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Ask A Sex Therapist: Can Kegels really give my vagina a workout?

WORDS BY LAURA MIANO

FJ’s resident sexpert is here to help.

Laura Miano is a sex and relationship writer and sex therapist in training based in Melbourne. Her mission is to help those with sexual concerns as well as support individuals who might like to enhance their sex lives beyond cultural norms. To learn more about her, follow @lauramianosexology or contact her here.

“What’s the deal with Kegels? Are they really that great for your sex life? Can they really give my vagina a workout?” – Kegel Curious

Hey Kegel Curious,

Ahhh Kegels! With so much potential for good, these often-misunderstood exercises can leave people who are in pursuit of more pleasurable sex, ironically, with a whole heap of sexual issues. For this reason, I’m so happy you’ve asked this question. Ever since Samantha Jones famously told us she was doing hers at the cafe table, pop culture has never really forgotten about them.

Touted as a sex-hack and our answer to better orgasms, tighter vaginas and longer erections, there’s a whole industry now devoted to strengthening your Kegel muscles. From apps that track your Kegel schedule to weighted balls that can be inserted into a vagina, Kegels seem like a trend that’s here to stay.

Now I’m all for sex tips that can help people improve their sex lives, but when you are messing around with your pelvic floor area (i.e. the muscles around your urethral, vaginal and anal opening) you’ve got to make sure you are doing things correctly. So, to get a little more clarity on Kegels, I reached out to Dora Pandeloglou who works as our in-house pelvic floor physiotherapist over at the Australian Institute of Sexology and Sexual Medicine.

Dora’s insights are fascinating, to say the least. She explains that in her practice she doesn’t use the term ‘Kegels’ as many people confuse this with simply tightening the area. This is a common misconception because one huge component of the exercise is missing here – that is, relaxing. So, when you do these exercises you need to contract and then release. This release is key to reaping the benefits from these exercises and one part that many people overlook.

In fact, people who do these exercises incorrectly can suffer from premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, painful vaginal sex and weaker orgasms. This is interesting, because turn to the internet and you’ll see Kegels promoted as a treatment for all of these issues! These moments are when I seriously love my job – debunking myths is so much fun.

Dora also highlights another area where people go wrong and that’s in failing to isolate your intended muscles. Many people tend to contract their abs, glutes and every other muscle along the genital area when they do these exercises, but this can cause harm. In true 2020 fashion, you need to isolate! So, find the muscles that you want to target and exercise them in isolation.

Now you know how to do them correctly, let’s chat pleasure. Dora explains that although the research is mixed, she believes pelvic floor exercises can in fact improve orgasms. Thank god for that, because I wasn’t emotionally ready to write off Samantha Jones just yet. Dora says that just like any other muscle, if you learn how to work it correctly, its functionality improves.

So, if orgasms are made up of muscle contractions in the genital area then some well-trained pelvic floor muscles are going to translate to better orgasms. Wondering how this is possible given I just mentioned that Kegels can cause weaker orgasms? Well in those cases, people don’t learn to relax their muscles, so they spasm and then fail to go through the full range of motion that a contracting muscle should go through during orgasm.

I also asked Dora whether these exercises actually improve the tightness of a person’s vagina and to my delight, Dora told me this is true. Although over-tightening is the devil in pelvic floor exercises, when you do them correctly you build up bulk in the area and this creates more tension. And that’s tension in a good way (which we love).

Now, I was already satisfied with the first myth I debunked but today is a good day because I’m about to debunk another. You know those weighted Kegel balls you’ve most likely seen hyped up on sex toy websites and sex blogs? Well, it turns out these are terrible for your vagina. In Dora’s words, “They are the worst!”

These products buy into the Kegel misconception of tightening the vagina and as we know, if you don’t relax you aren’t doing it correctly. And, with a weight inside your vagina, relaxing is virtually impossible. So bottom line – avoid these gimmicky toys, they’ll only do more harm than good.

You don’t need any additional tools to benefit from pelvic floor exercises. With the right method and a consistent schedule, you’ll be on the right track. So, the next time you hear the word Kegels dropped by a friend, colleague, family member or person sitting at the table next to you (seriously), impart this wisdom onto them. Everyone has the right to aspire to a more pleasurable sex life but with sexual misinformation rife in our world, it can be a challenge. Let’s spread the pelvic floor exercise love all around!

This article and the resources we’ve linked are not and do not replace medical advice. Please talk to your GP or a health professional should you have further questions.

See the other instalments in our Ask A Sex Therapist series here.

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