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Top Kegel Exercises for Women

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 07, 2020

Your pelvic muscles are important for a number of daily activities. They help you remain continent, they support your internal organs, and they are engaged during sex. Strong pelvic muscles can help you feel more comfortable during your day-to-day life and help improve your sex life.

Your pelvic muscles can be weakened for a number of reasons, including childbirth, chronic constipation, age, or surgery. As a result, you may notice problems like incontinence when you cough or laugh, or frequent urges to urinate. Pelvic floor exercises, known as Kegel exercises, can help you strengthen your pelvic muscles and reduce these symptoms.

Exercises to Help Strengthen Pelvic Muscles

You can perform most Kegel exercises anywhere, but it’s important to perform them properly. Kegels are about squeezing your muscles, not pushing. Almost every Kegel exercise should feel like a clench, not like a bowel movement strain. 

Once you know how to squeeze your pelvic muscles, you can practice them whenever you think about it. Kegel exercises are invisible to others, so you can easily train your pelvic muscles during your commute, at work, or while watching a movie. That makes these exercises easy to incorporate into your daily routine. 

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Identifying Kegel Muscles

Before you can train your pelvic muscles, you may need to identify them.

Step 1: While sitting or lying down, imagine the sensation of urinating.

Step 2: Imagine the sensation of stopping your urine stream.

Step 3: Pay attention to the muscles that tense when you do this: they are your pelvic muscles that should be targeted during Kegel exercises.

Do not actually stop your urine stream as pelvic floor practice. This can lead to urinary tract infections. Other sensations you may imagine are squeezing an inserted tampon or avoiding passing gas. 

Sitting Fast-Twitch Exercise

Your muscles have two important types of tissue: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch muscles help you react to things quickly, like preventing a urine leak during a sudden coughing fit. 

Step 1: While sitting in a chair, focus on your pelvic floor muscles. 

Step 2: Clench your pelvic floor muscles like you’re attempting to squeeze something.

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Step 3: Hold the squeeze for two seconds, then release.

You can repeat this up to ten times per set, and three sets per day.

Sitting Slow-Twitch Exercise

Slow-twitch muscle tissue is important as well. Your slow-twitch pelvic muscles help support your internal organs and can give you more time between bathroom trips.  

Step 1: Sitting in a chair, pay attention to your pelvic floor muscles. 

Step 2: Clench your pelvic floor muscles like you’re trying to avoid passing gas.

Step 3: Hold for five to ten seconds, then relax. 

You can repeat this ten times per set, and complete three sets per day.

Horizontal Kegel Exercise

Some people may find that they are more comfortable practicing Kegel exercises while lying down. Kegel exercises can be done equally well in bed or lying on the floor.

Step 1: Lie flat on the floor or your bed. If it feels more comfortable, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor or bed. Place your hands on your stomach.

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Step 2: Find your pelvic muscles, then squeeze them. You shouldn’t feel your stomach muscles working at all under your hands.

Step 3: Hold the pelvic muscle squeeze for five to ten seconds, then release.

You can repeat this ten times per set, and try three sets per day. 

Standing Kegel Exercise

If you notice incontinence or pelvic discomfort while standing, you can also complete Kegels while standing up.

Step 1: Stand upright and pay attention to your pelvic muscles.

Step 2: Squeeze your pelvic muscles up and in. You may notice some tension in your thighs, but there should not be additional tension in your stomach. 

Step 3: Hold the pelvic muscle squeeze for up to ten seconds, then relax.

You can repeat this ten times per set, and try three sets per day. 

Safety Considerations

You should not need to clench your pelvic muscles all the time. In fact, constant pelvic floor tightness can cause incontinence on its own, since the muscles cannot tense any further. If you believe your pelvic floor is too tight, you should contact your physician. 

Furthermore, Kegel exercises should not be painful. If you notice any pain during a Kegel exercise, stop immediately. If pain persists, reach out to your physician. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

BBC: “Muscles - Fast and slow twitch.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Pelvic Floor Disfunction.”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “Pelvic Floor Muscle (Kegel) Exercises for Women to Improve Sexual Health.”

National Association for Continence: “What Are Kegel Exercises?”

National Health Service: “What are pelvic floor exercises?”

Penn Medicine: “Are You Doing Your Kegel Exercises Correctly?”

Urology Care Foundation: “Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor Muscles.”

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