Article: Do Your Kegels! (The 101 On Kegel Exercises For Everyone)

This is a special post to celebrate my appearance on the popular fitness podcast, The Gymwits, hosted by Ryan George, Justin Gild (aka ChefSonic), and Toni Marinucci (aka Tips With Toni). Enjoy!


Kegel exercises.

If you’re someone who has gone through pregnancy you’ve almost certainly been told about them, if you’re a runner then you may have been told about them, and if you have bladder control issues I really hope you’ve heard of them.

One thing I can guarantee – If you listened to my recent interview with The GymWits then you’ve certainly heard me mention those words at least a few times (and might I just say, for newcomers, welcome).

But just what are kegel exercises and why are they so important?

Well, consider this your handy-dandy guide to all things kegel.

In this post we’re going to look at what kegel exercises are, why they’re important, and just how they’re done (including optional exercise gear for all you fitness buffs).

Let’s jump right in!

What Are Kegel Exercises?

Kegel exercises are a series of exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles consist of the  Levator ani muscle (Puborectalis, Pubococcygeus and Iliococcygeus), Coccygeus, Deep transverse perineal, Sphincter urethrae, External anal sphincter, Bulbospongiosus, Ischiocavernosus, and Superficial transverse perineal.

The anatomical list above is a bit of a daunting selection to look at, but the pelvic floor muscles perform a very understandable (and vital) role in the body.

Spanning from the tail bone to the pubic bone, the pelvic floor muscles are a trampoline-like system which support the pelvic organs. As part of this job, they wrap around the urethra, anus, and vagina (where applicable) and stay nice and tightly constricted around these areas, expanding and contracted when needed.

But, as you might imagine, the pelvic floor muscles function like any other muscle – meaning that, given certain circumstances or neglect, they can become weaker and less efficient at their job.

The side effects of this can include some pretty distressing symptoms, including:

Urinary incontinence.

Fecal incontinence.

Decreased sexual pleasure or performance.

What kegel exercises do is allow people to begin retraining and reconditioning the pelvic floor muscles to help either counter or completely eliminate these issues (depending on their severity).

Working the kegel muscles may also be prescribed pre or post pelvic surgery, is almost always recommended pre or post pregnancy, and can help with erectile dysfunction and prolapses, making them a valuable form of exercise that we should not neglect!

How Do You Do Kegel Exercises?

‘I get that kegel exercises are important,’ you might be thinking, ‘but how exactly do you go about them?’

Like any new exercise program, the idea of having to suddenly build up your kegel muscles doesn’t necessarily mean you know how to do that, and seeking out an accurate training program can be the difference between struggling and success.

I can’t create a custom regime for you, especially if your reasons for exercising are medical, but here is a general system of kegel exercises that almost everyone can and should do for general maintenance.

First, Identify The Pelvic Floor Muscles

This is the hardest part, because the pelvic floor muscles are pretty damned close to some other muscle groups. Commonly people will end up tightening their booty rather that their pelvic floor muscles, and this can lead to a really nice booty but not much in terms of increased kegel prowess.

So, here’s a quick tip for you.

The easiest way to locate your kegel muscles is to try and cut off your urination mid-stream. Do this a few times and then allow yourself to finish your business before trying again. If you feel the same muscles activating then, congratulations!: You’ve just identified your pelvic floor muscles. Now don’t do it again!

I’m not joking around here (much). It’s not healthy to continually stop and start the flow of urine, so this method should be used sparingly, precisely, and with a lot of focus on just what’s going on. Granted, you can try it a few more times if needed but don’t make it a regular habit. It won’t do you any good in the long run.

Those with a penis also have the option of inserting a finger in to their rectum and trying to clench and release around it (always use lube) or trying to recreate the sensation of trying to hold in flatulence.

Those with a vagina can insert a finger and clench too, but the ‘fart-method’ won’t be as effective.

Once you’ve identified your muscles the hard part is over…sort of.

Time To Work Out!

The exercises to strengthen the kegel muscles are relatively straightforward, and are as follows for pretty much everyone:

  • Find a time of day that suits you and empty your bladder.
  • Tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds and repeat. Ideally you’ll want to aim for 5 repetitions at first.
  • Once you feel confident with this progress up to 10 seconds on. 10 seconds.
  • Over time build this up until you’re doing 3 sets of 10 repetitions per day.

After you’ve mastered the kegel motion, you’ll find this is quite an easy regime to stick to, and can even try doing it in different ways. Some people prefer to do their exercises standing up, others sitting down, and others lying on the floor with their back flat on the ground.

Whatever you choose try to stay consistent. Most people say identifying your muscles is the hardest part of kegel exercises but, in my opinion, keeping the exercises up day-in and day-out is much more of a challenge and will involve some habit forming.

Thankfully, if you do find yourself feeling a bit bogged down by your routine and you really need to refresh your approach then there are some alternatives for you.

Alternative Exercises

Once you’ve mastered the basics of kegel exercises you may want to progress to different motions.

Not all of these will be equally effective, but if added to an already solid regime they can help break the monotony of kegel maintenance.

  • Rapid Exercises: Think of this like kegel tabata or HIIT. The premise is simple – rapidly clench and release your muscles for 2-5 seconds then rest for 2-5 seconds. Repeat this for at least 5 reps and build up the sets as you go along to either replace or work alongside your slow exercises.
  • Negative Training: Instead of clenching and releasing your muscles at the same speed, contract your muscles as you normally would and then focus on a slow and controlled release. This can be done for the same 3 sets of 10 reps but will feel drastically different and will require a lot more muscles control .The results, however, are worth it.
  • Mix It Up: If you feel like you’ve got to a place where your confidently know your pelvic floor from your posterior, then try making your own routine, mixing up your sets with the above three types of training. Have a different focus on different days and note any differences you feel after a 4-6 week period. Adjust accordingly.

And, of course, you can always use some equipment.

Equipment For Kegel Exercises

As with exercise generally, equipment isn’t a necessary pre-requisite to starting your training, but it can really help at times.

Kegel exercise equipment is especially important if you’re really struggling to identify your muscles, struggle with pace, feel like you’ve peaked with what clenching alone can achieve, or just want to hold yourself accountable.

There are many different types of kegel exerciser but they tend to break down as follows:

For Those With A Vagina

  • (Weighted) Kegel Balls: Popularized by erotica, kegel balls are tiny balls that you insert in the vagina and clench around. These work very well because you can feel what you’re clenching around and thus identify the right muscle group with increased ease. This provides a firm focus point throughout the workout too. Kegel balls tend to be weighted and you can increase the weight range and you develop your muscles. Good kegel balls will include multiple weights to allow for progressive exercises.
  • (Weighted) Jiggle Balls: These are similar to kegel balls but have a free weight inside a circular case, allowing the weight to move independently while inserted. This adds a stimulating sensation to exercises and, again, creates more feedback. Strong clenches may finish with a small jiggle upon release, creating encouragement for those who find such exercises dull or uninteresting. Both ball types can be inserted and worn causally throughout the day for increased, casual, muscle development, but this is much more fun with weighted jiggle balls.
  • Pressurized Vibrating Kegel Exercisers: Made with an inflatable, vibrating section, these exercisers can detect when the user is contracting and releasing and syncs up with an app to measure kegel strength. From there these products will create a custom-designed routine to follow, and will actively track progress. Although typically the most comprehensive equipment, such devices tend to be larger and pricier, so they’re not for everyone.

And, finally…

  • TENS Exercisers: These exercisers are best for those with little-to-no pelvic floor strength and use electric currents to involuntarily clench and release the pelvic floor muscles. This may sound daunting but, at its lowest strength, these machines feel more like a tickle than anything else. The sensation of such devices is similar to when a doctor makes your knee jolt independent of your will, which is alien at first, but might be necessary if you can’t naturally activate all of the necessary muscles. This method can be used by all abilities but is, again, pricey.

For Those With A Penis

As for those with a penis, the options are sadly a lot more limited:

  • A Weighted Exerciser: Although rarely retained (and often part of a larger program), you can get weighted male trainers, which are essentially cock rings with progressive weights added. Because these are linked with a larger marketing ploy, these products are hard to access and quite pricey, meaning you really have to trust the program selected.
  • TENS Exercisers: Using either internal (anal) probes, or an external cock ring or pads, male TENS equivalents exist to, and are currently the best option for those trying to counter incontinence or erectile dysfunction.

Above all, just make sure that you do your research for each method and pick products that are reliably reviewed.

Runners Be Strict!

Everyone should do their exercises but it’s especially important for runners.

Why is this?

Running is, by virtue, quite a physically demanding motion. Each time your foot makes contact with the ground you’re putting circular pressure on your pelvic floor muscles which, over time, can drastically weaken them. This can ultimately cause a collapse if not addressed with ongoing pelvic maintenance.

Weight-lifters and those doing crossfit training may also be susceptible, depending on how much pressure the exercises put on the pelvic area.

Because of this you can see pelvic exercises as plugging yet another leak in your performance. It’s important to develop all of your muscles, after all!

And That’s All For Now!

If you have any extra questions or concerns then feel free to contact me via the comments section, Twitter or at emmelinepeaches@hotmail.com.

A huge thank you to TheGymWits for having me on, and do check out their Twitter too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and remember: Do your kegels!