First, don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what a Kegel is– you are not alone. Both my male and female students of late have been slowly admitting to me that they don’t know what I’m talking about when I tell them to do a “Kegel” during their Pilates exercise. Although it is an important exercise, and yes to both sexes, it’s not something we naturally do.
The Kegel is an exercise to strengthen your PC muscles (pubococcygeus) also referred to as your pelvic floor or pelvic diaphragm named after its inventor, gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel. These muscles are located on the base of your pelvis ergo your “pelvic floor.” Imagine cupping your hand with the heel of your palm on your pubic bone and your fingers towards your sacrum and that is the region the Kegel exercise is targeting. The exercise was discovered to treat urinary incontinence, aid in support of pregnancy and child birth, reduce premature male ejaculation, and enhance sexual function in both sexes. “A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (March 18, 2008) reports that pelvic floor muscle training, in conjunction with bladder training, resolved the symptoms of urinary incontinence in women.” A total of 25 million American men, women, young, and old have reported suffering from urinary incontinence (involuntary loss of bladder control).
How to do Kegels…
When you are first discovering this “area” of your body, it is best to start in a seated position. Find a comfortable place to sit and try to relax all the muscles in your body. Start with your feet and work your way up the body until you can feel loose and relaxed. Next visualize your pelvic floor, you may also gently cup or hover your hand around this area and begin by sending a message from your brain to this area with the command of “open and close”. The act itself will feel like a quick isometric contraction and then release of the muscles in this area. It seems to help people when they are told, “it’s like you are trying to stop your pee midstream” and how would you tell your body to do that. There are more complex ways to do your Kegel, some involving specially designed apparatuses, but studies have shown no conclusive data that the use of such equipment actually improve pelvic floor strength. Once you have mastered the “open/close” exercise I have described, you can also improve the rate of speed at which you can do it and add other muscle groups in the region from your gluteus (butt) to your transverse abdominus (deep ab muscle) into the isometric contraction.
When you are able to command the contractions with ease, you can incorporate them in your Pilates exercise. Utilizing the Kegel in Pilates helps to increase body awareness of this region, which so happens to be part of your deep core muscles. By developing more efficient motor signals (the ability to send messages from your brain to your muscle) to your pelvic region via concentration and Kegel contractions, you will increase the strength of your pelvic muscles and add to your total core strength. Not only will you find your Pilates practice greatly improved with the addition of the Kegel exercise, you will derive the benefits of preventing urinary incontinence, improving sexual function, and creating a stronger core.
So what are you waiting for?! Do you some Kegels now 😉
Resource: Kegel exercise
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