This article was medically fact-checked by Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr. Shree Datta.
Kegels are the most important exercises a woman can do to protect her intimate health at every age. They tone and strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which are responsible for supporting your uterus, bladder, and bowel and helping you maintain control over urination and bowel movements.
They’re also crucial to a healthy pregnancy, childbirth, and post-partum recovery. That’s a huge job for one set of muscles! However, many women don’t get the full benefits of their exercises because they don’t know how to do Kegels the right way.
Research shows that 50% of women are unable to complete a correct Kegel contraction using written or verbal instructions alone. So, to help you get the most out of every Kegel, we’ve created a list of the most common Kegel mistakes and the simple solutions to help you avoid them.
1) Using the Wrong Muscles
This is an important one: correct Kegel exercises do not involve tensing the abdomen, buttocks, or thighs. Instead you should find a comfortable position that allows you to isolate and contract the pelvic floor: a motion of squeezing and lifting your anus, urethra, and vagina, the rest of your body should be relaxed.
Take time to learn how to do a correct Kegel exercise before you start training. There are many resources for how to find and use your Kegel muscles—you could even ask your gynecologist to help you at your next appointment. Don’t be embarrassed about it, Kegels are extremely important and your doctor should be happy to teach you.
2) Incorrect Form
Another common mistake is to bear down or strain the pelvic floor as if having a bowel movement. This is not only incorrect, it can also increase abdominal pressure and risks damaging your pelvic floor muscles—the opposite of what you want. Make sure you’re contracting inwards and upwards—it should feel similar to the sensation of stopping urination mid-stream or holding in gas.
3) No Variety
Your pelvic floor muscles are actually made up of 2 different types of muscle fibers: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers allow your muscles to react quickly to an increase in pressure – like when you cough or sneeze –while slow-twitch fibers are for the long-term support of your pelvic organs.
Unsurprisingly, these different types of fibers need different types of exercise. To fully strengthen your entire pelvic floor and get the most out of every workout, your routine should consist of both quick contraction/release exercises and strong contractions held for a longer count.
4) Following the Wrong Routine
In addition to exercising the two different muscle types, it’s important to follow a routine with the right number of contractions for your strength-level during each session. Ideally your routine should increase in difficulty as your strength improves—but it can be difficult to know when that happens. If you’re unsure how to do pelvic floor exercises, you can always take a look on YouTube or talk with a physiotherapist.
Doing too few contractions won’t be effective and doing too many can cause fatigue or even pain from overusing those muscles. Using an intelligent Kegel exerciser that automatically determines the routine for you can help you complete the right number and combination of contractions every session. That way you won’t have to worry about figuring out the right routine for you.
It’s also vital to pay attention to how you feel during the routine, Kegel exercise should never cause pain – if it does you should see a doctor to help you adjust your technique.
5) Not Measuring Progress
With any type of exercise it’s important to measure your results. People who are able to see their improvement—whether in the form of weight loss or increased muscle tone—are more motivated to keep exercising. This can be especially important when strengthening your pelvic floor; because you can’t exactly see your muscle tone improving as you do Kegels.
Integrating a pelvic floor exerciser into your routine and monitoring symptoms in conjunction with this is the best way to gauge your progress. This kind of Kegel device continuously checks your pelvic floor strength and gives you feedback, encouraging you to keep exercising and reach your intimate health goals.
It’s also important to note that for some women maintaining current pelvic floor muscles is the reward! Preventing things from getting worse is just as important for some women as it is for other women to strengthen weak muscles. Just like we view working out the rest of our body.
6) Forgetting to relax
Contracting your pelvic floor muscles will help you control your muscles and build strength, but the conscious relaxation of those muscles is just as important. Not releasing your contractions fully can overwork and over-tighten those muscles, possibly leading to pelvic pain and discomfort.
Your ability to relax those muscles is especially helpful during childbirth, it can make it easier for the baby to move through the birth canal and lessen the chance of vaginal tearing. Make sure you’re fully releasing after every squeeze for the most effective session possible.
7) Not Being Consistent
All exercise requires consistency to see improvement, and strengthening your pelvic floor is no exception. Setting aside a regular time for your exercises can make it much more likely you’ll keep up with the routine and do each contraction correctly. Take 5 minutes for yourself each day and complete your routine.
As soon as you wake up in the morning is an ideal time, since your pelvic floor muscles are well rested. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to stick to your routine if you just schedule in a little “me time” for your Kegels. It’s easy to Kegel exercises when you have a handful of spare minutes.
8) Giving Up Before Seeing Results
Many women start doing Kegel exercises expecting immediate results, however—as with all exercise—it takes around 12 weeks to notice a real change. Once you do start seeing the difference though, it’s life-changing—so don’t give up!
Whether you’ve been doing Kegels for years or are just getting started, it’s always good to make sure you’re doing them correctly. If you have been making any of these mistakes, don’t worry, you’re definitely not alone. Take your time and make sure you’re getting the most out of every single squeeze.
Want more out of your Kegel routine?
Check out the video below for more info on how a smart Kegel exerciser will help you conquer your Kegels!
Facts checked by:
Dr. Shree Datta
Dr. Shree Datta is a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in London, specialising in women’s health including all menstrual problems such as fibroids and endometriosis. Dr. Shree is a keen advocate for patient choice, having written numerous articles and books to promote patient and clinician information. Her vision resonates with INTIMINA, with the common goals of demystifying periods and delivering the best possible care to her patients
Lane Baumeister is an internationally-based Canadian writer with several years’ experience creating educational and entertaining articles that discuss intimate health and sexual well-being. When not waxing profound about menstruation, she devotes herself to enjoying extremely good food and equally bad movies.