Recently, there has been some debate on my blog about kegel exercises, it appears that people just aren’t sure how, when, or even where to do them. There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, so I ambled over to the university’s library website to research some journals articles on the topic.
Kegel (often misspelled as “keggle” or “kegle” or “keggel”) exercises are named after the gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel, who cared about vaginas so much that he gave them exercises to do so that they could stay in shape.
Kegel exercises are done by clenching and unclenching the muscles at the bottom of the pelvis (specifically, the pubococcygeus muscle). When you try them – as I’m sure you are at this very moment – you’ll want to focus on clenching the same muscles that you might use to stop yourself from peeing (it is alright for your abs to clench, but make sure that you aren’t tightening your thighs or ass cheeks, if you are you aren’t focusing on the right muscle).
Kegel exercises strengthen the pubococcygeus muscle (aka PC or kegel muscle), which is found in the pelvic floor of both men and women and is incredibly useful! It controls urine flow, contracts during orgasms, and surrounds the openings of the anus, vagina, and bladder.
In women, kegel exercises can help strengthen and tone the pelvic muscles, which is great for toning up before and after child birth and for preventing urinary incontinence (i.e. peeing your pants when you sneeze – a significant problem for millions of people in North America). Kegels can also be a lot of fun during penetrative sex; a male partner should be able to feel the muscles tighten around his penis as you clench your PC muscles.
In men (yes it works for the guys too) kegel exercises can aid with urinary incontinence, are said to be able to help them reach orgasm without ejaculation and even attain multiple orgasms! Doing kegel exercises will also raise and lower his testicles (which could be a fun party trick) and work out his anal muscles (which could handy during penetrative anal sex).
The disagreements start when we talk about where/how to do kegel exercises. Some people are convinced that kegel exercises should be done while you pee – that is, the person should exercise their kegel muscles by stopping and releasing the flow of urine when they are on the toilet. On the other hand, some vehemently oppose doing kegel exercises during urination because of the reported risk of urinary tract infection.
One of the papers I found, by Dr. Katharine Kolcaba et al., recommends locating the appropriate muscles for kegel exercises by pretending to stop to flow of urine. And a few other websites also suggest locating the muscles this way or by actually stopping the flow of urine, but only once or twice the first time.
Personally, I suggest that you go the route of “better safe than sorry”. Since it has been suggested that stopping the flow of urine is not a good thing to be doing regularly – why do it at all? There are MANY ways to work out your kegel muscles without resorting to this uncomfortable and potentially dangerous method.
In fact, let’s look at what Dr. Kegel himeself prescribed: His method had an 84% success rate! He instructed his patients to contract their pelvic muscles against a “perineometer,” a cone-shaped balloon inserted into the vagina (but a dildo, fingers, ben wa balls, or a piece of foam cut to size would work just as well). His patients were instructed to alternately contract and relax the PC (kegel) muscles for 20 minutes, three times a day, for a total of 300 contractions.
And this brings us to another disagreement on my blog – how many clenches should be done in a day?
As you read above, Dr. Kegel recommended doing three sets of 100 clenches in a day, but there are two recognised ways to do kegel exercises: fast and slow.
For slow kegels, you clench your kegel muscles and hold for 5-10 seconds. When you first start, you can aim for 20 slow kegels a day and should be able work your way up to doing 100/day.
For fast kegels, you clench and hold your kegel muscles for only 1 second – this would have been the type that Dr. Kegel was thinking of when he prescribed doing 300 in a day. You should also keep in mind that he was prescribing this to patients diagnosed with urinary incontinence – I’m sure Dr. Kegel won’t be angry if we healthy folks don’t do the full 300 clenches/day.
You could also try alternating between fast and slow kegels.
Once you’ve gotten pretty good at your regular kegel exercises try this: imagine that your pelvic floor is an elevator and slowly clench it tighter and tighter, imagining that the elevator is going up floor by floor, and then slowly unclench, bringing the elevator back down.
You could also try incorporating kegel clenches into your yoga routine – this is called tightening your Moolabandha – it is said that this will increase your energy levels and relieve tension.
The nifty thing about doing your kegel exercises, whether you do them fast or slow, is that no one has to know! You can do them anywhere, at almost any time – like a kegel ninja! And the benefits are certainly worth the small amount of concentration required. ^_^