1. Kegels are exercises that strengthen your pelvic floor — aka the muscles that support your bladder, uterus, and intestines.
Just like a regular fitness routine, the more you work out, the stronger your pelvic floor will get, Mary Jane Minkin, OB-GYN and clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine, tells BuzzFeed Health. And having a strong pelvic floor is needed not only to hold all your organs in place, but it’s also good for a bunch of other health reasons (we’ll get to those in a bit).
2. But most people actually do Kegels wrong.
When most people think they’re doing Kegels, they’re actually probably squeezing surrounding muscles like their thighs, butt, or abs, physical therapist Jill Hoefs, owner of Body Align Physical Therapy and author of Your Best Pregnancy, tells BuzzFeed Health.
To find the right muscles, try to stop your pee midstream next time you go to the bathroom. The muscles you need to do that are the muscles needed to do a Kegel exercise. That said, don’t make a habit of doing Kegels on the toilet, since starting and stopping your stream can lead to bladder infections, says Hoefs.
3. You want to squeeze and lift your pelvic floor like it’s an elevator.
“Imagine that elevator going up into your body, hold the elevator, and let it go back down,” says Minkin. The “lifting” is what’s important here — many people make the mistake of pushing down on their pelvic floor or just squeezing, which isn’t effective.
4. You can also ask your gynecologist to check out your ~technique~.
It takes two seconds for your gyno to tell you if you’re using the right muscles, and they can give you pointers if you’re having trouble, so ask them during your next appointment, says Minkin. They can also give you an idea of your current pelvic tone, if you’re curious how strong you are down there.
5. You can actually see your muscles working if you do them correctly.
According to Hoefs, if you want to check out your Kegels in action, you can lay on your back with a mirror between your legs. If you’re doing them correctly, you’ll see what’s called a “clitoral nod” and an “anal wink” — meaning that your clitoris will shift down and your anus will tighten into a smaller shape. ~The more you know~.
6. You can pretty much do them anywhere.
It doesn’t make a difference whether you do them standing up, sitting, or lying down, so do whatever is most comfortable for you, says Hoefs. “You can do them anytime, any place. No one knows you’re doing them,” she says — so anywhere you don’t mind stealthily squeezing your vagina is fair game.
7. Pelvic floor strength is important for not leaking urine — which, sorry, you’ll probably do at some point in your life.
People with vaginas are pretty much designed for leakage, says Minkin. “The distance from your bladder to the outside world is minuscule, only a few centimeters in length, and you’re walking around on two legs with your bladder pressing down.” Meaning, at some point in your life — whether due to pregnancy, aging, or other stress — you’re going to need a strong pelvic floor to keep you from peeing yourself.
8. You can do them during sex, so go wild.
Sometimes it can help your Kegel technique to have something solid to squeeze, like a partner’s penis or a toy, says Hoefs. And since the added ~grip~ can be pleasurable for your partner, that’s some A+ multitasking.
9. In fact, they’ll improve your sexual sensation in general.
There’s no hard data that Kegels help improve orgasm, since not everyone can get off on penetration alone, but your genitals are definitely going to function better. “When the muscles are stronger, you get more blood flow to the area and it’s going to improve the sexual sensation,” says Hoefs. Translation: Sex is just going to be better.
10. At the very least, you’re going to want to start doing them during pregnancy when things get crazy down there.
No matter how strong your pelvic floor is regularly, having a baby bearing down on those muscles is going to weaken them. And if your pelvic floor isn’t strong enough, that’s when you start leaking urine and poop, says Hoefs. Kegels will help with some of the stress — and after pregnancy, will help return your pelvic floor back to its regular strength.
11. You should also get in the habit of squeezing before sneezing — and other things.
“Even if you’re not necessarily doing your Kegels before you’re going to sleep at night or while you’re driving, you still want to practice using them before you cough, laugh, sneeze, and all the times when the chance for leakage is higher,” says Hoefs. “It’s good practice for maintaining a strong pelvic floor.”
12. Kegels don’t necessarily tighten your vagina, but they do improve the “tone” and give you the capacity to grip those muscles tighter.
You’ve probably heard that Kegels can make you tighter, but unless you’re constantly flexing, don’t think you’ll be walking around with an iron clad vagina. That said, the stronger you are, the tighter that those muscles can squeeze, says Minkin.
13. There are some people who shouldn’t do Kegels.
If you have a lot of pain or tightness during sex or otherwise, Kegels may not be for you. For instance, people with conditions like vaginismus may already experience painful tightening of the vaginal muscles. “If the muscles can’t relax, the last thing you want to do is keep strengthening them,” says Hoefs. Instead, check with your doctor to figure out a treatment plan for that, since no one should have to live with pelvic pain.
14. Everyone’s routine will be different, but in general, you want to do enough Kegels that your last few reps are a challenge.
Just like it’s impossible to have a one-size-fits-all fitness routine, how many Kegels you do and how often is dependent on your individual strength, says Hoefs. “In general, you want to do a little more than you think you can do,” she says. “It should be challenging but doable, so make sure your last few reps feel difficult.”
If you need a place to start, Minkin says to try doing three sets of 10, one set in the morning, afternoon, and night respectively. But again, go off of your own body and what you feel capable of doing.
15. And don’t worry, you’re probably not going to overwork your vagina through too many Kegels.
Theoretically, sure, it’s possible to overwork or pull your pelvic floor just like any other muscle, but neither Minkin nor Hoefs has ever witnessed it in any of their clients. You might feel a little soreness just like you might when starting another fitness routine, but that’s generally as far as it will go. If you feel more severe or lasting discomfort, definitely tell your doctor.
16. You might be able to reduce lower back pain through Kegels, too.
“Having a strong pelvic floor keeps your pelvis stable, and when your pelvis isn’t stable, that’s when you can get lower back pain,” says Hoefs. “So Kegels can also help with that.” In case you needed more incentive.
17. If you’re an athlete, you definitely want a strong pelvic floor.
Any athlete that puts high-impact stress on their bodies, like runners or gymnasts, may have to worry more about bladder control, says Hoefs. Doing regular Kegels can help with accidental leaks.
18. There are some products out there that can help you out.
They’re not necessary by any means, but there are a ton of products on the market designed to help walk you through your Kegels, as well as track your reps and progress. Some even reward you with ~vibrations~, if you’re into that. “Kegelcisers, as I call them, can be very helpful for people who need a little more guidance,” says Minkin. Products like kGoal, KegelSmart, and Elvie are good places to start.
19. If you want to step up your game, you can add weights.
They’re not really meant to give you a jacked vagina, but if you find that regular Kegels aren’t challenging enough or giving you the results you need, they’re a good option. And you can find them easily on Amazon or in sex shops.
20. FYI, people with penises can do Kegels, too.
Everyone has pelvic floor muscles, and everyone can benefit from strengthening them for sexual performance and bladder control. If you have a penis, Kegels are done pretty much the same way, by lifting up the pelvic floor muscles like you’re trying to hold in pee or gas.
21. In general, Kegels aren’t going to do you any harm and are easy to work into your regular routine, so why not?
“Whatever age you are, whether you plan to become pregnant or not, you want to make sure your pelvic floor is strong,” says Hoef. “It’s very healthy for everyone to make sure they have a very strong pelvic floor, the same way you’d take care of the rest of your body.”
So go ahead, squeeze and lift.