Advanced Kegel Tips
To maximize your Kegel sessions, let’s dive a little deeper into the pelvic floor structure. Pelvic floor muscles consist of many crisscross layers that run in different directions. These muscle layers have holes in them. Yes, holes! The first hole wraps around the urethra (the bladder’s outlet) to allow urine flow. The second hole creates space for the vagina in women, and the third is around the anus. Most exercises just lift these areas. But there are ways to make your exercises more specific to the urethra, helping with bladder leakage.
Exercise various muscle fibers
There are different types of muscle fibers: fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles. Slow-twitch muscles help strengthen the whole pelvic floor, which includes toning the muscles that close your urethra. But when you sneeze, you need a fast reaction time, which is where fast-twitch muscles come in. By improving these fast-twitch muscles, they’ll be ready for sudden contractions, like sneezing or laughing.
To make the most of your Kegel sessions, add quick, short squeezes or pulses around the urethra. Combine these pulses with the longer Kegels by alternating the long and short holds, or add the pulses at the end of your regular Kegel set. Here’s an example of an advanced Kegel routine:
Try different positions
After you get the hang of how to do a Kegel exercise, try to fine-tune your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles stretch from your pubic bone all the way to your tailbone, so it’s possible to contract one portion more than others. Stand up and lean slightly backward, then do a Kegel contraction. This exercise position focuses more on the muscles surrounding the anus. In contrast, lean forward as far as you can, then do another Kegel. The leaning forward position focuses more on strengthening the area around your urethra, ultimately helping stop bladder leakage.
Focus on your breath
When you exercise, remember to breathe! Holding your breath can impact incontinence. For example, if you hold your breath while doing an abdominal crunch, the motion causes pressure on your bladder. Lifting weights at high speeds, such as with kettlebells or during CrossFit, often does the same thing. (See what physical therapists say about a rise in incontinence in women doing CrossFit.) Before these types of exercises, do a Kegel before each bearing down event so you can offset the pressure. And breathe out!
Another tip is to lean forward slightly when exercising (see Try different positions above). For example, if you go jogging, lean forward (think Lean In!) slightly to naturally contract your pelvic floor around the urethra.
Tips for consistency
Kegels can be done discreetly anytime and anywhere, but they’re easy to forget! After you learn how to do a Kegel exercise, consistency is key to seeing the best results. Here are some ideas to incorporate Kegels into your daily routine so they become a habit:
- Mornings. While shampooing your hair; waiting for the coffee to brew; sitting at a red light; on the elevator; when you first sit down at your desk; while reading the news.
- Midday. While preparing lunch; during your afternoon stroll.
- Workplace. In meetings; whenever someone says a certain word; every time you fill up your water bottle or coffee cup.
- Evening. On your commute home every time you stop at a red light; while preparing dinner; brushing your teeth; when you first get into bed.
- Workout. While stretching; during a plank position; running or walking on the treadmill; between sets of reps; during cool down.
- Track your progress. Keep track of your pelvic floor exercises by writing them down or using an app. Many period- and reproductive-tracking apps give the option of tracking Kegels, but you can also track them with the rest of your fitness activities. Set goals (e.g., stopping leaks, reducing urgency) and note your progress and success.