In recent years how we look and train the muscles of the pelvic floor has changed. We have more knowledge of their role within the body and how movements and postures affect them. So too has our knowledge on how best to train them. Gone are the days of the pelvic floor being resigned to the postnatal woman!
The name Kegel comes from American gynaecologist Dr Arnold Kegel, who, in 1948, started using the method of strengthening the pelvic floor muscles to aid in incontinence issues. The exercises are usually done by lifting and holding them for up to 10 seconds, 10 times, and then lifting and lowering quickly 10 times. The idea being this will help to tone the muscles.
Since then research has shown that the pelvic floor muscles are also exercised during movements of the legs, such as when squatting and lunging. There can also be a link between your foot mechanics and the pelvic floor. And then there is, of course, the link between the pelvic floor and diaphragm and abdominals. All of which can help to strengthen, lengthen and tone the pelvic floor. Arguably it’s when you’re doing things like picking up the children, carrying heavy bags or sneezing that you need these muscles to work best, not just at traffic lights in a seated position.
So does that mean the use of old fashioned Kegels has finished? In short, no. They may not teach you to pre-empt lifting a load of washing but they are the start of more functional work. For instance you wouldn’t give a novice exerciser a 50kg bar and expect them to squat. You would start with body weight and work on technique first before adding load. That is the same for Kegels. We need to be able to ‘find’ our pelvic muscles and work them under controlled circumstances before we ask them to do more complicated tasks.
In short then we still need to do Kegels but then once control and awareness has been established we can add resistance and movement to make the exercises more ‘functional’.