The Basics (and a history lesson too!)
In the 1940s, an American gynecologist by the name of Arnold Kegel invented a medical instrument known as a “perineometer”, a device for measuring the strength of voluntary vaginal contractions. These contractions, repeatedly squeezing the pelvic floor muscles, are what we now call “Kegels”-aptly dubbed after the man whose experiments and inventions brought them to the forefront of modern gynecological medicine. Over the course of his studies, Kegel determined that a consistent practice of exercising the pelvic floor muscles can alleviate and prevent urinary incontinence, some symptoms of pelvic prolapse, and weakness due to to childbirth or obesity. In 1952, Kegel published a career defining study in which he claimed that women who were doing his pelvic exercises were experiencing orgasms easier and more often.
Since then, thousands of medical journals, womens’ magazine articles, radio and talk show hosts, web bloggers like yours truly, and even novelists, therapists, and personal trainers have referenced and touted the benefits of doing Kegel exercises-- for both women AND men!
So let’s get down to the brass tax of it…
- What is a Kegel?
- Where is my “pelvic floor”?
- Why should I exercise it?
- How should I do Kegels and how often, like everyday?
- Did she say Men could do them?
- How come every time I got to a sex toy store they always try to sell me those big plastic balls?
Well, you’re in luck! In this short series, I’m going to break down the wonderful world of Kegels or, as I like to call them, vagina crunches.
What is a Kegel and how do I know if I’m doing it right?
It’s fairly simple, actually. As I said earlier (and in a previous post), the word “kegel” refers to an exercise done by contracting- think squeezing/flexing- the muscles that make up your pelvic floor. Just like any other exercise on any other part of your body, doing kegels on a routine basis will “tone and tighten” your vaginal muscles in very much the same way, improving their strength and flexibility as well as heightening sensitivity and responsiveness.
If you’ve never tried to do a kegel before, the easiest way to find your pelvic floor is to simply flex the muscles of your vagina as if you were trying to stop the flow of pee.
Feel that? That’s your pelvic floor.
These are the muscles and connective tissues that stretch from the front of your urethra (a.k.a. that part where you pee from…) to your sphincter & tailbone. They act as a sort of hammock (and kind of look like one as well) to cradle and support your bladder, vagina & uterus, and lower bowel/rectum. Keeping these muscles “in shape” with daily exercise can have a significant positive impact on a variety of health concerns like incontinence and sexual sensation and performance, as well as providing relief from other more serious medical conditions or post-operative/post-trauma/post-labor weakness or complications.
Try this easy kegel exercise to strengthen & tighten your lazy love box in just a few minutes!
- Start by sitting upright or by lying down on your back (preferably on a flat surface such as a yoga mat on the floor), with your feet flat on the floor and your hips shoulder-width apart.
Find and flex your pelvic floor, focusing on the sensation you feel inside your vagina. Make sure you are only flexing this muscle, and not your glutes, a.k.a. butt cheeks, or abdominals.
Tip! Try inserting your finger and squeezing to test the strength of your kegel. This is a great way to both focus the muscles if you’re having trouble finding them and also gage your progress as you develop and practice your regimen.
Warm up! For thirty seconds to one minute, flex and relax in quick succession. Try counting each contraction in your head- 30-60 seconds should equal about 30-60 flexes.
This move will signal your body to send oxygen-rich blood flow to the area, so it’s perfectly normal if you feel a warm, tingling sensation- just like when you do pushups and your biceps start to feel “toned up”, this means you’re doing them right!
- Inhaling through your nose, take a deep breath and your lungs with as much air as you can. Exhale slowly, through your mouth. Do this three or four times to find your rhythm. (If you’ve taken a yoga class before, this is referred to as “ujjayi” breath.)
Keeping up with your breath, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as tightly as you can and hold through one inhale & exhale. Do this 10 times.
Over time, increase your holding time from one full inhale/exhale to two, then three, and so on. After each set of 10 long squeezes, switch back to 30-60 seconds of quick flexes.
That’s it! Do this fast, easy routine for just a few minutes each day to enjoy amazing results!
Did you know? Men can do Kegels too!
Apart from their appearance, men and women’s bodies aren’t that different. Just like you, your guy has a pelvic floor- the muscles stretch from the urethra to the rectum like a hammock to support the bladder & bowel and reproductive organs. And, just like you, he can use kegel exercises to strengthen these muscles in order to help prevent incontinence, improve sexual performance, and even experience stronger erections and orgasms.
A guy can find his pelvic floor muscles very easily by flexing as if to stop the flow of urine midstream. Once he’s located the muscles, it’s as simple as flexing and holding the contractions. He should start with a series of 20 or 25 quick pulses followed by a long, steady squeeze for up to thirty seconds. He should do at least one set of this move every day, the more times the better!
Now what’s up with Kegel balls? I just don’t get why everyone is obsessed with them!
In Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian puts “pleasure beads” inside of Anastasia and subsequently every horny housewife in America pounded the pavement to her nearest sex toy store armed with a thousand questions and her husband’s credit card.
So I’ll say to you what I said to them:
- They are called “ben wa” balls.
- They aren’t for sex, they are for your kegels.
- There are a number of varieties and although they are not crucial to kegel maintenance, they make a great addition to any sex toy collection and, when used properly, they can be quite fun.
Though they’ve recently skyrocketed in popularity and media presence, ben wa balls have actually been around for centuries- references have even been found in ancient Chinese texts.
To use ben wa balls, you simply insert one (or two) inside of your vagina and use Kegels to hold them in. Essentially, they act like weights to make your kegel exercises more difficult. Imagine that doing a regular kegel is like doing a pushup or pullup. Using ben wa balls is akin to using a barbell to do curls. In short, ben wa balls are a great way to step up your kegel game. They shouldn’t replace your regular kegel exercises, but rather be used to increase their difficulty and enhance your sensitivity to vaginal arousal.
One easy and very popular kegel/ben wa ball practice is to put them inside of you and then go about your daily activities (doing the dishes, popping to the cleaner’s to pick up the dry cleaning...) while you constantly squeeze your kegel muscles to keep them from falling out.
Though traditional ben wa balls are not intended for use during intercourse, some modern varieties can be incorporated during sexual activity to enhance your arousal play. See LELOs Hula and Luna Smart Bead, both of which are designed with foreplay in mind.
Five More Kegel “Workouts” Guaranteed to Make You a Sex Superstar!
# 1 The Stoplight Game
In a previous post, I mentioned “Stoplight”, easily one of my favorite kegel games. To “play”, simply challenge yourself to hold a squeeze for as long as it takes for the light to change from red to green. Sound too easy? It’s not! Some traffic lights in my city can take up to four minutes to change!
Tip! Make sure you’re sitting upright in your seat (good posture is maintenance, not magic!) with your shoulders squarely over your hip bones and remember to breath deep, full breaths. As you hold your kegel contraction, also contract your abdominal muscles too. Don’t simply “suck it in”, the sensation should feel like a firm, all-over tightening of the muscles but still allow for normal, steady breathing.
#2 Lift & Lower
Lie down (on your back) with your knees bent and your feet resting flat on the floor. Place your hands at your sides, also palms down. Keeping your thighs, knees, and calves pressed together firmly, inhale deeply and as you exhale, slowly bring your knees to your chest. Inhale again and lower your legs to the floor as you exhale, slowly straightening them. Keep your legs pressed together, with your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles contracted as you lower them down. Lightly tap your heels to the floor and reverse the move-lifting your legs, bending your knees to your chest and lowering them back to your starting position. Do 10 or more reps, according to your fitness level.
Not only is this move great for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, it’s also a killer lower abdominal crunch and quad lengthening stretch.
#3 The Butterfly
Lying on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent and your arms at your sides, lower your knees to the floor (or part them as far as you can, depending on your flexibility), keeping your feet together- rotate them so the pads of your feet remain pressed together flatly. Exhale and deepen the stretch. Return to your starting position. Now, do the same move again, but this time when your knees reach the floor, contract your PC and lower abdominal muscles and pulse your thighs up and down five times- like a butterfly fluttering its wings, only the wings are your legs. Repeat ten times (10 sets of 5 pulses) and finish with another deep stretch.
Enough cannot be said about the physical benefits of squats. In addition to burning about 6 calories per minute, squats deliver an intense, full lower body workout that tightens your glutes, quads & hamstrings as well as strengthens your core and pelvic floor. Bonus? Do squats 3-5 times a week and you’ll be rocking a rump to rival Jen Seltzer in no time!
To do a basic squat, simply stand straight with your feet slightly more than hip distance apart. With your abdominal core and your pelvic floor firmly contracted, slowly lower your butt down as if you were going to sit on a chair (in fact, you can go ahead and place a chair behind you for reference, just don’t cheat by actually sitting on it!), hold for one to three seconds and then return to standing. Repeat! Do 20, or as many as you can in one minute.
Crave a beautiful bottom? Starting today, do a set of squats every day for 30 days! Make it even harder by adding 20 reps (or one full minute of repeated squats) each day.
5# Microwave Mojo
Another personal favorite of mine, the Mojo combines calf raises and Stoplight with a radioactive twist. Anytime you heat something up in the microwave (for me, it’s usually the secret staple of a well-balanced soul: coffee), tightly squeeze your PC muscles while quickly pulsing up and down on the balls of your feet until the timer beeps. You’ll feel the burn but the results will be...how does that phrase go again? Hotter than a microwave oven!
Hope you enjoyed this run down on all things kegel!
Happy “kegeling” and remember to bookmark us or follow us on social media for more tips on sexual health, relationships, sex toy reviews, and more!