Most of us have heard of Kegels and think we should be doing them. Kegels are often still recommended by doctors or concerned friends when someone has pelvic floor dysfunction, has had a baby, or wants exercises for better sex. But should we all be doing them, and if not, what should we be doing instead?
Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor through repetitions of tightening and relaxing exercises. They’re often suggested to reduce pelvic floor issues, which impact at least one in four women. Many Ob-Gyn offices will either recommend Kegels or refer you to a physical therapist or specialist. Since many Ob-Gyn offices do not treat these dysfunctions themselves, recommending Kegels is an easy option with the intention of helping you. Referring to a specialist is done for learning the exercises and sometimes for internal and external physical therapy work.
Kegels are concentric contractions that shorten the pelvic floor muscles. These contractions are important, but if they’re all we do, the muscles may become shorter and overly tight, which can lead to issues or exacerbate existing ones. It is also important to know that a tight pelvic floor does not mean strong, and often it is actually weak and lacks tone and strength. An overly tight pelvic floor is usually referred to as hypertonic and can lead to issues such as stress incontinence, painful intercourse, tailbone pain, and lower back pain.
Our muscles are not designed to be tight, short, or even long—they are designed to have an optimal length-tension relationship. This means that they are meant to be strong, toned, and responsive and to lengthen and rebound to appropriate tension depending on the activity. In order to help maintain or restore the appropriate amount of length and tension, we need to be doing exercises that contain both eccentric and concentric contractions. Concentric contractions shorten the muscle fibers, and eccentric contractions lengthen and stretch them. Both are needed for optimal strength, tone, and elasticity.
Doing pelvic floor exercises and programs that focus on both eccentric and concentric moves is ideal. Instead of tightness, we need to focus on making our pelvic floor strong, toned, and responsive. This leads to increased pelvic floor health, improved posture, efficient movement patterns, and better sex. Even though you do not see these particular training results, they will impact your entire body and help you look and feel your best from the inside out.
The exercises in my sequenced programs have both types of movements designed to build healthy pelvic floor muscles. With so many of us around the world staying home and wanting to exercise, Poosh readers can get 40% off my online programs using code POOSH.