A Women performs Kegel Exercises as part of her pelvic floor physiotherapy

Ask a Clinician: Kegel Exercises, Everything You Need to Know

Kerrie-Ann Bernard Ask a Clinician, Pelvic health


It could be argued that there’s never been so much interest in pelvic health, from jade eggs in the pages of GOOP to Ben Wa balls in the film Fifty Shades Darker, even old-school Kegel exercises are getting their time in the limelight. This could be why a Google search for “kegel exercises” returns over 844,000 results and endless questions. To help answer these questions and shed some light on Kegel exercises we talked to pelvic floor physiotherapist and clinic team manager Susie Smith. Let’s get to answering the most googled Kegel exercise questions.

What is a Kegel exercise?

A Kegel exercise (often referred to as Kegels) is a contraction of the pelvic floor muscles which is a group of muscles between the tailbone and the pubic bone. Kegels are used to strengthen this muscle group. Kegel exercises are named after American gynecologist Dr. Arnold Henry Kegel, who in the 1940’s was advising women to exercise the pelvic floor muscles.

What do Kegel exercises do?

Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor, which are critical for bladder and bowel function, sexual function, and the support of internal organs.

Are Kegel exercises safe? How do I know if they are right for me?

Provided there isn’t a hypertonic pelvic floor they are absolutely safe! The best way to know if they are right for you is to have your pelvic floor assessed by a qualified physiotherapist. After an assessment, your therapist will determine if you have pelvic floor weakness or any issues that could benefit from strengthening through Kegels, and then retest your strength to ensure they are effective.

Are Kegel exercises effective, do they really work?

Yes, they can be incredibly effective especially if there is dysfunction in the pelvic floor leading to issues such as urinary incontinence, prolapse, pain during intercourse, sexual dysfunction and pelvic pain. In my practice, I have seen significant clinical changes in patient’s ability to manage these conditions using Kegels as a part of their treatment plan.

How do I do Kegels?

There are many places on the internet that will tell you how to do Kegels. But before you search them out, you should know that guidelines set by the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend Kegel exercise instruction come from a properly trained clinician using biofeedback and only following a thorough assessment of the muscles (for management of urinary incontinence).

Are there different Kegel exercises for men and women?

Yes and no, while the Kegel exercises are similar for men and women, there are anatomic differences, and they are assessed differently.

How do I know if I’m doing Kegel exercises correctly and what is the best way to do them?

Your pelvic floor therapist will assess your strength and guide you through the correct activation of the pelvic floor muscles to address your specific needs. They will ensure you are specific and effective with your Kegel strengthening and monitor your progress too!

How many Kegels should I do in a day?

Typically I will prescribe 3 sets of 10 reps once a day to start, and the length of contraction will depend on the patient’s ability to hold the contraction when tested in the clinic.

What can Kegel exercise help with?

Kegel exercises can help with many conditions including urinary or bowel incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual pain or dysfunction, pelvic pain, and more. They can also help with postoperative or postpartum recovery. Learn more about pelvic floor physiotherapy here.

Should I buy Kegel weights?

Kegel weights would only be recommended for very specific conditions and under the guidance of a pelvic health professional. I would not recommend buying and using them without guidance!

Why Should I See a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?

If you’re considering starting Kegel exercises at home it’s always best to get an assessment from a qualified physiotherapist before starting. Not only will they make sure that these exercises are the right treatment for you, they’ll make sure you do them safely and measure how effective they are. pt Health physiotherapists have received specialized training that allows them to assess your current condition and prescribe treatments to get you better. Learn more about pelvic health physical therapy and find a convenient location near you. 


About the Physiotherapist

Susie Smith, Physiotherapist, MScPT, CAFCI, CMT

Susie Smith clinic manager and senior therapist at pt Health – Corporate Sport in downtown Calgary Alberta. She successfully completed her Masters of Science in Physiotherapy in 2008 and has helped patients with sports injuries, work injuries, complex/chronic injuries, postural dysfunction, motor vehicle injuries and trauma. Susie is further trained in acupuncture, spinal manipulation, diagnostic imaging, manual therapy techniques, myofascial release therapy, and is now offering pelvic health treatment. She plans to continue her education to provide quality service to her patients. Susie is also well versed in postural dysfunction from sustained office work and will work hard to get you back to health

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