Kegels have been getting the run around lately, with folks in both camps-the Kegel-ers and No Kegel-ers staunchly pulling for their views.
I am in a different camp….the “let’s-see-the-Kegel-for-what-it-is-(an early rehab tool, if done correctly)-and-then-let’s-take-the-next-step” camp. Kumbaya!
In short, a Kegel strengthens the pelvic floor by performing an isolated, isometric hold of the pelvic floor. Isometrics, referred to as sets, are early rehabilitation activities that get muscles rolling again and help patients figure out how to re-connect with an injured or weak muscle (examples-quad sets are thigh squeezes that help patients restart their quad; glute sets squeeze the bum to get it moving again). But in order to get that quad or those glutes to start to support someone for say running, the activities must move from isolated, squeezing activities to more challenging, functional and running-like activities that link them back together with all the other muscles that participate in running. No rehab or fitness pro would stop at a quad set to rehabilitate a knee or prepare an athlete (recreational or pro) for return to play. Yet that is what a Kegel is for the pelvic floor. Is it any wonder women leak horribly when they try to return to fitness or sport? The pelvic floor hasn’t been trained for that kind of physical demand.
The pelvic floor muscle group is made of the same kind of muscle tissue as the quads and glutes, so it needs to be trained the way other muscles are! To rehabilitate the pelvic floor and get it to perform for an activity like running or zumba or chasing your little one around- the training program must move from an isolated contraction (Kegels) to one that exercises it in functional, and dynamic ways.
So, the right question is: where do we go from here? The first step towards a new way of training the pelvic floor to be dynamic and ready for fitness is to understand how it functions. Here are some pelvic floor fun facts to get you started: