Whether you’re in your 20s or your 60s, we can all reap the benefits of pelvic floor exercises.
Aside from more well-known factors like pregnancy and aging, even day to day activities such as weight lifting and HIIT workouts can weaken our pelvic floor muscles. This can leave us exposed to a range of health and wellbeing consequences, including reduced bladder control, constipation, lower back pain, and reduced sexual response.
The good news is there’s plenty of action you can take to strengthen those pelvic muscles - and from the comfort of your own home!
We’ve teamed up with our friends at Je Joue to give you a crash course in pelvic health and a few simple exercises to kickstart your training routine - including with their very own Kegel Set!
What actually is the pelvic floor?
Your pelvic floor consists of layers of muscles, nerves, and connective tissues that form a sling, or hammock, that support ALL of your internal organs (also a whole extra person, if you happen to be pregnant!).
The pelvic floor muscles lie across the base of your pelvis and hold your bladder, vagina or penis, and back passage in place - pretty vital stuff!
What are the benefits of a stronger pelvic floor?
Strengthening your pelvic floor comes with a staggeringly wide range of health benefits - here are just a few:
Greater bladder control
Increased sensitivity during sex and improved grip during intercourse
More intense, easy to achieve orgasms
Shorter labour and protecting the vagina while giving birth
Faster post-birth recovery
Enhanced lubrication of the vagina (particularly during menopause)
Helps to stabilise your spine (in tandem with your ab muscles!)
Before we jump into how we actually get stronger down there let’s make sure we know what we’re working with first!
How do I find my pelvic floor muscles?
Finding the right set of muscles so that you can perform isolated, targeted movements is really important for performing pelvic floor exercises correctly, and this can be a little tricky.
One way to locate your pelvic floor is to stop your urine stream mid-flow, this will be your pelvic floor muscles contracting. Get used to how they feel as they contract and relax (it’s important that you do not do this too frequently though to avoid any damage to your bladder).
Using Kegel balls can also be a great way to engage and locate the pelvic floor muscles - we’ll explore using these in the rest of this post.
Exercising your pelvic floor at home
(...or literally any setting that works!)
From your bed, to your desk or a long car journey, the beauty of pelvic floor exercises is that you can do them from almost anywhere!
Whilst you can practice pelvic exercises without any equipment at all, SheSpot and Je Joue highly recommend the use of kegel balls to help you find and engage the right muscles. As well as being highly effective exercise tools, they also provide a very pleasurable workout in the process… ;)
What are kegels and should I introduce them?
Kegels balls, just like the Je Joue Ami 3-step progressive Kegel balls, can be inserted inside the vagina, where your pelvic floor muscles will automatically tense around the balls and work hard in order to keep them in place. The smaller and heavier the weight, the harder your pelvic floor has to work.
The great thing about Kegel Balls is that you can pop them in and go about your day as normal while your pelvic floor is constantly training.
Certain types of kegels can also have some pretty pleasurable benefits. For example the Je Joue kegels are encased inside velvety soft silicone balls which contain loose weights that move around freely and create pleasurable vibrations inside the vagina.
3 Pelvic Floor Exercises to try with (or without!) Kegel Balls
Kegel Balls work even better when combined with pelvic floor exercises.
Try the 3 exercises below with or without kegels inserted. Of course, remember to take every step in your own time. Listen to your body and seek medical advice if you experience any unusual pain.
Top Tip: If you’re using Kegels don’t forget to use some water-based lube to help with insertion!
1. BELLOWS BREATH
Bellows breath is where you use your abdominal muscles and diaphragm to draw air deeply in and out of the lungs.
To perform Bellows Breath:
Start by sitting with a straight spine and take a few deep, even breaths through your nostrils.
Then switch to one inhale/ exhale per second:
Exhale forcefully by drawing in your abdominal muscles quickly
Follow immediately with a quick diaphragmatic inhalation of equal force, allowing your tummy to relax completely.
Repeat step 2 for 7-11 breaths
Rest with deep breathing
Top tip: Over time you can increase to two breaths per second, and you may wish to perform up to 60 breaths in each set.
2. FEATHER LIGHT TOUCH: SLOW RISING AND FALLING
You want the emphasis here to be on feeling your pelvic floor lifting up and down, as well as simply clenching and releasing.
To Perform Feather Light Touch:
Picture a feather lying at the bottom of your pelvis.
Inhale for two seconds, squeezing and lifting your pelvic floor muscles as if you are using your breath to lift the feather up into the top of your chest.
Exhale for two seconds, releasing your pelvic floor muscles and allowing the feather to glide gently back down to the bottom of your pelvis.
Repeat 10 times if you can.
Try to lift the feather up a little higher each time, and to control the feather as it comes down with a slow release.
3. REVERSE BALLOON BLOWING: LONG INHALE & EXPLOSIVE EXHALE
This exercise works the same as the above but focuses on releasing your pelvic floor muscles. Remember, a muscle is supposed to contract and relax. You don't just want a strong muscle; you want a flexible one too!
To perform Reverse Balloon Blowing:
Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles as you inhale for three seconds
Forcefully breathe out for one second while you forcefully release the tension in the same muscles.
Repeat 10 times if you can.
Frequently asked questions!
Q. How often should I train my pelvic floor muscles?
Ideally for 5 minutes, three times a day. If it’s easier for you to fit in two lots of 10 minutes then by all means go for that!
If you’re using kegels, you can wear them for up to six hours at a time, but Je Joue recommends starting with just 15 minutes or so and working your way up.
Q. How can I stick with a pelvic floor fitness routine?Love yourself, intimately…
Instead of doing the same exercise for the same interval every few days, mix it up and try new patterns of contracting and releasing and adding in exercises that work several muscle groups.
A mixture of gym-based and home-based exercises should also help to keep things fresh!
Q. How long will it take before I feel a noticeable difference?You will need to exercise regularly for at least 3 months before the muscles gain their full strength.
Using weighted Kegel balls will speed up your progress. Using Je Joue’s Ami balls, you should start feeling results after 1 to 3 weeks of regular use.
If you already have symptoms for incontinence, you should start to feel better and have fewer symptoms after 4 to 6 weeks of regular Kegel/ pelvic floor training.
Love yourself, intimately…
Training our pelvic floor is one of the many ways we can invest in our health and sexual wellbeing.
Do not practice Kegel exercises at the same time you are urinating
For women, practicing Kegel exercises incorrectly or with too much force may cause vaginal muscles to tighten too much. Listen to your body and don’t do more than what feels comfortable for you.
Call your health care provider if you experience any unusual pain or you’re are not sure you are doing Kegel exercises the right way. Your provider can check to see if you are doing them correctly. You may be referred to a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor exercises.