How can I do a proper Kegel exercise?

To prevent and treat stress incontinence, Kegel exercises are commonly recommended. They strengthen the muscles around your pelvic organs and are easy to do anywhere, any time. Here’s how:

  • To start, tighten the muscles you use to stop the flow of urine. (If you’re not sure you’re using the right muscles, first try it while you’re urinating.)
  •  Keep squeezing the muscles for a count of ten, then slowly relax.
  •  Repeat several times a day, working up to 100 Kegels a day.

There are several variations on this basic exercise. Follow your doctor’s specific advice for you.

Dr. Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Simple Kegel exercises can help strengthen your pelvic floor. Squeeze the muscles of your pelvic floor as if interrupting the flow of urine (but don't do Kegels while urinating), holding each contraction for 5 to 10 seconds. Plan to do Kegels 3 times daily, for 20 to 30 reps. You can do them sitting, standing or lying down.

Dr. Jan L. Shifren, MD
Fertility Specialist

Both men and women can improve their sexual fitness by exercising their pelvic floor muscles. To do Kegel exercises, tighten the muscle you would use if you were trying to stop urine in midstream. Hold the contraction for two or three seconds, then release. Repeat 10 times. Try to do five sets a day. These exercises can be done anywhere—while driving, sitting at your desk, or standing in a checkout line. At home, women may use vaginal weights to add muscle resistance. Talk to your healthcare provider or a sex therapist about where to get these and how to use them.

Dr. Jill Rabin
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Here’s how to tell that you are doing a Kegel correctly: Insert a tampon into your vagina. Then tug on the string and prevent yourself from removing it. The muscles you feel contracting are your pelvic floor muscles.

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To perform Kegel exercises, you must be seated on a toilet with your legs apart. (Men and women both sit.) The exercises consist of a sequence in which you urinate a small amount, try to stop the flow midstream by contracting the muscles, and then hold the contraction of the muscle for about five seconds. If you can stop the flow, you are doing the exercises correctly. You then release the muscles and again urinate a small amount. Again stop the flow by holding the muscles for five seconds and continue until you have emptied your bladder.

One conceptualization will help you do these exercises. Imagine that the pelvic floor is an elevator. When the pelvic muscles are completely relaxed, the elevator is at the basement. You then contract the muscles to the "first floor" and, without relaxing, continue to tighten the muscles to the second floor. Hold at each level for a count of five. When you reach your limit, don't release suddenly. Gradually release the muscles "floor by floor" until completely relaxed. Some people practice contracting these muscles when they are waiting for the light to change while driving a car. Contract the muscles and relax five to ten times.

Dr. Gladys Y. Ng, MD

Pelvic floor, or Kegel, exercises can be done to treat urinary incontinence. Kegel exercises are done by tightening the pelvic floor muscles. The key is to make sure that you are using the right muscles. A lot of times, people strengthen or tighten up their buttocks or their thighs. Those are not the right muscles. The way you know it's the right muscle is that if you are urinating, those are the muscles you would clamp down in order to stop midstream. Men should squeeze the striated muscle, which is what they would squeeze to stop urine flow midstream. That strengthens the pelvic floor muscles.

Do 10 sets, holding each for one second when you squeeze down. You could do three sets a day with a focused effort. It’s just like if you're going to lift weights in the gym to work on your biceps. It takes time to build strength.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.