You may have heard Kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles after a baby and can improve your sex life. The action of squeezing your pelvic floor muscles has become synonymous with Kegels, and in order to find out how to correctly perform the Kegel exercise, POPSUGAR spoke to licensed occupational therapist Lindsey Vestal, MS, founder of The Functional Pelvis.
Nope, the Kegel exercise isn't just for women who have had children. "It's for anyone that's interested in having a strong, stable back, a strong, stable pelvis, and a strong, stable core," Lindsey said. Kegels aren't just good for a stronger back and abs. When done correctly, they can make orgasms stronger because the pelvic floor's movement is responsible for "a nice, robust sensation," she explained.
Not only can functional pelvic floor muscles improve your sex life, but they also help you control bowel and bladder functions, prevent incontinence (the loss of bladder control), and prevent prolapse (when your organs drop from their normal position) by supporting your internal organs.
Regardless of your reason for doing Kegels, it's imperative to do them correctly. "I very rarely ever recommend someone do Kegel isolation. I think that the idea that you would just isolate a muscle in that way, and expect it to get better, is not accurate because it's a team," Lindsey said. In order to get the most robust movement quality and strengthening component, Lindsey said you should be recruiting the entire team of muscles. When Lindsey teaches people about Kegels, she refers to them as the "inner core team, which is the bigger unit comprised of all 14 muscles of the pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, the diaphragm, and then the spinal muscles called multifidus."
According to Lindsey, one of the most important things people forget to do while performing the Kegel exercise is doing it through the full range of motion. "You never just want to squeeze, just like you would never just lift your bicep and keep it there all day," she said. If you only focus on contracting or "squeezing" the muscle, the ability to lengthen it won't be easy, she said. Instead, to strengthen your bicep, your inner core, or any muscle, you need to contract and relax the muscle.
To strengthen your inner core and perform a Kegel correctly, Lindsey said it's easiest to work one-on-one with a therapist. If you don't have access to a therapist, you can follow these effective steps. "The way that I coach people is to either sit on a ball [Lindsey recommends a physio ball or a Franklin Method ball] or a pool noodle." Next, you'll inhale from your diaphragm. "When you take that nice, beautiful, three-dimensional breath, you should feel that pelvic floor lengthening into that surface, whether it's the ball or the noodle," she explained. On the inhale, your diaphragm should lower in your stomach, and the sides, front, and back of your body should expand as your pelvic floor elongates.
If you don't feel a release, Lindsey said this is an indicator that your pelvic floor muscles are in a contracted, "held state." If you're struggling to feel your pelvic floor muscles lengthen, Lindsey recommends placing a finger inside your vagina in order to feel the muscles lift and release.
If you're looking for more information about your pelvic floor, you can sign up for Lindsey's Humpday Hustle newsletter.