Work that pelvic floor! It's as easy as 1, 2, 3 and 4!

If you're a woman with bladder leakage due to stress incontinence, pelvic floor exercises (or Kegel exercises) can help. In fact, research shows strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can cure 84% of women who are battling incontinence post pregnancy or menopause. Below we explain what your pelvic floor muscles are and provide a guide to exercising them more effectively. If you are unsure about the correct technique or have any medical concerns please contact a health professional.

What are pelvic floor muscles?

There are many reasons why it’s vital to keep your pelvic floor muscles strong. Your pelvic floor consists of layers of muscle and tissues that stretch from your tailbone to your pubic bone, not unlike a hammock. These muscles support your bladder, uterus and bowel, and help control your bladder and bowel function as well as sexual function.

How to locate your pelvic floor muscles

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3 and 4!

  1. Stand, lie or sit straight. Keep breathing evenly and normally.
  2. Relax your thigh, bottom and lower tummy muscles. Let go completely (this is very important!)
  3. Draw in the muscles around your vagina, as if you're stopping your stream of urine. Feel the muscles contract then relax.
  4. Draw in the muscles around your anus and then relax them. Feel a lift-and-squeeze inside your pelvis.

So how do you get started?

Once you’ve mastered the above four steps:

  1. Squeeze the muscles around your rectum and your vagina simultaneously and lift them up (in, rather than out!). You should be able to feel your pelvic floor “lift” each time you squeeze. Count to 8 while you hold them tight, then let go and relax.
  2. Repeat step 1 as many times as you can – but don’t go over 12 repetitions.
  3. Remember let go between squeezes. You should rest for around 8 seconds between exercises. Don’t worry if you can’t hold for 8 counts, just hold for as long as you can.
  4. Try to do three sets of 8 or 12 squeezes, with a longer rest in between.

If you’re unable to complete the full number of squeezes, build up slowly, but make sure you’ve perfected the technique first (sometimes it’s good to get professional help from your doctor, physiotherapist, or continence nurse at the beginning to ensure you’re doing right). Alternatively there are great products on the market to help you perform your pelvic floor exercises more effectively. One of these is the PeriCoach System which, with its discreet sensor unit, smartphone app and data monitoring, provides instant feedback whilst performing pelvic floor exercises.

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For more details and answers to our most frequently asked questions about pelvic floor exercises, visit our online article here. If you have any pelvic floor or incontinence questions contact our Urology and Continence Nurse Advisor by clicking here.

Further resources on pelvic floor exercises can be accessed through the Continence Foundation of Australia. Please click here to be taken to their website.