You probably are familiar with Kegels. They are often recommended to help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles. But have you heard about Reverse Kegels?
As the name suggests, they are the opposite of the standard Kegels. Reverse Kegels help relax your pelvic muscles. When done in the right way, reverse Kegels have a host of benefits.
Let’s take a look at how to do reverse Kegels and why they are good for you.
What Are Reverse Kegels?
Reverse Kegels are a simple exercise that works the muscles in the pelvic floor region. They relax, lengthen and stretch the pelvic floor muscles. Reverse Kegels can be done by both women and men but have different effects in either sex.
The pelvic floor is formed by 3 main muscles and is funnel-shaped (10):
- Levator ani muscles. It is the largest component that consists of 3 major muscles, which are the pubococcygeus, puborectalis, and iliococcygeus.
- Coccygeus muscle. The smaller and most posterior aspect of the pelvic floor.
- Muscular fascia. The pelvic fascia covers the pelvic organs.
The main functions of the pelvic floor muscles are (10):
- Support the abdominopelvic viscera, including the bladder, colon, and uterus.
- Offer resistance to intra pelvic/abdominal pressure increases; pelvic floor muscles offer resistance to pressure increase when coughing or performing activities such as lifting heavy material.
- Allow urinary and fecal continence. The pelvic floor muscle fibers have a sphincter action on the urethra and rectum that relax to allow urination and defecation.
A weak pelvic floor can cause a range of issues. In females, these muscles support the vagina uterus and the anal canal. Weakening of the muscles of the pelvic floor can result in urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, pelvic pain, and sexual dysfunction (9).
Much as it may seem impossible, your pelvic muscles might be too tight (7). When your muscles are too tight, you may experience painful sex or muscle spasms. This is where reverse Kegels come in; they help relax and lengthen your pelvic floor muscles. For women who experience painful sex or chronic constipation, relaxing the pelvic floor muscles can greatly reduce the pain.
Difference Between Kegels And Reverse Kegels
Kegels are very common, and many trainers swear by them. The lesser-known reverse Kegels are also great. Kegels and Reverse Kegels both work the pelvic floor muscles but have different impacts. Both Kegels and reverse Kegels have great benefits.
Kegels strengthen muscles of the pelvic floor, which support your bladder, rectum, and the womb in women (3). Research shows that kegel exercises help increase pelvic strength in women with urinary incontinence (2).
As the name indicates, reverse Kegels are the opposite of Kegels. During a kegel workout, you tighten the pelvic floor muscles. On the other hand, during a reverse Kegel workout, you relax these muscles instead of contracting them. A combination of both normal Kegels and reverse Kegels gives you better results over a short period as opposed to doing only Kegels.
How To Properly Do Reverse Kegels?
Much as men and women do this exercise differently, the purpose is still the same. You are relaxing and stretching your pelvic floor muscles. Ensure you practice the correct form so that you get the most out of this exercise. At first, doing reverse Kegels may seem difficult, but with time and practice, it becomes easier.
Here’s how to do Kegels and reverse Kegels:
How To Perform Reverse Kegels For Men?
- You can do this exercise while you stand, sit or lie down on your back with your knees bent.
- Once in the position of your choice, contract your muscles as though you are trying to urinate faster. Doing this relaxes your perennial muscle and eases the pressure from your prostate.
- Release the muscles of your anus and feel your whole perineal body move downwards. Lift your testicles and penis slightly while contracting your front penile muscles. You should feel more space between your pubic bone and tailbone as they stretch apart.
- Hold the reverse Kegels for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds also. Once you master this movement, you can try holding for a longer period.
- Breathe as deeply as you can during the entire routine.
How To Perform Reverse Kegels For Women (11)?
- Choose what position you want to do the reverse Kegels in. You can choose to stand, sit, or lie on your back with your knees bent.
- Once you are in position and are comfortable, take a deep breath and bring your focus to your pelvic floor.
- Feel your pelvic muscles relax, then drop down while you inhale. You can use a mirror to monitor your movement if you wish.
- Your anus releases and the space between the anus and vagina will move downwards. And if you reverse Kegels correctly, then you should feel your tailbone and pubic bone expanding.
- Hold the reverse Kegels for 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds also. Once you master this movement, you can try holding for a longer period.
- Perform two to three sets of 10 reverse Kegels throughout the day.
Start with about 3 sets a day and gradually move to do more. And once your muscles are stronger, you can hold the reverse Kegel for a longer duration. Remember, the secret to getting the most out of reverse Kegels is practicing the right technique. Do not do reverse Kegels while you are practicing any form of core workouts.
How soon you start seeing the results varies from one person to another. In some, it may take weeks, while in others, it may take months to start seeing the results. It is key to have some patience and stay consistent. You can also mix things up and do other pelvic floor exercises alongside reverse Kegels.
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Precautions To Take When Doing Reverse Kegels
While doing reverse Kegels, it is crucial to ensure that you are doing the exercise correctly to reap maximally from the workout and avoid any injuries or worsening the symptoms you wish to ease. Below are a few things you should keep in mind during a kegel workout:
Practice Proper Breathing Technique
Make sure that you are breathing properly during this routine. It is crucial to breathing deeply through your stomach and not just through your chest. Just like other exercises, it is important to gradually increase the intensity. If you do not, your muscles will become sore and rigid, and you may experience pain.
Don’t Overwork Your Muscles
Ensure you do not overexert your muscles and that you are not straining as it can be disastrous (4). Make sure you rest your muscles and do not hold the reverse Kegel position for too long if your body cannot handle it. Do only what your body can handle and only increase the duration and frequency of your workouts when your body can handle more.
Empty Your Bladder Beforehand
Because reverse Kegels are all about relaxing your pelvic muscles, you should go to the bathroom before a reverse Kegels workout. Relaxing the pelvic floor muscles may be difficult with a full bladder.
Listen To Your Body
It is important to pay attention to your body and listen to what it tells you. If you feel any pain or discomfort during a reverse Kegel exercise session, discontinue the workout for a while and rest. If the pain persists, you can consult your doctor to see how best to work to ease the pain.
You may also see a fitness expert as you may be experiencing pain because you are using the wrong technique.
See A Physical Therapist First
While it is true that there is a connection between pelvic health and reverse Kegels, it can be dangerous to self-medicate without proper guidance. So make sure you visit a physical therapist before you try to fix the problem yourself, be it incontinence or pelvic pain.
This is because while exercises might be helpful, there are other techniques like physical and massage therapy that may also be necessary. In some cases, reverse Kegels will not only offer complete relief for pelvic pain. There are several therapies besides exercise used to treat pelvic floor dysfunction (1).
Benefits Of Reverse Kegels
Reverse Kegels have several benefits for men and women. For proper functioning of the organs within the pelvic region, you need strong muscles. The most known benefit of Kegels and reverse Kegels is the impact they have on sex life.
Together with standard Kegels, reverse Kegels help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Having a strong pelvic floor helps prevent constipation, urine, and fecal incontinence. It also helps prevent the prolapse of pelvic organs, including the vagina and uterus that is common after childbirth.
Additionally, reverse Kegels help relieve pelvic tension, muscular imbalance, improve hip stability and lower back strength.
Below are the benefits of doing reverse Kegels:
Reverse Kegels in women can lead to powerful orgasms. It is also purported that doing these exercises makes vaginal orgasms more likely. They also help increase your sex drive.
These exercises are particularly beneficial for women with dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse). Dyspareunia is described as recurrent or persistent pain, which occurs before, during, or after sexual intercourse (5).
Relieves Pelvic Pain
If you experience pelvic pain, reverse Kegels may be of great help. This exercise helps relax the muscles, thus helping ease the pain. Be careful not to overwork your muscles. The goal is to relieve your pelvic pain, not to worsen it.
Keep in mind that overexerting your muscles might cause pain and muscle soreness. Discontinue these exercises if you experience any pain and talk to your doctor about other remedies that might help with the pain.
Beneficial For Childbirth
Frequently doing reverse Kegels gives you greater control of your pelvic floor muscles. This workout may be beneficial for pregnant women as it helps individuals learn how to ease the tension within the pelvic floor. This comes in handy during delivery, and because you can let go during childbirth, labor is smoother. Tearing may also be minimal.
Increase Strength And Control In The Penile Muscles
Reverse Kegels for men help strengthen and increase control of the penile muscles. It may also help men who suffer from premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction (8), which means better sexual function.
One small study involving 40 men with erectile dysfunction found that pelvic floor rehabilitation exercises helped in the treatment of premature ejaculation (6). Rehabilitation exercises are a more affordable alternative to the costly treatment that involves selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
To get maximum results for improved sexual function, you can combine reverse Kegels with traditional Kegels.
Helps Relieve Pelvic Pain
As reverse Kegels lengthen and relax the muscles within your pelvic floor, they help ease pelvic pain if you are experiencing any pelvic pain or cramping. For pain, avoid kegel exercise and do reverse Kegels instead.
The key is to do what you can manage and not to overstretch your muscles. Doing 3 sets of 10 a day should be enough. Only do more reps if your body can handle it.
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Do You Need To Learn The Standard Kegels First?
You may find it helpful to learn how to do the standard Kegels first. This may help you locate your pelvic floor muscles, which are activated during a reverse Kegel.
For most people, letting go of the pelvic floor muscles may feel similar to the release you feel when you pee or have a bowel movement. This is why it is important to empty your bladder before this exercise. Once you are ready, focus on your pelvic floor as you breathe in. As you inhale and fill your body with oxygenated air, your pelvic floor muscles and diaphragm should lower.
Here are tips to help you locate your pelvic floor muscles:
You can locate your pelvic floor muscles by picturing you are stopping urination midstream (3). Do not squeeze your muscles while you are actually urinating, but you can do so when trying to locate these muscles.
Another method you can use is placing a clean finger inside your vagina. You can do this while standing, lying down, or sitting. Just find a position that works for you. Once in position, tighten your vaginal muscles around your finger and pay attention to how these muscles feel as you squeeze them. The contractions should move onwards and upwards.
Once you locate the muscles, hold for about 5 seconds, then release for 5 seconds. With time you can increase the hold and relax time to 10 seconds each. Ensure you are not squeezing or holding for very long as this can fatigue the muscles and make them rigid.
For men, you can also locate these sets of muscles by picturing you are stopping urination midstream. Do not squeeze your muscles while urinating. However, you can do it when trying to locate your pelvic floor muscles.
Do not tighten your abdomen, back, and glutes. Your sides should be relaxed, and you should inhale deeply and evenly throughout the routine.
You can do Kegels while sitting, standing, or lying down with your knees bent. Squeeze and hold your pelvic floor for about 10 seconds. Let go for about 5 seconds between reps. You can do 3 sets of 10 reps daily.
The Bottom Line
Just like the traditional Kegels, reverse Kegels also offer great benefits for pelvic health. Reverse Kegels help relax, stretch, and lengthen your pelvic floor muscles. They may help with urine incontinence, pelvic pain, and childbirth. Doing reverse Kegels may help women experience more intense orgasms and are helpful for women with dyspareunia.
In men, reverse Kegels may help with premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. Keep in mind that consistency and patience are crucial, and you should not expect results overnight. Always reach out to a doctor or qualified fitness expert in case you experience any pain or discomfort.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Article Treating patients with pelvic floor dysfunction (2014, mayoclinic.org)
- Bladder training and Kegel exercises for women with urinary complaints living in a rest home (2008, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Kegel exercises: A how-to guide for women (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Overtraining Syndrome (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Painful sex (dyspareunia) in women: prevalence and associated factors in a British population probability survey (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation for patients with lifelong premature ejaculation: a novel therapeutic approach (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pelvic Floor Muscle Relaxation for Men (n.d., pelvic pain.org.au)
- Randomised controlled trial of pelvic floor muscle exercises and manometric biofeedback for erectile dysfunction (2004, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Recognition and Management of Nonrelaxing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. Faubion et al. Mayo Clin Proc. 2012 Feb (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Pelvic Floor – Structure – Function – Muscles (2021, teachmeanatomy.info)
- The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Reverse Kegel Exercises (2020, flo.health)