Why kegels may not be a good pelvic floor exercise
In my travels throughout New York City, the place where you can search, find, and experience just about anything you can think of, I have listened and contributed to numerous conversations about health and fitness. Especially with pregnant and postpartum mothers concerning their fitness, I have heard some very interested topics. But, my favorite topic is….the pelvic floor. Ask a mom “how do you heal and strengthen your pelvic floor?’ Without a doubt, many would say kegels. “Should you do perform them?” “Do they really work?” “How often do you perform them?” “Is it just squeezing and holding your tushy?” I will address what’s the difference between kegels and the pelvic lift and if kegels are helping or hurting your pregnancy and postpartum experience.
How do you heal and strengthen your pelvic floor? Without a doubt, many would say that “kegels” are a must do. But is that true? To learn something, there must be curiosity, and now that you’re interested, let’s address the most popular questions around and about the pelvic floor. Let’s address what’s the difference between kegels and the pelvic lift and discuss when kegels are helpful or harmful for your pregnancy and postpartum experience.
We all have heard of kegel exercises. It is promoted as the premiere way to improve
your pelvic floor pre and post-partum. Listening to the recent discussions centered around post baby bodies, I realized that the general public are mostly misinformed about pelvic floor health.
Pelvic floor training does not consist of ‘327 kegels’ each day. Yes, you’ll have some well-toned muscles, but more likely than not, those are not the muscles you mean to target. In fact, you improve your pelvic floor with pelvic lifts, not through kegel clenches, so let’s go through the anatomy of the pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor has two layers that each have several groups of muscles (I will spare you from super technical stuff). The layers are acknowledged as the “superficial” and “deep” pelvic muscles. The key is each layer is activated with two different strategies, kegels and pelvic lifts. But, what exactly are the differences between the two?
- Kegels only stimulate the superficial layer with clam-ing or the infamous “squeeze your rectal canal”. This isn’t the most effective technique since kegels only stimulate the skin and most of the genital region (happy dance for some people) through the pudendal nerve. Contrarily, pelvic lifts stimulates the deep layer of the pelvic floor including the bladder, uterus and anal canal. A fun fact is the pelvic lifts stimulates the same nerve (i.e. pelvic nerve) that causes the urge to push during labor once the child is within the birth canal.
- Kegels have a clam-like, flat sensation within the pelvic region. Got the picture? Picture them that’s the similar to a ‘preventing something from coming in,’ closed off feeling.
Pelvic lifts, on the other hand, stimulates a “pelvic pumping” of blood and nutrients into the engorable muscles of both the superficial and deep layers. The pelvic lifts contract and lift upward similar to a hammock. Once you perform a pelvic lift, the pelvic floor behaves like an energy trampoline bouncing energy throughout the pelvic region and entire body.
- Kegels are typical not coupled with breathing. They are usually performed in isolation. On
the other hand, the pelvic lifts with focus exhalation activates the pelvic floor which better
protects the internal pelvic organs. Here’s how to perform a focused exhalation:
Take a deep breath in through your nose, exhale through your mouth while making the
“Ssssssssssss” sound, similar to a tire leak. Furthermore, pelvic lifts encourage the
pelvic floor to be stimulated with all activities including jumping, coughing, sneezing,
running and even walking. Namaste.
Start incorporating pelvic lifts in your training program if you want to actually improve your pelvic floor and begin to train like a beast. So the next time you hear a mom speaking about kegels and her pelvic floor, you smile and say “to kegel or not to kegel?”