No gym required!
By Sean Jameson — Updated on Feb 17, 2023
Photo: ShotPrime Studio | Shutterstock
Most women have most likely heard of Kegel exercises, though the context in which you’ve heard of them may take quite a number of forms.
They are, for instance, highly useful for bladder control, and as such are often recommended in the older set. Don’t think that means they aren’t useful for younger women too, though. They are.
Kegel exercises can help you have stronger orgasms, as well as help you recover from or prepare for childbirth. It can also help you make sex better for your man. So on the sex front, having strong Kegels is a win-win situation.
Before we get to its main benefits, though, and how you can use your newer, stronger pelvic muscles to the best effect, let’s discuss what Kegel exercises do, how you can use them to strengthen your vagina, and which particular exercises work best to achieve results.
Here’s how pelvic floor muscles work
Your pelvic muscles sit right at the bottom of your chest cavity. They lie beneath all of your internal organs and are even beneath a baby as it grows inside a woman’s uterus. Your pelvic muscles are levator muscles, which means that when they contract they “raise” something. In this case, what they raise is your pelvic floor.
The easiest way to “feel” these muscles is to squeeze as though you are trying to hold in a pee. The muscles that tighten around your urethra to keep urine from leaking out (and the same muscles you would tighten to keep from defecating when you didn’t want to) are your pelvic muscles.
If these are weak from childbirth or lack of exercise, all sorts of unpleasant things can begin to happen, the most obvious of which is you could leak either urine or feces. That’s no good, so it’s always nice to get the jump on incontinence — not being able to hold it — by strengthening these muscles.
How Kegel muscles affect your love life
But even if you’re young and healthy, a stronger pelvic floor is desirable for several reasons:
It will help you deliver babies more effectively when/if the time comesIt can help you recover from childbirth fasterIt can increase the strength of your enjoyment during sexIt can help you make sex better for him
The latter benefit can occur in two different ways. On the one hand, stronger pelvic floor muscles make you feel “tighter,” combating the loosening effect that childbirth can have, or just improving what you already began with, if that kind of thing is important to you.
Some men say they have achieved orgasm through no movement on their part at all, simply by letting a woman manipulate their pelvic muscles, squeezing them tight, and then releasing them in a repetitive fashion.
Now doesn’t that sound kind of fun? That’s what we thought, and that’s why Kegel exercises can be so helpful.
How to strengthen your pelvic muscles with the Kegel exercise:
There are a number of different Kegel exercises you can do to help you get stronger pelvic muscles, but before you can start them, you need to know which muscles those are.
As we discussed above, pelvic muscles are the ones you tighten when you’re trying not to go to the bathroom. If this isn’t enough information to identify them, try this: go to the bathroom, then attempt to stop your urine midstream. If you successfully stop your urine stream by squeezing, you have identified your pelvic muscles.
Now you can begin doing Kegel exercises.
These are, luckily, very simple forms of exercise. Simply squeeze the pelvic muscles tight for five seconds, recommends the Mayo Clinic, then release the contraction for five seconds. If you practice quite a bit, you can eventually get the contractions up to 10 seconds long, with 10-second breaks between contractions.
Kegel exercises are most effective, though, if you focus only on your pelvic floor while you do these steps. Working your pelvic floor at the exclusion of other nearby muscles can be difficult, which is where practice comes in.
Focus on tightening your pelvic floor, then intentionally releasing one by one any other muscles that you might have unintentionally engaged: your abs, your buttocks, or your thighs, for instance. Practice this over and over again, contracting your pelvic floor while keeping everything else loose, until you can squeeze pelvic muscles on command without tightening anything else.
A few caveats
Keep in mind that Kegel exercises are only good for you if you do them right. For one thing, it’s not necessary to do them all day every day: three sets of five to 10 reps per day is plenty.
You should also avoid holding your breath, which many people tend to do unconsciously while doing exercise of any sort. But holding your breath makes the exercises less effective, and isn’t good for you, besides.
And while stopping your urine stream is a good way to identify your pelvic muscles, it is not a good substitute for Kegel exercises. If you do this repeatedly, your body may learn to empty your bladder incompletely, which can cause a urinary tract infection or make you uncomfortable.
Also, while doctors sometimes advise women to use Kegel machines or to insert things like Ben Wa balls into their vaginas that they are supposed to hold in place by squeezing, you don’t need to do this if you aren’t having trouble with your Kegel exercises. It’s wonderful that women have access to such things if they need them, but they aren’t prerequisites to successful Kegel exercise.
One last piece of advice: like any exercise, Kegels convey their benefits rather slowly. You may have to wait a few weeks or even a few months to see the results you’re looking for, which is fine. Just keep going and you’ll get there.
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Sean Jameson is a sex coach and creator of the Bad Girl’s Bible, a resource for women who are looking to improve their intimate lives and have more fun with their partners.