4 Best Positions For Kegel Exercise
October 28, 2020
A key part of finding the best exercise routine (at least in for Kegel exercise) is finding the right exercise positions. Well, we have good news! There is no single “ultimate” body position for pelvic floor exercise. As long as your technique is good (which is not always intuitive!), there are a number of positions that can work quite well for different people, each with its own set of considerations. So whether your interest in your pelvic floor muscles relates to bladder control / urinary incontinence or sexual function, read on to learn a bit more and get the most out of your pelvic health.
Generally speaking, baseline pelvic floor muscle activation (and the involvement of adjacent muscles like stabilizers, which is good) increases as you progress from lying down --> sitting --> standing (and beyond -- think walking, climbing stairs, etc). So, many people find that it works well to evolve their routine in that direction over time as they improve the strength and control of their pelvic floor muscles.
BUT! As mentioned, there are many paths to success. This article has options and not rules -- when figuring out your routine, go ahead and experiment to find what works for you.
A great place to start, especially for beginners, is by lying down, because your muscles don’t need to counteract the force of gravity the way they do when you’re upright. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, lie on your back with your knees bent and a bit apart and do your Kegel exercises in that position.
Lying down can be a particularly good posture for Kegel exercises if:
- Your pelvic floor muscles are weak
- You recently gave birth
- You’re returning to Kegels after hysterectomy or prolapse surgery
- You have prolapse problems when the pelvic floor feels heavy to lift
Doing Kegel exercises when sitting down is another good option, and the strength gains and practice are a little more transferable to your normal life (after all, most of us spend the majority of our waking hours upright, not lying down -- even if we sometimes wish we were!).
The biggest thing to keep in mind with the sitting position is your posture. If you are slumping forward or leaning against a seat back, your core muscles can relax and you can even increase the pressure on your pelvic floor. Research has found that the best way to sit is upright with your lower back curved inward toward your belly button. So, think tall thoughts and either keep your back away from your seat back or use a seat with no back.
Standing has similar benefits to sitting, except moreso. It requires you to lift your pelvic floor against gravity and gives your muscles practice at functioning and getting stronger while you’re standing.
A good standing position for Kegels is with your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing slightly inwards, making it easier to focus on your pelvic floor and avoid tensing your inner thighs. You should also be careful to make sure you’re activating your pelvic floor muscles and not your glutes or abdominals. As with sitting, maintain an upright posture and avoid slumping.
Advanced Topics: Walking, Stairs and More
If you’re bored or feeling like you’ve mastered the above positions, there are lots of options for further progression. Two themes throughout this article have been:
- It’s great to practice exercising your pelvic floor muscles in the same contexts that you’ll rely on them during your daily life (we all find ourselves sneezing when we least expect it!)
- More active positions = a better workout
- Walking around
- Going up/down stairs
- Doing lunges or squats
There is one other consideration that bears mentioning. Kegel exercise is primarily about pelvic floor strengthening -- and that’s great! But it’s not the only piece of the puzzle for good pelvic floor health.
The fact that upright positions (sitting, standing or dynamic options) force your pelvic floor muscles to counteract gravity is a double-edged sword. Particularly if you are using an insertable exercise aid for biofeedback, you may need to exert a baseline level of muscle contraction to hold the aid in place, even when you are “relaxing” your muscles.
Practicing muscle relaxation is a key part of maintaining a healthy pelvic floor too, so even if your go-to position is something upright, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally do some workouts while lying down to make sure you’re giving some love to the other end of the muscle actuation spectrum.
Wait, What About Technique? (How To Perform Kegel Exercises)
So far we’ve focused on what body positions are good for doing kegel exercises. But we mentioned at the very top that body position is much less important than technique. So, we’d be remiss if we didn’t offer a (very brief) step-by-step guide on technique.
First, identify the right muscles. To do this, stop urination in midstream (and prevent yourself from passing gas), or imagine which muscles you would use to do so. A correct Kegel action feels like a “squeeze and lift” (and hold, typically) sensation for these muscles. Or, another way to think about it is to imagine you’re sitting on top of a marble and you’re trying to tighten your pelvic floor muscles to lift the marble. (Shameless self-promotion time: a smart trainer like kGoal that provides biofeedback can also help you tell whether you’re using the correct muscles, as well as helping to measure their performance over time).
A few quick tips to keep in mind:
- Incorrect technique can undermine your results, so some common mistakes to avoid are:
- Holding your breath
- Squeezing the buttocks and/or inner thighs
- Bulging or straining downwards on the pelvic floor
- Flexing your abdominal muscles
- Consistency is key! Just like any other kind of exercise
- Don’t go overboard. 5-15 minutes for a session is plenty for most people, especially when getting started, before you’ve built up your strength and endurance