What is Pelvic Floor Exercise?
Pelvic Floor Exercise, sometimes known as Kegel Exercise, is the practice of strengthening the muscles of your pelvic floor. These muscles sit between your legs at the base of your pelvis. They are responsible for supporting all the very important organs that rest there including the vagina, uterus. bladder and intestines. These muscles have a critical role to play in sexual function and orgasm. During vaginal orgasm they contract rhythmically and for people with penises they are essential in controlling blood supply in maintaining an erection and the release of semen. They are also critical in controlling continence, the ability to control when we go to the bathroom.
Why is Pelvic Floor Exercise Important
As we have just learned, the muscles of your pelvic floor are involved in some pretty crucial functions. Building their strength and flexibility is a great way to maintain wellbeing as well as prevent, or recover from pelvic floor issues.
- Orgasm – Some research suggests that women with stronger pelvic floor muscles enjoy more satisfying orgasms and arousal levels. This could be due to having an increased sensation of ‘grip’ during penetration or stronger contractions during orgasms. It may also be that feeling confident and in control of your genitals leads to more confidence and satisfaction during sex. The answers may not be clear, but it is worth trying!
- Incontinence – As we age, particularly if you have ever given birth or had prostate surgery, it is very common for the pelvic floor muscles involved in controlling when we pee to get weaker, resulting in accidents. Pelvic floor exercise can help prevent and even reverse this issue.
- Pregnancy and Birth – The process of giving birth puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor. Regular kegel exercise throughout pregnancy and post-birth can help during the process of birth, prevent urinary incontinence and improve recovery times.
- Erectile Dysfunction – The pelvic floor muscles are a crucial part of maintaining an erection and ejactulation. Improving their strength can help some people with erectile or sexual dysfunction.
- Vaginismus and Painful Sex – It is not just too weak pelvic floor muslces that can casue problems. Sometimes they can be too tight. This can cause issues like Vaginismus or pain during penetrative sex as your muscle clamp up. Learning how to control and relax your pelvic floor is a hugely important part of kegel exercise
Tight isn’t Best
It is really easy to confuse the idea that strong and healthy pelvic floor muscles means tight or tense muscles or even worse that it can help you achieve a ‘tight vagina’. Firstly, the idea that things like having lots of sex or giving birth vaginally will somehow make your vagina loose or saggy is a myth. The vagina is an elastic muscle that is designed to stretch and change. While aging, injuries, surgery or birth may change things, good pelvic floor health will help you recover.
Secondly, overly tight or tense pelvic floor muscles can be just as problematic as ones that are too weak. It can cause pelvic pain, difficulties with urination and painful sex. A good pelvic floor exercise regime should focus on both strengthening and relaxing these muscles.
How to do Pelvic Floor Exercises – The Basics
Regular pelvic floor exercise is pretty easy to work into your everyday routine. It only takes a few minutes and you can do it while watching the telly, on the way to work or while brushing your teeth!
Isolate the Muscles
To find your pelvic floor muscles sit or stand with your knees a slightly apart. Squeeze or tense the base of your pelvic floor as if you were trying to stop yourself from peeing and farting at the same time. If it helps, try to focus on the sensation of drawing up and into your body. Try to avoid tensing the glutes (bum), thighs or stomach.
- Get into a comfy seated or standing position and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as you draw in a long breath.
- Hold the squeeze for between 5 and 10 seconds
- Slowly and deliberately release the hold, relaxing the muscles completely.
- Repeat as up to 10 times
- Once you can perform this hold and release comfortable try rapidly pulsing the muscles without the hold for 5 to 10 seconds and then rest for 20 seconds before repeating
Practise Makes Perfect
You can repeat your kegel exercise regime up to three times a day. It is however super easy to forget. A great way to get into the habit of exercising regularly is to add it to something you already do routinely. Work that pelvic floor while you brush your teeth, or wait for the kettle to boil or in the ad break of your favourite tv programme.
What about Kegel Balls?
A Kegel Ball is a tool that you can use to help you to make building a strong and healthy pelvic floor easier. Sometimes called Ben Wa Balls, Jiggle Balls, Love Ball or Yoni Eggs, they are usually a weighted ball or set of balls which can be inserted into the vagina as part of your exercise regime. Most are attached to a retrieval string to make them easy to remove and they can be made of all sorts of materials including silicone, plastic, metal or even stone. Some people also find the sensation of wearing them to be rather thrilling.
There are several types of Kegel Balls that you can choose from:
- Weighted Balls – Like a heavy dumbbell helps you to build strength, weighted balls are designed to to add resistance to your kegel workout. They often come in sets with interchangeable weights so you can build up over time.
- Double Balls – This type of Kegel Exerciser has a second, free rolling ball inside the first. They are designed to be worn while you move about and get on with your day. The idea is that every time you move the free rolling ball jiggles around causing your muscles to spontaneously contract and release. This means you can get your pelvic floor workout in without having to think about it.
- Yoni Eggs – Often carved from stone like rose quartz or even jade these egg shaped kegel exercisers often do no have a retrieval string. They also often come with lots of additional promises of healing properties. We suggest doing your research before spending a lot on a Yoni Egg and also ensure you are confident with both inserting and removing it from your vagina.
Some of Our Favourite Kegel Balls
- Satisfyer V-Balls – A simple and affordable set of three increasingly heavy peanut shaped balls. Their tapered tips make insertion easy, particularly for beginners.
- Jopen Key Stella II – The Stella II comes with three interchangeable weights you can swap in and out of the silicone sheath to find the perfect weight for your stage of training.
- Je Joue Ami Set – This set includes three different shapes and weights of kegel ball designed to enhance and perfect your pelvic floor health.
How to use Kegel Balls
It is super simple to add Kegel Balls to improve your pelvic floor exercise regime.
- Before you get started, make sure to wash your hands and your Kegel Balls with warm water and soap to ensure they are nice and clean.
- Use your favourite lube to help make inserting the balls smooth and simple. Relax and slip them inside your vagina, pushing them in until they reach a comfortable point.
- Carry out your exercise regime
- If you are using a simple weighted ball you can choose to do the clench and release routine above. You may need to start with fewer reps or holding for shorter amounts of time as you adjust to the increased workload
- If you are using a Double Ball style exercise you can just get on with your day. Wear your balls for at least 15 minutes but no more than 6 hours.
- Remove the balls, wash with soap and water and ensure they are dry before storing.
This guide is a designed as a basic introduction to Pelvic Floor Exercise. If you are struggling with your pelvic floor health, for example dealing with pain during sex, incontinence or difficultly ‘getting back to normal’ after giving birth we really recommend talking to a pelvic floor specialist physiotherapist. Your GP will be able to help direct you to where you can find specialist support.