MALE KEGELS AND HOW TO DO THEM
Kegel exercises can be beneficial for men too! Learn how these exercises can help improve and maintain bowel and maintain bowel and bladder functions.
KEGEL EXERCISES for men
Pelvic Muscle Exercises, also known as Kegels or Kegel Exercises, are one of the best ways to improve and maintain bowel and bladder functions. Perhaps you've heard about them, but usually as something women can do to help with their incontinence.
Well, good news. Kegels are an equal opportunity exercise that can have tremendous impact on incontinence as well as the potential to enhance sexual performance not just for women, but for men too.
There are three basic muscles that come in to play. The bulbocavernosus muscle (BC muscle), the pubococcygeus muscle (PC muscle), and the iliococcygeus muscle (IC muscle). Each of these muscles have a specific role. In short, they are:
- Squeezing semen or urine out of the urethra.
- Squeezing more blood into the end of the penis.
- Also plays a role in urination and bowel movements.
- Forms a large part of the pelvic floor, supporting lower organs.
- Contracts during orgasm.
- Like the PC muscle, it forms part of the strength of the pelvic floor.
- It pulls the anus back up after a bowel movement.
When performing Kegels, the BC is the major muscle being used, while PC and IC have a less direct role.
HOW TO DO KEGEL EXERCISES
Like any exercise, it can be difficult at first to know that you are performing Kegels properly. But with a daily commitment, it becomes instinctive. Here are a few tips:
- Which muscles? If you can stop your urination flow mid-stream, you have identified your pelvic floor muscles. That’s the most difficult part of the exercise.
- Build up to your routine. Performing with an empty bladder, your first goal should be to tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds. Then relax them for 5 seconds. Try to do 5 reps on your first day. As you gain confidence from your new routine, aim for for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.
- Watchouts. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. Also, avoid holding your breath. Breathe freely during the exercises to keep from stressing the rest of your body.
- Repeat 3 times per day. Aim for at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions per day.
- Give yourself encouragement. These exercises will feel foreign in the beginning. But the longer you stay with this, the better your bladder health will become. As a bonus, Kegels have been reported to increase sexual pleasure as well.
To give your pelvic floor a full workout, there are two types of exercises you should perform. The first exercise is called a short contraction, and it works the fast twitch muscles that quickly shut off the flow of urine to prevent leakage. The muscles are quickly tightened, lifted up, and then released. You should contract as you exhale, then continue to breathe normally as you do the exercises.
The second exercise works on the supportive strength of the muscles and is referred to as a long contraction. The slow twitch muscles are gradually tightened, lifted up, and held for several seconds. As first, it may be difficult to hold the contraction for more than 1 or 2 seconds. Ultimately, the goal is to hold the contraction for 10 seconds then rest for 10 seconds between each long contraction to avoid taxing the muscles. A solid exercise plan would be to perform 3 sets of 10 short and 10 long contractions twice per day. Remember: quality is king here. Doing the exercises right trumps doing a bunch of them incorrectly. You should see improvements in 3 to 6 months.
SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
Don’t be discouraged if you are not able to control your bladder as soon as you would like, but rather look for these signs as proof that your pelvic floor muscle exercises are working and that you are on your way to better bladder health:
- Longer time between bathroom visits
- Fewer “accidents”
- Ability to hold the contractions longer, or to do more repetitions
- Drier underwear, without the feeling of always being wet
Men who have difficulty performing pelvic floor muscle exercises on their own may find biofeedback therapy helpful. With professional instruction from a nurse specialist or physical therapist, many men witness significant improvement in pelvic floor strength. It is crucial to remember that incontinence and pelvic floor symptoms almost always have solutions and shouldn’t be shrugged off as ‘normal’. Find time each day to squeeze it into your routine.