Everything You Need To Know About Strengthening Kegels, According To An Expert

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After reading The Kegel Fix by renowned urologist Dr. Andrew Siegel, I reached out to interview the author and expert on all things related to Kegels and pelvic control muscles.

Dr. Siegel teaches people with this pelvic-focused look how to address both sexual health and pleasure.

So, what are kegels?

Kegel exercises are those that strengthen your "pelvic floor," which are the muscles in your pelvic region responsible for everything from urinary continence to childbirth.

Women with weak pelvic-floor control can suffer from issues like urine leakage and even uterine prolapse, in worse situations. Though you may be unfamiliar with Kegel exercises, you can begin doing them at any time.

Kegel exercises are an easy way to improve your pelvic floor and overall health.

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Here are 10 questions I asked Dr. Andrew Siegel, and what he has to say about the importance of Kegels.

1. What inspired you to write about Kegels?

I wrote The Kegel Fix because of discontent with the existing means of educating women with respect to pelvic floor exercises.

Often unable to identify their pelvic muscles or properly perform the exercises, outcomes are less than favorable, and the frustration level and high abandonment rate is hardly surprising.

Because pelvic exercises remain an under-exploited resource that can be of great benefit to many women, I was inspired to write a book on the topic.

My goal is to educate women about the consequences of weakened pelvic muscles, urinary and bowel control problems, dropped pelvic organs, and sexual dysfunction issues.

I aim to demystify the pelvic muscles and make pelvic floor muscle exercises less intimidating and more accessible.

2. Why is it important for women and men to exercise their pelvic muscles?

These muscles provide support for the pelvic organs, contribute to the control mechanism of the urinary and intestinal systems, and play a vital role in sexual function.

Pelvic exercises can be effective in stabilizing, relieving, improving, and even preventing issues with pelvic support, sexual function, and urinary and bowel control.

Pelvic training can benefit females with weakened pelvic support, vaginal laxity, altered sexual and orgasmic function, stress urinary incontinence, overactive bladders, pelvic pain, and bowel urgency and incontinence.

Additionally, pelvic training improves core strength, lumbar stability, and spinal alignment, aids in preventing back pain, and helps prepare one for pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Pelvic muscle training in males is no less important than in females.

It's beneficial for urinary incontinence following prostate surgery, overactive bladder, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and pelvic pain due to pelvic muscle spasm. For more information on this topic, refer to Male Pelvic Fitness.

The bottom line is that achieving a fit pelvic floor by strengthening and toning the pelvic muscles is a first-line approach that can improve a variety of pelvic maladies in a way that is natural, accessible, and free from harmful side effects.

3. How can you incorporate some beginner exercises into your daily routine?

Beginner exercises involve pelvic floor contractions without using resistance. Initially, it's important to isolate the pelvic muscles and exercise them while not actively contracting any other muscle groups.

Once pelvic proficiency is achieved, pelvic exercises can then be integrated into other exercise routines, workouts, and daily activities.

In real life, muscles don't work in isolation, but rather as part of a team. The pelvic muscles are no exception, often contracting in conjunction with the other core muscles in a mutually supportive way.

Many Pilates and yoga exercises involve consciously contracting the pelvic muscles together with other core muscles during exercise routines.

When walking, standing up, climbing steps, doing squats and lunges, jumping, jogging, dancing, and cycling, the pelvic muscles can be gently contracted to engage them in the supportive role for which they were designed.

4. At what age should men and women start exercising their pelvic floor muscles?

As in any exercise regimen, the best option is to be proactive and not reactive. It's sensible to optimize muscle mass, strength, and endurance to prevent problems from surfacing before they have an opportunity to do so.

Pelvic muscle training undertaken before getting pregnant will aid in preventing pelvic issues that may arise as a consequence of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

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Strengthening one’s pelvic muscles at a young age can help avoid pelvic, urinary, and bowel conditions that may arise with time.

Strengthen and tone now, and your body will thank you later, so my recommendation for both women and men is to start early before issues have a chance to develop.

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5. What's the difference between conscious relaxation exercises and strengthening exercises?

A full range of motion pelvic contraction takes the pelvic muscles from maximal relaxation to maximal contraction. The relaxation element is as critical as the contraction element.

As vital as “tone and tighten” are, “stretch and lengthen” are of equal importance. The goal is for pelvic muscles that are strong, toned, supple, and flexible.

Conscious relaxation is a vital part of the management of pelvic floor tension myalgia, a condition in which the pelvic muscles exist in a state of excessive contraction that causes pelvic pain and other urinary, bowel, and sexual issues.

So, conscious relaxation — a.k.a., reverse Kegels — aims to relax and lengthen the pelvic muscles as opposed to strengthening exercises, done in an effort to increase the strength, power, and endurance of the pelvic muscles.

6. What are some of the health issues that result from weak pelvic floor muscles?

In females, pelvic relaxation (dropped bladder, uterus, rectum, etc.) and vaginal laxity (looseness); sexual and orgasmic issues; stress urinary incontinence (leakage with coughing, sneezing, exercise, etc.); overactive bladder and bowel; poor core strength, posture, lumbar stability, and alignment.

In males, urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, post-void dribbling, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and other forms of ejaculatory dysfunction.

7. How would you recommend women incorporate ben wa balls into their pelvic floor exercise routine?

There are numerous variations of vaginal weighted balls, available in a myriad of different sizes and weights. They're placed in the vagina and require pelvic engagement in order that they remain in position.

They also provide resistance to contract down upon, very different than contracting the pelvic muscles against air. Some are attached to a string, allowing one to tug on the balls to add even more resistance.

Another variety has an elastic covering that can be squeezed down upon and compressed with pelvic muscle contractions, a form of resistance workout that accelerates pelvic conditioning.

My recommendation is to pursue the specific pelvic training program designed and tailored to the specific pelvic dysfunction while using ben wa balls or alternative vaginal devices to add resistance to the workouts.

8. Can couples exercise their pelvic muscles together to enhance sexual satisfaction?

One option is for couples to do the Kegel exercises individually but together, like people in a fitness class at the gym. Alternatively, pelvic exercises can be integrated into the act of (heterosexual) intercourse.

When the female actively contracts her pelvic muscles, the vaginal grip around the penis will tighten, in addition to more blood being forced into the clitoris, increasing clitoral engorgement and erection.

When the male actively contracts his pelvic muscles, penile blood flow will be augmented, increasing penile length, girth, and rigidity.

At the time of sexual climax, both male and female can focus on the involuntary rhythmic contractions of their pelvic muscles and try to heighten the experience by explosively voluntarily contracting them in synchrony with the involuntary contractions.

9. Is there anything else that people can learn about Kegels that's life and health changing?

Because many of those who are taught pelvic exercises do not really understand how to put their pelvic know-how and conditioning to real-life use, my ultimate goal is to teach functional pelvic fitness — practical and actionable means of applying pelvic exercise proficiency to daily tasks and common everyday activities to improve quality of life.

I call this, “Kegels-on-demand.”

10. Can you incorporate pelvic floor exercises with masturbation?

During masturbation, with every stroke applied to the penis or clitoris, there's a reflex contraction of the pelvic muscles.

With each contraction of the pelvic muscles, the internal parts of the penis and clitoris are compressed, pushing blood back into the external parts, increasing penile and clitoral blood pressure, engorgement and rigidity.

This happens reflexively and without effort.

It can be enhanced by consciously contracting the pelvic floor muscles. Not only during the act of masturbation, but also at the time of climax, when the pelvic muscles contract involuntarily in a rhythmic fashion and provide the muscle power behind the physical aspect of an orgasm.

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Dr. Ava Cadell is an author, clinical sexologist, sex counselor, founder of Loveology University, and president of the American College of Sexologists International. Her mission is to empower people to overcome sexual guilt and shame so they can enjoy the benefits of healthy, sexual relationships.

This article was originally published at Sexpert. Reprinted with permission from the author.