Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises (Kegels)

Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help improve bladder control for people suffering from stress urinary incontinence. The name of the muscle group strengthened through Kegel exercises is the pubococcygeous muscle group. These muscles relax to control the opening and closing of your urethral sphincter: in other words, they are the muscles that give you urinary control. When they are weak, urine leakage occurs. Through regular exercise, however, you can build up their strength and endurance and, in many cases, regain control.

The first step is to properly identify the correct muscle group.

  1. As you begin urinating, try to stop the flow of urine without tensing the muscles of your legs. It is very important not to use these other muscles, because only the pelvic floor muscles help with bladder control.
  2. When you are able to slow or stop the stream of urine you have located the correct muscles. Feel the sensation of the muscles pulling inward and upward.

Helpful hint...If you squeeze the rectal area as if not to pass gas, you will be using the correct muscles.

Now you are ready to begin exercising regularly.

Once you have located the correct muscles, set aside two times each day for exercising. Morning and evening are good times for most people, but the important thing is to choose times that are convenient for you so you can develop a routine.

  • Set 1: Quick Contractions (QC) — tighten and relax the sphincter muscle as rapidly as you can.
  • Set 2: Slow Contractions (SC) — contract the sphincter muscle and hold to a count of 3 (gradually work at increasing the count to 10). Make sure you relax completely between contractions.

In the beginning you should check yourself frequently by placing a hand over your abdomen and buttocks during your exercises. You should not feel the muscles of your abdomen, buttocks, or thighs tighten. If there is movement of these muscles you should continue experimenting until you are able to isolate the pelvic floor muscles.

You should see improvement of your bladder control in 3 to 6 weeks. Keep a record of urine leakage to monitor your progress.

Make pelvic exercises a part of your daily routine. Whether you are doing Kegels to improve or maintain bladder control, be sure to perform them regularly. Use daily routines such as watching TV, reading, waiting at stoplights and waiting in the grocery store checkout line as cues to perform a few exercises.

Publication Review By: David M. Kaufman, M.D., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 14 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2015