Heyl Family PracticeMany people may not realize the importance of their pelvic floor muscles until they experience issues such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. These muscles play a vital role in bladder and bowel control, as well as in supporting the pelvic organs.

Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic floor exercises, are a series of movements that target and engage the muscles of the pelvic floor. Lately, there has been discussion on instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook on kegels and pelvic floor exercises. Many Pelvic Floor therapists, OBGYN’s, and midwives recommend kegel exercises. And conversely, many pelvic floor PT’s talk about how kegel exercises should not be performed. What the heck are you supposed to do? This blog should give you more insight into whether you should be doing kegel exercises and if so, how many and how to perform them.

Pelvic floor exercises or kegels were routinely recommended for years by many health professionals. Many women say they do kegel exercises at a stop light, or their OBGYN recommended 100 kegel exercises per day, but they still have problems with incontinence, prolapse, or back pain, pelvic pain, or hip pain. The problem with a blanket recommendation of “do your kegels” is that kegel exercises or pelvic floor strengthening are only a small part of the solution for pelvic floor problems.

All about the kegel muscles: the pelvic floor

The pelvic floor is dynamic so just doing kegels is not enough. The pelvic floor needs to be able to lengthen (sometimes called a reverse kegel), tighten quickly to respond to a change in pressure (for example jumping or sneezing), have endurance, and strength. Plus, it works as a pump to move lymph fluid out of the pelvic area. So, just telling people to “do your kegel exercises” overlooks the complexity of the pelvic floor.

Often, people are not doing kegel exercises properly. Studies show that most women do not kegel properly, but when they are instructed by a pelvic floor PT in pelvic floor therapy, they can improve. The problem is, most of us have poor awareness of our pelvic floor and there are many muscles in the pelvic floor. Each of these have different functions, so it’s not just like doing a biceps curl to strengthen your biceps. Kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises are much more complex than that.

Also, just doing kegel exercises neglects many other areas of the body that can contribute to or cause pelvic floor problems. Often, the pelvic floor is the scapegoat and the real problem lies in weak or uncoordinated shoulders, glute muscles, ankles, or poor balance. Also, posture, mental health, daily habits, diet, digestion, and hormones play a role in the health of your pelvic floor. So, “just doing kegels” may not fix the problem and can lead women to think they cannot be helped or that surgery is the only option.

To Kegel or not to kegel

So, now that you know the role that kegels or pelvic floor exercises play in pelvic floor health including urinary incontinence, prolapse, and hip, back, or pelvic pain, should you do kegel exercises?

At Resilient Motherhood, kegels comprise only 9% of the exercises and recommendations we give clients. The other 91% is strength, length, or coordination of the shoulders, hips, back, or ankles, addressing stress or mental health challenges, making dietary recommendations, changing daily habits, posture, or hands on work for hormones.

If you are struggling with any pelvic floor problem, I would recommend NOT to make kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises your first step. Instead, I would work on diaphragmatic breathing, glute strength, and body awareness.

Try Diaphragmatic breathing instead of kegel exercises

Breathing well requires all of our core muscles to lengthen and then to contract. With our busy lives and high levels of mental health problems, many do not breathe well. When you inhale, your ribs should expand in 360 degrees, belly rises slightly, and pelvic floor relaxes.

Breathing well requires all of our core muscles to lengthen and then to contract. With our busy lives and high levels of mental health problems, many do not breathe well. When you inhale, your ribs should expand in 360 degrees, belly rises slightly, and pelvic floor relaxes.

You can download our Relax Your Pelvic Floor Guide for more information on how to do proper diaphragmatic breathing. 

Try glute strengthening instead of kegel exercises

Exercises like deep squats, step ups, and bridges can be a great substitute for kegel exercises. They will strengthen the glutes and pelvic floor. Make sure you start with a relaxed pelvic floor (reverse kegel). The pelvic floor should naturally kegel or tighten on its own in the movement. If you have trouble feeling the pelvic floor work or kegel, this is a great sign to go to pelvic floor therapy.

Try to improve body awareness instead of kegels

Often, we are keeping muscles tight or tense when we move, work, or take care of our kids. Try checking in with your ankles, knees, hips, belly, shoulders, back, and neck throughout the day. Make sure you are breathing as you move and exercise. Often, we hold our breath and don’t even know it! Moving slower and more deliberately can help your pelvic floor without needing to do 100 kegel exercises per day!

If you’re still having problems with urinary incontinence, prolapse, and hip, back, or pelvic pain after trying these tips, don’t just do 100 kegels per day! Making an appointment for pelvic floor therapy can give you clarity on what you need to focus on for your body, lifestyle, and problem. This is the best solution for any pelvic floor problem.

Our pelvic floor therapists at Resilient Motherhood take an integrative approach that incorporates mental health challenges that get people results when no one else can. If you want expert guidance in whether you should do kegels or avoid specific pelvic floor exercises, book a free consult with us virtually, in Wexford, PA, or Greensburg, PA. 

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