Kegels: The exercise that prompts a dozen questions. What are they? Who should be doing Kegels? How do I properly perform one? 

When it comes to women’s health, it’s almost like Kegels are the equivalent to eating green vegetables. Most patients understand they have health benefits, but also feel like they’re not for everyone. 

“Kegel is just a fancy name for an exercise of the muscles of the pelvic floor,” says Racquel Kurzweg, DPT, Pelvic Rehabilitation Therapist. We talked to Racquel about some of the most common questions patients have when it comes to Kegels. 


Most Frequently Asked Questions About Kegels

Racquel Kurzweg, DPT

Racquel Kurzweg, DPT

Pelvic Rehabilitation Therapist

What are the benefits of doing Kegels?

When done correctly, this exercise helps to keep the muscles of the pelvic floor working properly. This can help reduce or resolve urinary and bowel incontinence, support pelvic floor organs to reduce prolapse, and improve sexual function. It also helps support a strong, healthy pelvis and core — which may in turn reduce back pain.

Is there an ideal age range for women to do Kegels?

Just like any other exercise, all women can benefit from doing Kegels. 

Those who have experienced vaginal childbirth as well as post-menopausal women are especially in need of performing this exercise. This is because vaginal childbirth causes stretching and possibly injury to the muscles of the pelvic floor, so it is important to rehabilitate them. 

As women age, they naturally lose strength. Therefore, post-menopausal women should perform Kegels for a strong pelvic floor and to keep incontinence at bay. 

How do I properly perform Kegels?

The key to Kegels is to avoid using glutes (butt muscles), abs (stomach muscles), or thigh muscles — and never hold your breath!

If this is your first time trying a Kegel, I suggest lying on your back, as it’s easier when you don’t have to act against gravity. Inhale and exhale naturally. As you exhale, try to squeeze the muscles of your pelvic floor. You can do this by imagining you need to stop the flow of urine, or draw the rectum up and into the pelvis as if you’re holding back gas or squeezing a tampon. 

Make sure you fully relax the muscles between contractions. 

And if you aren’t sure if you’re doing it correctly, you’re not alone! 40% of women can’t perform a Kegel off of verbal or written instructions alone. This may be the time to set up a consult with a pelvic floor therapist for an assessment. 

How frequently should I be doing Kegels?

You should work up to doing a set of 10 quick contractions and another set of 10 holds for 10 seconds. Once you get there, do this twice a week to maintain your strength. Also, you can think about turning on the pelvic floor muscles when doing other strength exercises like squats, and core work.

The two different sets are important because there are two types of Kegels. Quick Kegels, where you contract the muscle with no hold, help the body stop leakage when coughing, sneezing, laughing, etc. Then, there are endurance Kegels, which help build the strength of the muscles that support your core throughout the day.

How do I know if something's wrong with the muscles that Kegels exercise?

So, Kegels aren’t for everyone. Sometimes the muscles of the pelvic floor are tight, or in spasm, and doing more Kegels can worsen these symptoms. 

If you are experiencing pelvic pain while doing Kegels or at other times, you should be assessed by a pelvic floor therapist.

Other symptoms that may suggest something is wrong with pelvic floor muscles include pain during sex, pain using a tampon, pain during your GYN visits, worsening urinary/bowel incontinence, heaviness in the pelvis, or bladder pain. 

Catholic Health offers pelvic rehabilitation at convenient locations throughout Western New York. Our expert physical therapists help patients rehabilitate muscles of the pelvic floor through specialized exercise and therapy techniques. 

Find Pelvic Rehabilitation Therapy Near You
Call (716) 706-2112

Find Pelvic Rehabilitation Therapy Near You
Call (716) 706-2112