Kegel Exercises: How to Perform Them

Medically Reviewed

Named after Arnold H. Kegel, M.D., the Los Angeles gynecologist who developed them more than 50 years ago, these simple yet effective exercises can help restore normal urination by strengthening the muscles near the bladder and rectum and helping to reestablish the transmission of nerve impulses between the bladder and the brain.

“Don’t contract your abdominal muscles when performing Kegels,” says Patricia. S. Goode, M.D. “Abdominal contractions will help push urine out. You can avoid using your abdominals by breathing. You can only contract your abdominals when you hold your breath.”

Goode has a tip for how to easily locate the specific muscles that need strengthening. “Imagine that you are in a crowded elevator and need to pass gas. The muscles that you automatically tighten up to keep gas from escaping are the same muscles that are used in Kegel exercises.”

1. The first step in learning to do Kegel exercises is to locate the muscles involved: As you begin urinating, try to stop or slow the urine stream without tensing the muscles of your legs, buttocks, or abdomen. It is very important not to use these other muscles, because only the pelvic floor muscles are involved in bladder control.

2. When you are able to stop or slow the stream of urine, you have located the pubococcygeus muscles. Feel the sensation of the muscles pulling inward and upward. (Helpful Hint: Squeeze in the rectal area to tighten the anus, as if trying not to pass gas. You will be using the pubococcygeus muscles.)

3. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day. You might make a practice of fitting in a set while doing routine tasks such as checking email, commuting to work, preparing meals, or watching TV.

Learn more about How to Deal With Urinary Incontinence and Trigger Foods to Avoid.