How to do Kegels: Advanced Tips and Tricks

Kegels Advanced pose

So maybe you know how to do the Pelvic Floor Exercises, but they are still not working as well as you like? 

If you want the basics of how to do pelvic floor exercises go here.

Bladder control (or pelvic floor) exercises for women are especially important to support reproductive organs and post-delivery of a baby.  It’s well known that incontinence affects 1 in 3 women, and pelvic floor exercises are the first line of treatment.  But if you want to make them more fruitful, read on. “Pelvic floor muscles” are actually a bunch of layers of muscles. They criss-cross, go in different directions and have holes in them. Yes, holes!  The first hole wraps around the urethra to let the urine pass. The second hole is for the vagina in women, and the third is around the anus.  Most exercises just lift them all. Remember, the pelvic floor is mostly suspended like a hammock.  But there are ways to make your bladder control exercises more effective around the urethra, for incontinence.    We will cover tricks and tips for variety and consistency.

Work out various muscle fibers

There are different kinds of muscle fibers: fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles (also known as short and long muscle fibers).  Slow-twitch muscles are what help the whole pelvic floor to strengthen.  The goal here is that the general strengthening of all pelvic floor muscles will help strengthen the muscles closing your urethra (outlet of the bladder).  However, when you have to sneeze or you slip a step, you know that those events need fast reaction times. Therefore, you really ought to work on the reaction of your fast-twitch muscles too. Kegels are typically held for 3-10 seconds. To make the most of your Kegel, you will need to add in the quick, short squeezes (pulse every second) around the urethra (what is needed for those emergency sneezes), as well as the long, steady contractions (overall lifting/strengthening around the vagina). They will tire you out, so try alternating the long and short holds, or do the short holds at the end of your exercise.

  1. Add into your routine, five quick contractions, and then holding one long contraction for as long as you can or 5 seconds.
  2. Do that 10x for a set, the set three times a day.

Get picky about which muscles you work out

After you get the hang of it, try to fine-tune your pelvic floor muscles.  The pelvic floor muscles stretch from your pubic bone all the way to your tailbone.  So it is possible to contract one portion of those muscles more than others.  Stand up and lean backwards without falling over, and do a Kegel contraction.  Now lean forwards as far as you can while standing up and do another Kegel contraction. The leaning forward one will contract more of the area around your urethra instead of your anus. This is what you want. 

Get picky about your breathing and other exercises

When you do physical exercise remember to breathe! For example, if you hold your breath while you do an abdominal “crunch”, the crunch will cause pressure to bear down on your bladder – the opposite direction you want.  Likewise lifting weights at high speeds, such as the ever-popular Kettlebells and Crossfit often does the same thing.  (We have talked to Physical Therapists who have seen a rise in incontinence in women doing Crossfit.) If you need to do those types of exercises, do a pelvic floor exercise (upward and inward) before each bearing down event (lifting weights) so that you are ready to counter the pressure.  And breathe out!

Lastly, remember feeling the difference between leaning forward and backwards above?  Just the same, in situations that cause leaking, try leaning forward (or think Lean In!).  For example, if you go jogging, lean forward ever so slightly to naturally hold your pelvic floor where it counts – around the urethra! As you become advanced Kegelers, practice holding contractions more in the front around your urethra.

Finding your tricks to consistency

Kegels have the benefit of being able to be done discreetly anytime and anywhere. However, this also means they’re easy to forget!  To see the best results, make sure you’re doing the bladder control exercises every day throughout the day. Doctors know that lack of compliance is the biggest problem.  Consistency is part of learning how to do Kegels the correct way.  Like any habit, it’s best to create mental cues to incorporate them into your daily life. You can try setting alarms or using situational triggers. Here are some ideas to get you started, but the most important part of any fitness routine is that you can commit to it:

  • Mornings: while you are shampooing your hair, waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, sitting at a red light, on the elevator, when you first sit down at the desk, when you’re reading the paper
  • On your lunch break: you can do them while your leftovers are in the microwave, during your afternoon stroll
  • Throughout the workday: in meetings, whenever someone says a certain word, every time you stop by the water cooler (just don’t show it in your face while you are talking to someone – ha ha!)
  • In the evening: on your commute home every time you stop at a red light, while you’re waiting for dinner to finish, while brushing your teeth, when you first get into bed at night
  • During your workout: use Kegels/ pelvic exercises as a form of active recovery! You can make them a part of your core routine (while in a plank position, do quick pelvic floor contractions), or do them while you’re stretching, on the treadmill, or between sets. Personally, I do them in between sets while watching home exercise videos.

Need more Bladder Control Help?

As mentioned before, the ELITONE device helps pelvic floor exercises for women, as it does the exercises for you, longer and stronger than you could on your own (100 contractions in 20 minutes). You put it on and forget about it while you go about other tasks.  It can be easier than remembering to do exercises correctly three times a day.  That’s often why “trying” becomes trying and not effective.