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29th March, 20215 min read

The best pelvic floor exercises

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Helen Prentice
Last reviewed: 25/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Your ‘pelvic floor’ is a group of muscles that stretch across the base of your pelvis, around your bladder, bottom and vagina or penis. They support the organs in your tummy and pelvis and help control your bladder and bowel.

However, if these muscles are weak, they won’t do their job as well – which is where pelvic floor exercises come in. They can strengthen your pelvic floor, which can help with several health issues.

Read on to learn why you might want to try pelvic floor exercises and the best way to do them.

Why should you do pelvic floor muscle exercises?

Common reasons for doing exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor include:

  • sexual health – strong pelvic floor muscles can lead to increased sensitivity during sex and stronger orgasms
  • urinary incontinence – this is when you can’t always control your bladder and wee leaks out. It can happen for several reasons, including age and pregnancy, but weak pelvic floor muscles often play a part
  • pregnancy and childbirth – pelvic floor muscles can be stretched and weakened by pregnancy and childbirth. Keeping them strong can support your baby, help with labour and make incontinence after the birth less likely
  • the menopause – this can also weaken your pelvic floor muscles, which can lead to less control over your bladder or bowel or less pleasure during sex
  • erectile dysfunction – strengthening and training your pelvic floor can help with getting an erection and may also help stop you ‘coming’ too quickly (premature ejaculation)

How to do pelvic floor exercises

You can do pelvic floor exercises anywhere and at any time.

First, you need to ‘find’ the right muscles. You can do this by imagining that you’re trying to avoid passing wee and wind at the same time. This will involve squeezing and pulling up the muscles around your genitals and bladder, and back passage (rectum).

Try not to hold your breath, clench your buttocks or squeeze your legs together when you do these exercises.

Pelvic floor exercises for women

When trying these pelvic floor exercises, you may find it easier to lie down or sit in a chair with your knees slightly apart:

  • slowly tighten the pelvic floor muscles around your bladder, as hard as you can
  • hold for a count of 5, then relax – this is a ‘long squeeze’
  • quickly tighten your muscles again, then let go straight away – this is a ‘short squeeze’
  • try to do 1 long squeeze followed by 10 short squeezes
  • repeat the cycle 8 times – it should take about 5 minutes
  • aim to do this 3 times a day

If you’re not sure you’re using the right muscles, try putting a couple of fingers into your vagina – you should feel a gentle squeeze when you do the exercise.

Pelvic floor exercises for men

At first, you may find the exercises easier to do while sitting on a chair or toilet seat. Rest your feet flat on the floor and keep your legs slightly apart. Lean forwards, resting your elbows on your knees.

Start with a slower exercise:

  • tighten the muscles around your back passage and urethra, as though you're trying to stop a flow of wee
  • pull upwards and try to hold for a count of 10, then relax for another 10
  • repeat until you feel tired

Then do a quicker version:

  • tighten your pelvic floor muscles as above
  • hold for 1 second, then relax
  • repeat until you feel tired

Aim to do the exercises 3 times a day. If you can’t hold for a count of 10, just hold for as long as you can. As you practise, you’ll be able to increase this length of time.

When to speak to a doctor

It may be several weeks before you start to build up strength in your pelvic floor muscles. But if you keep doing the exercises, you should gradually feel an improvement.

If you’re having problems tightening your pelvic floor muscles or if you’re worried about another health concern – such as urinary incontinence or erectile dysfunction – see your doctor. They will be able to give you a check-up and advice. They may also refer you to a physiotherapist.

Key points

  • your pelvic floor muscles stretch across the base of your pelvis, around your bladder, bottom and vagina or penis
  • they help control your bladder, bowel and sexual organs, so it’s important to keep them strong
  • pelvic floor exercises can strengthen your muscles and keep them working well
  • the exercises can also help treat several health conditions
  • you can tighten the right muscles by imagining that you’re trying to stop yourself passing wee and wind
  • if you’re having problems with your pelvic floor muscles, speak to your doctor
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