5 ways to make Kegel exercises more effective

Here's why Kegels aren't a silver bullet for pelvic floor health—and pelvic floor exercises that can help.

kegel exercises pelvic floor exercises
@CamLee / Twenty 20

There are so many things about womanhood that are treated like unknowable mysteries—when they're really anything but.

For example, the female orgasm is often talked about as this mythical, magical unicorn. Many of us were taught that we shouldn't expect to feel pleasure or have an orgasm (or even multiple Os!) every single time we have sex. But guess what: You can.

Then there's pregnancy and postpartum. While television sitcoms tell us we'll have weird food cravings, no one really talks about the whole postpartum "peeing when you laugh" thing. (Seriously, what's that even about?)

Well, I want to let you in on a secret. None of this is actually a mystery. It's your pelvis.


I've helped thousands of women recover pelvic floor function without medication or surgery. Most importantly, I'm not prescribing any "cure all" solution to all your pelvic floor issues. There's a lot of bad advice out there. Especially when it comes to your pelvic health.

One of the most common bad pieces of advice I hear is that Kegel exercises are for everyone.

That's just not true.

I have nothing against Kegels, because they do work—for some. They're just simply not the end-all-be-all or Holy Grail of the pelvic floor, because there's a lot that goes into finding out if Kegels are the right pelvic floor exercise for you.

Here are 5 reasons why Kegels might not currently work for you, and actionable steps to finally get you the results you're looking for.

1.The pelvic floor is just one part of the system.

It's important to understand that your pelvic floor is just one part of a larger system of core muscles, and you need a complete, robust approach when it comes to healing pelvic floor issues. Look at it like a system, everything is interconnected and corresponds together.

Breathing three dimensionally, with your diaphragm, is the first step.

Action step: Check in with your breathing by putting one hand on your chest and one hand on your waist. Take a deep breath in. Where are you feeling the breath move? Are you a chest or waist breather? This is a great way of connecting the two parts (the diaphragm and the pelvic floor) of the system back "online" with one another. Ideally, you should feel your waist moving in all directions—forward, back and both sides expanding.

You can throw a theraband or even a tie around your waist and while you are washing your face, feeding your kiddo or reading this article (!) to practice feeling your waist expanding in all of these directions. This will help you wake up your diaphragm, a key member of the pelvic floor system.

2. Your posture could be suffering.

Kegel exercises are a very isolated approach to improving pelvic floor health. It's kind of like when we try to do arm exercises because we want toned arms—only to skip "leg day" or ignore exercising the rest of our bodies.

The way you sit affects the tone of your pelvic floor muscles. Many of us are sitting with poor posture all day: on the tailbone, with your body in a C-shape. The good news is this is fixable. Good posture keeps your pelvic floor muscles in alignment without putting excess strain on them, which will lead to better function overall.

Action step: Check your posture a few times throughout the day. Take a picture of yourself sitting—or have a partner do it for you. What do you notice about your body's alignment? For proper posture, think ears over shoulders over hips.

3. You're under-thinking it.

A lot of people think about doing Kegels at the traffic light or while they're waiting in line at the grocery store. It's this mentality of, "I can squeeze in ten Kegels right now and I'm good."

But, in reality, your pelvic floor is a part of the body that can benefit from being present and mindful.

Action step: Instead of doing Kegels absentmindedly or slamming them out like a bicep curl, try a thoughtful, mindful approach to doing your pelvic floor exercises. You can improve the brain-to-muscle connection by paying attention during the exercise, activating the pelvic floor muscles that are not as involved so that their support becomes more automatic down the road.

4. You're overthinking it.

Sometimes we can be so lost in our heads that we overthink Kegels. Really, the exercise is very simple! But it works best when we're relaxed mentally and physically.

Action step: As you Kegel, take a minute to walk your mind through some visualization techniques. Imagine an elevator door closing and lifting, closing and lifting. Or, one of my favorites, cold butter melting in a hot pan, which is great for visualizing the relaxation portion of the exercise—and just as important for full range of motion!

5. Your pelvic floor muscles are too tight

85% of my clients in my private practice have pelvic floors that are actually too tight; this comes as a great surprise to them because they come to see me due to peeing when they laugh, and they think all they need to do is strengthen down there.

Too-tight pelvic floor muscles means that the muscles are not coordinated and flexible, so they can't move through a full range of motion.

Imagine doing more tension and flexing on top of that! That's exactly what Kegels do, they tighten and lift. So if you're already tense "down there," your Kegel exercises could actually make the issues you're experiencing worse.

Action step: Try to do a quick Kegel. What do you feel? If you feel like it's very easy to squeeze but you don't feel the relaxation very easily, you might be too tight. I actually created a self-assessment in my online course Kegels That Work to help you easily determine if you are too tight or too relaxed.

It's time to make these secrets about pelvic floor health not so secret anymore. And as always, check in with your care provider if you have any concerns about your pelvic floor health, or if you are experiencing pain.

In This Article

    These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

    It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

    When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

    But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

    I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

    So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

    It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

    But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.

    Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin

    Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

    Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

    Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

    Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

    This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    It's 2020, but for American mothers, it's still the 1950s

    Once a woman in America becomes a mother, our society transports her back in time. In an instant, generations of sexist ideas and structures descend back upon her.

    We like to think that women have come so far.

    We have our educations. Today, our education system not only allows girls to thrive, but it has enabled the first generation in history—Millennials—in which women are more highly educated than men.

    We have choice. Access to family planning has given American women life-changing control over their fertility and the decision to start a family.

    We have basic respect. Today, our marriages are built on the principle that partners are equal regardless of gender.

    We have careers. It's utterly common for a woman to return to work after having a child.


    We have acknowledgment. And our culture even declares that caregiving is essential work for both mothers and fathers.

    We have possibilities. And all of the potential our lives as women hold now gives girls the hope that anything is possible.

    But the truth is that American motherhood has the veneer of being modern, without any of the structures to support our actual lives today.

    Keep reading Show less