Kegels are great exercises for strengthening the muscles of the pelvic floor. Performing them regularly can help with treating and preventing urinary incontinence and loss of bowel control. They can also help foster a smoother labor and delivery. But the key to receiving benefits is doing them the right way. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when you're performing Kegel exercises.
Working the Wrong Muscles
This is a common mistake that both men and women alike tend to make: using the wrong muscles. When doing Kegels, you should not tense up your belly, buttocks, or thighs. The best way to find the right muscles is to get into a comfortable position—usually sitting upright or lying down—that will easily allow you to contract the muscles in the pelvic floor. The process involves a tightening and lifting of the anus, vagina, and urethra while the rest of your body stays relaxed.
If you want to be sure you're using the right muscles for this exercise, simply stop urination mid-stream (don't do this frequently. Just once or twice to find the right muscles). If it works, you've found your Kegel muscles.
Utilizing the Wrong Technique
Some people can find the right muscles, but instead of tightening and lifting, they make the mistake of pushing. This will not strengthen the pelvic floor, and it can actually cause damage from the increased pressure on your organs and muscles.
Neglecting to Fully Relax the Muscles
Tightening the right muscles is crucial for strengthening the pelvic floor. But it's also equally important to fully relax those muscles between contractions. If you don't allow the contractions to fully relax between squeezes, then you might end up overworking the muscles, which can ultimately lead to pain and discomfort in the pelvic area.
Not Mixing Things Up
The muscles that make up the pelvic floor are both fast-twitch (the ones that react when you sneeze or cough) and slow-twitch (the ones that take longer to react but provide long-term support). In order to work both of these muscle types, you want to mix up your Kegel exercise routine by doing fast clenches, where you tighten and release quickly, and slow clenches, where you tighten and hold for longer periods.
Not Increasing the Difficulty Level
As you progress through the exercises, you should be getting better at doing Kegels, and your muscles should be strengthening over time. That's why it's important to amp up the difficulty level as you improve. In the beginning, you should only do Kegels about three times a day while holding for five seconds at a time. Once you feel you've mastered that level, it's time to bump things up a notch. Try holding for ten seconds and/or doing exercises more frequently.
If you feel dizzy, fatigued, or experience pain, you're pushing your body a little too hard. You can always speak to your doctor about using a vaginal cone or a pressure sensor that measures how effective your contractions are. That way you'll know where to focus your efforts when exercising.
Not Setting a Routine
If you exercise like clockwork one day, then forget to do them the next, it will take longer to achieve the desired results. That's why it's important to set a routine that's easy to stick to. Doing Kegel exercises shouldn't take more than five minutes at a time, so you may want to do them in the morning before getting up, while you're sitting at your desk during lunch, and before falling asleep. Keep your routine consistent so that it becomes a habit and you're less likely to forget.
Don't give up on Kegels before getting the results you need. If you feel as though you're not progressing the way you initially hoped, schedule some time with your doctor to discuss proper techniques and what your individual results should look like.