How to Perform Kegel’s for Men & Women

As a pelvic floor physical therapist, I have trained many clients in how to contract their pelvic floor muscles using the method outlined here. In the clinic I only refer to these as Kegel’s the first day. Research shows that most people do not perform these contractions correctly and I believe it is because most believe they need to contract as if their lives depended on it. So avoid “white knuckling” your muscles in this exercise.

Muscle strength in these areas is important as the pelvic floor is part of our core. Most exercise programs overlook this area. For hygienic reasons as well as for enhanced sexual pleasure (1), muscle strength in the pelvic floor muscles is important.

In this post, I will outline how I train many men and women to contract these muscles with functional improvements often without the need for any invasive techniques (internal exams nor biofeedback).

Comparable Anatomy

There are three layers of muscles of the pelvic floor, for both men and women. While women have an extra opening at the vagina, there is considerable similarity between muscle function and activation for both sexes. The difference is how to explain the muscle activation patterns. First, I outline some things to keep in mind while performing these contractions.

Important tips:

  • If you have recently had surgery to the pelvis, be sure to check with your surgeon before beginning any exercises, including these gentle contractions.
  • Sit or lie down as you learn these techniques. Standing increases muscle tone and can make it more challenging to “feel” the subtle differences between layers.
  • It is important to keep breathing as working muscles need oxygen.
  • *Do NOT perform contractions while urinating to check if you’re doing it right. This can cause urinary retention problems by overriding the urination reflex.
  • Perform these contractions at a moderate level, avoiding pain and maximal contractions or straining – this will fatigue your muscles and your actions will not be as effective.
    • Isolate contractions to the pelvic floor, avoid squeezing your buttocks or knees.
    • Begin with 5-10 repetitions, avoiding fatigue.
    • Space out your practice sessions (3-5x/day max).
  • If you need to, women can insert a finger into their vaginas. Men, you can place a finger in the area of your “taint” or anus as you contract.
  • Even if you cannot initially “feel” the different levels of contractions, imagining that you can will help at first. Trust that your body knows how to do this!
  • Contractions are to be performed in the order noted, not oppositely.
  • Avoid CLENCHING your muscles throughout the day. Muscles are made for MOVEMENT not holding.

Pelvic Floor Muscle Contractions (Kegel’s)

First, lie on your back with your knees bent or sit upright on your “sits” bones. Women will be more aware of their vaginas. Men will probably need to “adjust” a little bit to be comfortable at first.

For men:

  1. Press your penis downwards, hold this then:
  2. Squeeze, as if you were avoiding stopping urine flow*, maintain 1 & 2 then:
  3. Pull your lower abdomen in gently & slightly (the same movement you would make if someone were to punch you in the gut, but less severe)
  4. Relax & then repeat.
  5. Begin with 2 second contractions at each level as you repeat steps 1-4
  6. As you gain strength and awareness, ADD 5 to 10 second contractions.  (keep doing 2 seconds)

For women:

  1. Pinch your panties (you can imagine your vagina is an elevator & you are closing the elevator doors), hold this then:
  2. Squeeze your vagina (front, back, left and right), hold 1 & 2 then:
  3. Lift further upwards (towards your breast bone) while you pull your lower abdomen in gently (as if zipping up a tight pair of jeans)
  4. Relax & then repeat.
  5. Begin with 2 second contractions at each level as you repeat steps 1-4
  6. As you gain strength and awareness, ADD 5 to 10 second contractions. (keep doing 2 seconds)

Cheers to a Happy Pelvis!

(1) Levin, R. Physiology of orgasms. In: Mullhall, JP.; Incocci, L,; Goldstien, I,; Rosen, R., editors. Cancer and Sexual Health. Springer Science; New York: 2011. p. 35-48.

photo credit: male and female pelvis via photopin (license)

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