Restore Your Core How Can I Strengthen My Pelvic Floor Without Kegels?

How Can I Strengthen My Pelvic Floor Without Kegels?

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How Can I Strengthen My Pelvic Floor Without Kegels?

By Lauren Ohayon RYC® 08/03/2021

4 Min Read

Kegels exercises are often promoted as being the cure all, end all exercise for pelvic floor dysfunction and to strengthen weak pelvic floor muscles. Many women may have even experienced this during their postpartum follow ups, during a doctor visit for incontinence or pelvic floor pain, or even just researching online ways to strengthen their pelvic floor – kegel exercises are preached and praised by countless exercise teachers and physical therapists worldwide.

Yet, are kegels really the cure all for strengthening the pelvic floor? Are there other exercises out there that may actually help women better regain a strong pelvic floor without ever using kegels?

In this blog I will attempt to address the popularity of kegel exercises, their intent, and additional exercises that may prove to help strengthen the pelvic floor more efficiently for a variety of reasons.

What are Kegels?

The kegel exercise was first published in the United States by Dr. Henry Arnold Kegel in 1948. Dr. Kegel discovered that one of the most common symptoms experienced by postpartum women was a relaxed or weakened pelvic floor. He believed that this was due to possible nerve damage, tearing of connective tissues, and the muscles stretching during childbirth. As a result, Dr. Kegel formulated an exercise that he believed properly tightened the pelvic floor in order to regain strength and restore the pelvic floor muscles to their natural state.

Thus, in short, the Kegel exercise was developed as a method for contracting the pelvic floor and strengthening the weakened muscles. If the pelvic floor muscles are stretched and loose, exercising them via release and contraction begin treating some of the adverse side effects of a weakened pelvic floor: urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and more.

Are you looking for safe and restorative exercises to heal from pelvic floor symptoms?

Learn more about the RYC program

Are you looking for safe and restorative exercises to heal from pelvic floor symptoms?

Learn more about the RYC program

Why Kegels?

Kegels are often encouraged to help treat a weakened pelvic floor that may be the result of: pregnancy and childbirth, surgery or injury, or a symptom of excessive straining from constipation or chronic coughing.

Kegels may be “prescribed” if you are experiencing:

  • Urinary or fecal incontinence
  • Have a strong urge to urinate
  • Pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse
  • Pain or discomfort in the bladder or bowel during urination or fecal movement

These symptoms may be a result of a loose pelvic floor, in which kegel exercises may help

How Do You Perform a Kegel Exercise?

To perform a kegel exercise, it is important to first:

  • Expel any urine in your body before performing Kegels
  • Identify the right muscles – your pelvic floor muscles: in order to do this, it may be easiest to first lie on your back. Once in position, you should picture stopping your flow of urination or holding in flatulence. The muscles you feel contract in your lower abdomen and lower back are your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Practice the technique: instruction for how to best perform kegels varies, yet one of the most common techniques is sitting with your feet tucked under your bum, with your arms placed on your hips. Once you have found your pelvic floor muscles, you should practice contracting these muscles for roughly 5 seconds as if you’re lifting something off the ground, and then slowly relax them for 5 seconds.
  • Focus on contracting just your pelvic floor muscles: for the best results (and so you don’t harm yourself) it is important to focus only on your pelvic floor muscles during this exercise. Be careful to not contract muscles in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks and avoid holding your breath. Remember to breathe freely during this exercise.
  • Repeat multiple times a day: Some doctors and specialists recommend repeating this exercise several times a day (roughly 3 sets of 10 – 15 repetitions).

Are Pelvic Floor Exercises the Same as Kegels?

Yes and no, kegels are a type of pelvic floor exercise. A Kegel exercise is only a single technique or method for contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. Yet, many professionals tend to lump all other pelvic floor exercises under the term “Kegels.”

Although Kegels are a very popular technique for strengthening the pelvic floor, there are many other methods for increasing pelvic health and strength without kegels. The 2 main issues with kegels are that they assume everyone needs that type of muscle contraction – they do not. The other issue is they do not train for the task. We do them from a still position, whereas life is dynamic, includes load, includes movement on multi planes. Our pelvic floor is designed to reflexively support all of that – if that has been lost, and we do have an injury, then training dynamically so that the pelvic floor responds is a much more appropriate method. You would not train for a marathon by lying someone on their back and doing running moves with their legs pumping the air so why are we doing that to the pelvic floor?  

 In some cases, kegels may actually be more damaging to the pelvic floor! So then the question rises: how do I treat pelvic floor dysfunction without kegels?

How to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Education is one of the primary benefits that we at RYC® offer in our programs. Understanding where your pelvic floor muscles are located and how they affect your body can help benefit your recovery. In my program, I help men and women learn more about how their bodies work and how proper pelvic floor muscle training can teach them how to engage their bodies properly during their muscle training exercises.

Will Kegels Treat Pelvic Floor Dysfunction or Pelvic Organ Prolapse?

Exercise can be a great way to heal your pelvic floor. Unfortunately, in many work out programs for postpartum people and others seeking pelvic floor recovery, kegel exercises are the most commonly recommended exercise to use. However, kegel exercises can actually increase stiffness and make it harder to feel your pelvic floor muscles. Avoiding unnecessary contraction during pelvic floor exercises can be beneficial to recovering the strength and mobility of your pelvic floor muscles.

If we want things to shift in our pelvic floor, we need to also shift the habit mode of our muscles. In the case of our pelvic floors, there tends to be much confusion. Is my pelvic floor too tight? Not tight enough? How can I tell the resting tension? How can I fix it? Before we set out to resolve/fix our pelvic floor dysfunction we need to first “know” our pelvic floor. Know what engaging it feels like, what releasing it feels like, and how to control both contracting and releasing it. Only then we can discern what our tendencies are and create new movement patterns and choices.

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fear, pain or discomfort

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You don’t have to live in

fear, pain or discomfort

Get back the confidence + lifestyle you love.

Pelvic Floor Exercises Better Than Kegels

Pelvic Tilt: If you have a yoga ball, you may begin seated on the ball with your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart (or you may sit on a yoga mat with your feet criss-crossed in front of you if you don’t have a stability ball). Lengthen your spine by stacking your shoulders over your hips, placing your hands on your waist. Slowly begin tucking and untucking your pelvis by drawing your hip bones toward the ribs and sticking your buttocks out behind you. You should try to repeat 2 sets of 10 reps.

To learn more about exercises for the pelvic floor and how Restore Your Core can best serve you, visit our pelvic floor learn hub.