In honor of March being Women’s History month, and International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021, we wanted to introduce you (if you’re not already familiar) to every woman’s secret superpower: Kegels! Maybe you’ve heard the word before but are a little foggy on what they are and how they can help you. Read on to learn how a simple exercise of your pelvic floor muscles can lead to enhanced sexual performance, increased bladder control, and even stronger orgasms!
A quick anatomy lesson before we begin:
The muscles that kegel exercises target are the pubococcygeal muscles, also referred to as the PC muscles or pelvic floor muscles. These muscles form a hammock-like structure which stretches from your pubic bone to your coccyx (tailbone) and their primary function is to support your pelvic organs, including your urethra, bladder, and bowel. Both men & women have PC muscles, they serve pretty much the same purposes, and there are kegel exercises men can do to strengthen theirs as well, but we’ll zoom in on that in another post. This one is all about the ladies!
Here’s how to find them:
Before you start working out your pelvic floor muscles, you’ve got to learn how to identify and isolate them. If you’re not sure which muscles are your pelvic floor muscles, here are some ways you can identify them:
- Imagine you’re urinating (peeing). Contract the muscles you would use to stop the stream of urine. NOTE: Don’t actually practice stopping your urine stream, especially if your bladder is full. This can actually weaken your muscles and lead to your bladder not emptying completely. This increases your risk for a urinary tract infection (UTI).
- Contract the muscles you use to hold back a bowel movement or keep yourself from passing gas, but don’t contract your butt, abdomen, or inner thigh muscles. If you do it correctly, your body shouldn’t lift up at all. If you notice that your body lifts slightly, you’re probably using your buttock muscles.
- Insert a finger or vaginal dilator into your vagina, then contract your pelvic floor muscles around your finger or the dilator. You should feel your vagina tighten and your pelvic floor move upward.
Try not to use your abdomen, leg, or buttock muscles when you contract your pelvic floor muscles. Exercising these muscles won’t help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. To find out if you’re also contracting your abdomen, leg, or buttock muscles, you can place one hand on your stomach and your other hand underneath your buttocks or on your leg. Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles. If you feel your abdomen, leg, or buttocks move, you’re using the wrong muscles.
Be sure to release your pelvic floor muscles completely after you contract them. If you’re having trouble identifying your pelvic floor muscles, contact your healthcare provider.
OK, so why are the pelvic floor muscles so important?:
Having strong PC muscles contributes to your sexual and overall health in several ways. These muscles DO help support some very important organs, after all! The PC muscles are important for maintaining healthy bladder and bowel function, as well as sexual sensation and performance. Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles through kegel exercises can improve your sexual well-being and pleasure in the following ways:
- Relaxing your vaginal muscles, which lets your vagina be more open. This is helpful if you have pain during sexual intercourse, pelvic exams, or both.
- Improving blood circulation to your vagina and pelvic floor. This can help increase sexual arousal.
- Making it easier for you to reach orgasm, and potentially making your orgasms stronger.
- Increasing vaginal lubrication (wetness).
- Providing better muscle control over your vaginal canal, allowing you to squeeze & please your partner during penetrative sex.
Like many muscles in your body, without regular use and training, they can grow weak over time, which can lead to problems like incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or sexual dysfunction. Overall fitness and whether you’ve given birth or not can effect the general shape your pelvic floor muscles are in now, but you can easily have a role in strengthening and improving them to prevent these types of problems, no matter when you start! The PC muscles also naturally begin to lose elasticity with age, but regularly performing kegel exercises like the ones we’ll discuss below can stop that cycle in its tracks, or at least significantly delay it. Let’s learn all about the fabulous fitness tricks at our disposal in the pelvic floor gym!
Anytime Fitness – Kegels on the Go:
If you’re a total newbie to this kegel thing, or just a very busy and active woman, one of the quickest and easiest ways to work out your pelvic floor muscles is with PC contractions. It requires no special training, location, positions, or equipment, and you can do it literally anytime and anywhere, especially once you’ve gotten the hang of it.
Pelvic floor contractions are an easy addition to your fitness routine for even the most gym-averse couch potato…because you can literally do them on the couch! When you’re ready to start for the first few times, get into a comfortable position so your body is relaxed. Most people prefer doing Kegel exercises when lying down in bed or sitting in a chair. Once you’re familiar with the exercises, you should be able to do them in any position and in any place, such as standing in a line, sitting in a waiting room, or even at work.
Once you’re comfortable, follow these steps:
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, letting your abdomen rise as it fills with air. Keep your pelvic floor muscles relaxed as you breathe in.
- Breathe out slowly and smoothly through your mouth as you gently contract your pelvic floor muscles.
- Keep your pelvic floor muscles contracted for 3 to 6 seconds (until your muscles start to get tired) while you breathe out. This is called a contraction.
- Breathe in again and release the contraction. This relaxes your muscles.
- Relax your muscles completely for 6 to 10 seconds. It’s very important that you relax fully between each contraction and that you don’t hold your breath. Always spend the same amount of time or longer relaxing your muscles as you did contracting them.
Repeat this exercise 10 times per session.
If you want to take your kegel training up a notch, try the options below. They require some simple equipment and a little more devoted time and effort than just doing kegel contractions, but it will pay dividends to helping improve your pelvic health and sexual fitness.
Weight Training – Kegels with Toys:
If you’re up for a little bit more of a challenge, it’s time to get weights involved in your training. We’re not talking dumbbells or kettlebells, though…we’re talking about kegel weights. Kegel weights, sometimes called “kegel trainers” or “kegel balls”, are simple little weighted devices that you insert into your vaginal canal, and then do your best to hold them in there. That’s it! It’s a good idea to use a water-based lube to make for comfortable insertion, and to make them more slippery and difficult to hold in place.
Just like with regular weight training, it’s a good idea to start small and work your way up. Many kegel weight sets, such as the Wellness 3 Step Progressive Kegel Kit and the She-ology Interchangeable Weighted Kegel Set allow for this easily by including different size silicone holders (one ball or two balls) as well as different weights you can swap in when you’re ready for them. The Ami Pelvic Fitness weights offer three different size, shape, and weight options for you to work your way through, without the hassle of changing out the balls.
The best way to use kegel weights will vary for everyone, but many women like to put them in first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and then just go about their wake up or bedtime routines. Simple everyday activities like bending, walking, sitting, standing up, and showering will present new challenges for keeping your PC muscles contracted enough to keep the weights in, and that’s part of the workout! Remember to relax in between contractions, though, and don’t leave your kegel weights in for more than 20 minutes at a time.
Whether you do your kegel exercises using contractions, weights, or a combination of both, it should take about six weeks of consistent practice before you notice an impact on your sexual fitness, but it’s well worth it!
Combining Fitness & Pleasure – Vibrating Weights:
Some kegel weights are secretly sex toys in disguise. Who ever said you shouldn’t enjoy your workouts? The Momenta Kegel Balls from Femme Fun are down for some vibrating pleasure during your kegel routine, and they include a wireless remote control so you can adjust the intensity without removing them. The Bloom Kegelciser from We-Vibe offers interchangeable weights as well as a phone app for controlling the vibrations. Have fun exploring toys like this which provide pleasure while you have them in, and can help you work up to controlling your muscles to hold in the toys even during orgasm to help make them stronger and longer-lasting.
Freestyle Flow – Pelvic Floor Yoga:
In addition to traditional kegel exercises, you can also use yoga to strengthen your PC muscles. This is especially helpful for flexibility and helping to maintain the muscles’ elasticity as you age. Try the yoga positions shown below in your next flow (you may even already be doing them!), and really focus on isolating those pelvic floor muscles with each movement.
Try these yoga poses on their own as a way to help lengthen and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, or if you’re up for a whole new experience, insert some weighted kegel balls or ben-wa balls (don’t worry, they can’t get lost inside of you!) and do your yoga flow while trying your best to hold them in place! Since yoga requires natural cycles of contracting and relaxing your muscles, it’s a great workout for your pelvic floor in all the ways that will help you continue to have an amazing sex life for a very long time!