also important while performing Kegels that you follow a proper routine with the right number of contractions every session to build your pelvic floor muscles. Don't perform too few or too many contractions, as this might lead to fatigue.
As a result, your exercises should start easily relaxing you into practicing the squeeze and lift of the vaginal muscles but steadily increase in difficulty as you get used to it. Between two sets of Kegels, don't forget to relax your muscles otherwise it can lead to fully overworking or over-tightening those muscles leading to pelvic pain and discomfort.
All exercise requires consistency to see improvement and strengthening your pelvic floor is no different. However, it is a must that you also measure your progress to see what is working for you and change the routine in case something isn’t. To notice the real change, it can take as long as 12 weeks provided you do your Kegels for at least 5 minutes every day.
Keeping a track of your progress will intimate you of these things and whether standard Kegels are working for you or not. Additionally, everyone who does Kegels takes a different approach. Someone who experiences pelvic pain and discomfort has tight pelvic floor muscles and has to work on down training these muscles with relaxation techniques.
How To Practice Kegel Exercises?
Based on these tips, here is how you can squeeze the best out of your Kegels.
Imagine you are holding in your pee or trying to avoid passing gas. The muscles that contract during these activities are the muscles of your pelvic floor. You can also feel these muscles if you pretend to tighten your vagina around a tampon.
The best position to perform Kegels, if you are a newbie to this form of exercise, is to start by lying on your back and putting your legs up on a couch seat or a chair so that your hips and knees make a 90-degree angle. Then start squeezing those muscles. Once you get the hang of it, you can also do it while sitting or standing.
Ideally, you need to contract your pelvic floor muscles for 3-5 seconds and then relax for the same amount of time. Repeat this process at least 10 times every day. Gradually increase the length of these contractions and relaxations by working it up to 10 seconds per round.
Always try to do at least 30-40 Kegel exercises every day by spreading them equally throughout the day. You need to do it for 10 minutes only so you can do these exercises during multiple hours of the day. Once you are a pro at this, you can also do them while sitting or standing and no one can even notice you doing these exercises.
Kegel exercises aren't difficult to perform, especially when you consider the huge benefits and how simple they are once you get the hang of them. So get those muscles ready to be bolstered.