For years we've heard that kegels are important for women pre and post-natal, and for better sex... but recently I've been hearing reasons that we shouldn't. What's the deal?
Yes, our pelvic floor is compromised for a myriad of reasons. Most commonly, pregnancy and childbirth; however, even chronic coughing can weaken our pelvic floor. So whether you're young, old, been pregnant, delivered vaginally or by C-section, are male or female, we are all in need of pelvic floor strengthening exercises.
For women: we are at risk as we age, and our pelvic floor muscles weaken, of a collapse.... AVALANCHE!!! Ha ha, no, but seriously (guys, cover your ear and eyes, it's a bit too graphic for your visual minds) your urethra and uterus could literally hang outside of your vagina!! If that's not reason enough to strengthen your pelvic floor, I don't know what is.... and I have heard from Emergency Room Nurse clients of mine that they have in fact seen this. Then there's the problem of peeing while you laugh or sneeze... yeah, not so fun either.
This would be the WHY WE SHOULD do our kegels.
So what's a gal to do, if kegels aren't the answer? The problem doesn't seem to be that kegels are bad for you, but that people work their kegels incorrectly. So let's understand the pelvic floor first and take it from there. The pelvic floor is a system of muscles (not just your pubococcygeus muscle, AKA: PC muscle) that support your internal organs. The PC muscle goes around the opening of the urethra, the vagina, as well as the anus, which for men, is where the prostate is located (and where ejaculate originates from). So it makes sense that we want to strengthen THAT muscle. But how many women really get consistent exercise at the gym, let alone specifically working out their kegels?
Thankfully there are several products available to help women do their kegels without having to remember to do them. Kegel balls, eggs, and exercisers are designed to provide resistance, so that whether you're thinking about it or not, you'll be working the PC muscle. If you don't know whether or not you're squeezing your PC muscle, you can locate it by stopping the stream of urine. (But don't do this as a method of exercise, just to locate the muscle!) You can also insert a finger, or have your partner insert his penis and squeeze, and you'll be able to feel the compression, indicating that you're in the right place! Many of us also solicit the help from our larger muscle groups, ie: the sphincter, taking away the focus on the actual PC muscle itself, so make sure you isolate the muscle while doing reps. You can isolate this more by tilting your pelvis forward, by sitting forward in your chair for example... are we all doing our kegels now?! But what about the other muscles?
According to the Restorative Exercise Institute, the alignment of your pelvis is what is the most important for supporting the pelvic floor.Katy Bowman, the creator of the program, is a huge advocate of squatting for optimum support of the pelvic floor. In her opinion, doing a bunch of kegels isn't what creates strength in the pelvic floor, but rather the overall support of the muscles responsible for stabilizing the pelvis. In an interview on BreakingMuscle.com she suggests a balanced, aligned pelvis from the natural musculature created in a squat, versus the single action exercise of the kegel, which can pull at the sacrum.
This is the "WHY WE SHOULD NOT DO OUR KEGELS"...
In an interview with Mama Sweat, she states, "..the life-long habit of squatting is what prevented the PF (pelvic floor) from being damaged in the first place. The balance between the perfect amount of glute contraction and the perfect amount of PF tone give you what you want. Good pelvic (and abdominal) organ support." In other words, strong muscles to stabilize and support the pelvic floor is what we're going for.
Whether to kegel or not to kegel, is up to you. I see value in each point of view, and recommend that you discuss any pelvic floor concerns or issues with your health care provide to make sure you're not making any matters worse.
The muscles of your core are also important in keeping the pelvic floor lifted. Your transversus abdominis is the deepest of your core muscles and provides support to stabilize the pelvic floor. Doing situps will not isolate the TA muscle. If you've never tried working it out solo, give this a try! Mutusystem defines how to engage your TA muscles in a way that is easy to understand and thorough!
For men: Your PC muscles can also weaken, creating urinary incontinence, not fun... Conditioning your pelvic floor has also be known to intensify orgasm and increase performance... YAY! You'll work your muscles in the same way as the ladies, but you may also notice a squeeze in the sphincter. For some detailed info on how and why you should work your kegels, check out this video from WebMD! (I've also heard that placing a washcloth, dry, or wet for more resistance, and lifting it with your erect penis, can help strengthen the muscle... If I had a penis, I'd do that just for the fun of it!)
And guys, I also found this baby online, if you'd like to add some resistance to your workout, without requiring an erection. There's a product called the Kegel Pad that might be a fun addition to doing your daily emails! This product was designed to add an extra level of intensity to your squeezing. By sitting on the pad at your perineum, you'll compress it as you squeeze your PC muscle!
Bottom line: there is no substitute for a healthy body when it comes to great sex! Make sure you've got the stamina, strength, and endurance to take on all kinds of positions and experiences. Eat well, exercise, sleep, and indulge occasionally on whatever it is that relaxes you, alleviates stress, and brings you back to your body. Be aware and present with your lover, and the rest will take care of itself.
Hear the entire show on Sex Fitness, Episode 2 on my show Play With Me on Playboy Radio.