What the Heck is a Kegel?

 What is a Kegel?

A Kegel is the general name for doing a pelvic floor muscle exercise. The pelvic floor muscles are located in the base of the pelvis and are situated like a bowl or sling. There are three main muscle layers. Everyone has pelvic floor muscles and they play an important role in bowel, bladder, and sexual function. The pelvic floor must be able to contract, relax, and bear down for normal function.

When should I do Kegels?

This can vary depending on if any pelvic symptoms are present, like urinary leakage or pain. In the case of urinary leakage with coughing, sneezing, laughing, or standing from chair, you should do a kegel while this is happening to try and prevent the loss. If you want to practice kegels for general strengthening, I encourage them to be done while standing or doing activity and not just with sitting. Many times when I hear about patients leaking, it occurs with more functional tasks and less so at rest. In the case of pain, pelvic floor muscles are often tight or tense, which will make them difficult to activate more. Those individuals may need to address relaxing the muscles first, before worrying about strength.

Why should I do Kegels?

Kegel exercises can be beneficial to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. By doing these with functional tasks, you can help reduce urinary leakage, bowel leakage, and pelvic organ prolapse. These muscles are also part of the core and help be supportive during increased physical load or stress on the body.

How do I do a Kegel correctly?

A kegel can be properly performed by pretending to stop flow of urine and hold back from passing gas. (Please do not regularly practice stopping flowing of urine as this is a reflex system, but okay to test). This should be a very light activation that does not involve your butt muscles, abdominals, or chest moving. You should also be able to keep breathing while you perform them. The activation should be like a light squeeze and lift. Overall, it should feel isolated to the pelvis and have no movement from an outside perspective (someone at home shouldn’t be able to notice you are practicing).


If you have any concerns related to pelvic floor symptoms or dysfunction, I recommend you follow up with a pelvic health physical therapist. All you need is a referral from your doctor.

Erin Galarza, PT, DPT, OCS

Erin graduated with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Pacific University in 2013. She has over seven years’ experience as an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist treating general orthopedic conditions, aquatic therapy, and pelvic health. As a pelvic health physical therapist, she treats bowel, bladder, and pelvic pain conditions in both male and female clients, as well as female pelvic organ prolapse. In 2018 she became a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Orthopedics. She has been practicing as a physical therapist in Washington State prior to her move to Vermont in 2020. Erin enjoys traveling and taking in the outdoors. 

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