Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

The Correct Way to Do Kegel Exercises

woman doing yoga on beach
By Michael Bates, M.D.

Kegel exercises have many benefits...but only if done correctly. More than half of women don’t.

You may have heard about the benefits of Kegel exercises for:

  • curing or improving stress incontinence
  • preventing bladder leakage
  • strengthening the pelvic floor
  • keeping the pelvic organs in place
  • stronger orgasms
  • tightening and toning the vagina
  • improvement of intimacy for both partners
  • faster recovery from childbirth

Those all sound good...the only problem is that according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), over half of women do Kegel exercises incorrectly.

Let’s talk a little about what Kegel exercises are, how they work, how they benefit you, and why it’s so important to do them correctly.

Understanding the pelvic floor

To understand Kegel exercises you first have to understand the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a trampoline shaped sling of muscles and tendons that support the pelvic organs: ie the bladder, uterus, and rectum. These muscles are attached to the pelvic bone in the front, at the back, and along the sides—like a trampoline. The urethra, vagina and rectum pass through this trampoline sling.

Childbirth, chronic cough, straining with chronic constipation, and obesity can all damage the pelvic floor. There is also the natural weakening of the muscular floor with aging and the effects of gravity.

What happens when the pelvic floor is damaged or weakened?

  • The attachments around the trampoline ring can be weakened or torn.
  • The openings for the passage of the urethra, vagina and rectum can relax and increase in diameter.

Either can result in stress incontinence: involuntary loss of urine with coughing, sneezing or laughing.

The bladder, uterus and/or the rectum can begin to fall into the vagina. This is called pelvic relaxation. In extreme cases, these organs can fall out of the vagina altogether through the vaginal opening. This is referred to as prolapse.

Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor

Kegel exercises are designed to strengthen the pelvic floor and prevent or treat the problems above. They were developed by a pioneering gynecologist, Dr. Kegel, in the 1940s. He researched and reported the rehabilitative effects of pelvic floor exercise.

Since then, Kegel exercises have been the bedrock of postpartum vaginal rehabilitation and stress incontinence treatment. I counseled innumerable patients on how to identify the muscles, how to contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles, and that persistence was necessary to get positive results.

Why does the NIH report that over half of women do Kegel exercises incorrectly?

There are four main reasons why:

1. It’s not so easy to identify the muscles! The common advice is to stop urination in midstream—the muscles used to do that are the muscles you want to exercise. That sensation doesn’t always carry over when it’s time to do the exercises.

2. If you can identify the muscles, it’s not easy to know if you’re exercising them correctly. Without active resistance—something to squeeze against—there’s no feedback and the exercises aren’t as effective.

3. It’s difficult to isolate the muscles. Many women over-use their abdomen, buttock or leg muscles when doing Kegels. As a result, the pelvic floor muscles don’t get the targeted strengthening they need.

4. They aren’t seen as part of a regular exercise routine. As with any kind of exercise, Kegels must be done consistently over the long term to see results. Pelvic floor strengthening takes commitment and dedication, just like any exercise program.

There is a more effective way to do Kegel exercises

There is a revolutionary product, the Apex® by InControl Medical, that I believe makes all of the above easier, provides immediate feedback, and makes a good result much more likely to achieve and maintain.

The Apex is a non-prescription medical device that is FDA cleared for treating stress incontinence (bladder leakage). InControl Medical also makes a product called the Intensity, which is a sexually enhanced version of the Apex. The Intensity is not a medical device and so InControl Medical can’t make any medical claims about it, but it is an Apex device with the addition of external clitoral and internal vibrators.

Apex Pelvic Exerciser

Both devices use gentle muscle stimulation to automatically contract the correct muscles of the pelvic floor to build strength faster and more efficiently. It also provides you with a “mind muscle connection” so you know how a proper Kegel exercise should feel when the muscles are contracted in isolation, without “help” from the abdominal, buttock and leg muscles. A customizable, inflatable probe provides the active resistance necessary for building strength. An included exercise routine and record keeping chart help to moniter your progress.

We are proud to now offer the Apex and Intensity in the X’s and O’s Store. Both provide active resistance and help you perform your Kegel exercises correctly, so you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles more effectively.

What is the take home message?

  • Kegel exercises offer numerous benefits, including reliable vaginal rehabilitation following childbirth, bladder control, keeping your pelvic organs in place, and last (but certainly not least), improved intimacy, sensation and orgasm.

  • According to the NIH, over half of women perform Kegel exercises incorrectly. This is due to not identifying and isolating the muscles correctly, and lack of active resistance.

  • The Apex and Intensity by InControl Medical correct these problems to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles effectively and more quickly.

  • You can get both products in the X’s and O’s Store and have them shipped right to you.

As per our Terms of Use, this article is for general educational and informational purposes only and is not meant to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult with your own physician or health care practitioner regarding the use of any information received here before using or relying on it. Your physician or health care practitioner should address any and all medical questions, concerns, and decisions regarding the possible treatment of any medical condition.