Remember when people used to lift things up and put them down at Planet Fitness? Well, now they’re staying home to lift things… with their vaginas. No, we’re not kidding. Vaginal weightlifting is seriously a thing. As opposed to doing regular kegels like every other human, people with vaginas are attaching heavy objects to kegel balls to weight train their vag and pelvic floor muscles in order to get
tighter healthier faster. Need proof? Go check out the Instagram hashtag #thingsiliftwithmyvagina. I understand if you don’t want to believe it, but this is literally real.
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#thingsiliftwithmyvagina⠀ ⠀ Those bottle caps don't untwist themselves, you know. ⠀ ⠀ See my previous post for the benefits of a vaginal weight lifting practice. ⠀ ⠀ Hint: You'll win all the challenges. ⠀ ⠀ Lifting wind chimes in Bali. ⠀ ⠀ Cause my vagina makes noise!!! ⠀ ⠀ #vaginalkungfu
Naturally, we have some questions about these exercises, like “why” and “how” and “who the hell thought of this?” But we also have other, more legitimate questions, like is vaginal weightlifting actually a good idea? We interviewed the founder of vagina gym Kegelbell, Dr. Stephanie Schull, as well as O.school’s pleasure professional and pelvic health physical therapist at YouSeeLogic, Dr. Uchenna “UC” Ossai, to find out whether or not you should start weight training your most intimate muscles.
Who Can Do Vaginal Weightlifting?
So she was packing. Maybe she was trying to protect her reproductive rights. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Also: keep the safety on and don’t Kegel. https://t.co/W1U1WEyQUC
— ??????? ????? (@shannynmoore) April 28, 2018
First and foremost, are kegels only for people with vaginas? Good news: Any human can do pelvic floor exercises because everybody has a pelvic floor. Whether you’re 19 or 91, you can start kegeling. Yay, equality!
HOWEVER, there are situations where pelvic floor exercises either must be done under supervision or can’t be done at all. Dr. UC says that without a postural and pelvic floor muscle assessment, it’s hard to say if they’ll be beneficial for you. “Depending on your medical condition, you may need to be doing the opposite of kegels. A general rule of thumb is if you have constipation, difficulty emptying your bladder, pain with sex, or any other pelvic pain condition, pelvic floor exercises are typically not recommended.” Schull adds not to use vaginal weights if you’re pregnant, gave birth less than six weeks ago, have a vaginal infection, 3rd or 4th degree pelvic organ prolapse, or have had pelvic surgery in the last three months. Don’t fall into any of those categories? Kegel away.
How To Do It Safely
hey bro will you spot me on these kegels?
— clara’s tw*tter (@ramencult) July 25, 2019
My preferred form of exercise is to practice breaking limbs and choking people out (aka Brazilian jiu-jitsu), but safety should always be a concern no matter which workout you get into. Here’s how to make sure you’re killing the kegel game as safely as possible.
Kegel exercises, in a nutshell, involve repeatedly contracting and then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. People have already been using Kegel or Ben Wa balls for centuries (why am I just now hearing about this?), and they’re basically weighted balls that you insert into the vagina before performing your exercises. There are also other products, like Kegelbell, that have an internal piece and then weighted pieces that are external—resembling the situation in the Instagram above, but a lot less extreme. You’re not just like, inserting a dumbbell into your vagina. Dr. UC says you can’t do these exercises in the mirror at the gym without getting arrested for indecent exposure…so do this sh*t in the comfort and isolation of your home, please and thank you. No one wants to see you weight training your vag next to the dumbbell station at the local gym.
And for those who don’t know (@ me), kegels are way more involved than just clenching. They require proper form and careful instruction like every other workout. Both experts agree that most people do them wrong by holding their breath, arching their back, clenching their jaw, overusing their abs, butt, or legs, or only focusing on just the vagina or anus instead of all three sphincters (the urethra needs to join the party too). Since weighted kegels are way more intense than normal ones, Kegelbell offers instructions on their website with PG-13 videos and guidelines on how to train correctly so you don’t get hurt.
Just like when you’re shopping for sex toys and tampons, you’ll also need to watch out for unsafe products you probably shouldn’t be using. Schull says that some V weights on the market are made of unhealthy materials and include dangerous instructions to wear them for hours or use them for 100+ minutes every week, “creating an unhygienic situation in a place where you definitely don’t want that.” YIKES. But Kegelbell is FDA-registered, made of medical-grade silicone, and the only kegel-assisted weight that stays OUTSIDE the vagina (the attached bulb is the only part that goes inside). Either way, whether it’s a Kegelbell, a dildo, or a menstrual cup, always make sure you wash whatever you plan to stick up there with fragrance-free soap and water before you stick it up there.
So Is This Actually A Good Idea?
To answer the main Q here, should we be doing weighted kegels? According to Dr. UC, who treats people with sexual and pelvic floor dysfunction for a living, the short answer is (generally) nope. “It reinforces the idea that the key to good orgasm or vaginal sex is a “tight vagina,” which is completely inaccurate. “It also lends itself to unnecessary injury, bad movement habits, or faults without proper supervision from a licensed medical provider.” She does vouch that Kegel exercises in general can enhance your sex life, though, among other things. “Having a coordinated and strong pelvic floor can help stabilize your spine and improve pelvic girdle pain, bowel, and bladder function, as well as your sexual response.”
But it’s not just about a tight vag or better sex to Schull, who created Kegelbell after watching her mom experience the pain of pelvic mesh surgery. “How do we expect women to get into the boardroom when we can’t even help them get out of the bathroom? a natural, effective, and safe way for women to strengthen their muscles so they can stop worrying about leakage and all the other side effects of weak pelvic floors and get back to the life they love.” Cheers, sis.
Research shows that pelvic floor exercises (like weighted kegels) offer lots of health benefits inside AND outside the bedroom. They can help to straighten your posture, keep you from peeing when you jump on a trampoline or laugh too hard (embarrassed to admit at age 26 I have the *worst* bladder and do both of these things), and prevent internal organs from failing…which definitely sounds important. And yes, kegels promote intense orgasms, increase natural lubrication, and enable a stronger “squeeze and release” to amplify sensations during penetrative sex or masturbation. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Schull claims kegeling can even boost your confidence. “When you have a deep connection with these important muscles, and they are strong, it gives you a profound sense of power. Feeling stronger and more in tune with your body is never a bad thing!” *immediately starts kegeling to gain power and increase crippling low self-esteem*
After speaking with both of these experts, it seems like vaginal weight training can be a good idea as long as you’re smart and safe about it. When done correctly and consistently, weighted kegels are just super-kegels that work to keep your pelvic floor healthy, strengthen the surrounding muscles, and treat or prevent any related dysfunctions down there. But you don’t really need to add weights necessarily to get these benefits. Whatever you do, please don’t add these exercises to your circuit at the normal gym unless you want to get banned from your local Equinox (maybe not a bad idea, considering current recent events tbh).
Images: Kegelbell, GIPHY, Twitter @ramencult, @shannynmoore
So, you’ve heard about the pelvic floor before: you tried kegels a few times but weren’t sure if you were doing them right… you heard how giving birth can damage your pelvic floor muscles and afterwards you might pee when you sneeze… your friend has maybe told you about their jade egg… or you might’ve read about other kegel toys on O.school. But, when you get down to it, what’s the deal with the pelvic floor?
Well, this group of muscles may just be the unsung hero of your body. The pelvic floor plays a critical role in bladder control, bowel function, childbirth, orgasms, ejaculation, erections, and more, so having a healthy pelvic floor is a pretty big deal for your health and your sex life. When the pelvic floor is healthy, these processes go smoothly, but when the pelvic floor is not healthy, there can be issues.
What Is Your Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles in the pelvis that sits like a sling between the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis and the tailbone at the back. The muscles support the organs inside the pelvis, including the bladder and bowel, as well as the uterus (for people who have one).
In case you need to know for a trivia quiz in future: levator ani, ischiocavernosus, bulbospongiosus, and coccygeus are the names of the muscles that comprise the pelvic floor. They sit at the base of the pelvis under all the pelvic organs, and wrap around the urethra, anus, and vagina, controlling the opening and closing of these passages.
Everyone has a pelvic floor—regardless of gender, age, body type, or any other kind of difference. So, pelvic floor health is not just about vaginas. We can all benefit from maintaining a healthy pelvic floor.
What Does Your Pelvic Floor Do?
Firstly, the pelvic floor keeps your organs inside your body, so gravity doesn’t let them fall out when you’re standing upright and walking around. Yikes. Ok, it’s not a very sexy thing to think about, but it is kind of an important job.
Secondly, the pelvic floor muscles squeeze closed and relax open to allow the passage of waste (both kinds) and, when relevant, babies. Being able to squeeze and relax the muscles is also essential for arousal, orgasm, erections, ejaculation, and pain-free sex.
Why Should You Care About Your Pelvic Floor?
Did you not read when I said “pain-free sex”? But for real, having a healthy pelvic floor is important because it controls so many important bodily functions. Peeing when you want to, and not when you don’t? Thank your pelvic floor. Same with poop control—thanks, pelvic floor! Being able to achieve orgasm? You can thank your pelvic floor for that too. Having sex without pain? Yup, I mentioned that one already. See what I mean about it being the unsung hero?
On the other hand, if you’re having any of these problems, an overly weak or overly tight pelvic floor might be the culprit:
- Accidentally peeing or having trouble getting all your pee out
- Accidentally pooping or often getting constipated
- Pain in your back, abdomen, pelvis, or genital areas
- Difficulty achieving orgasm
- Pain during sex (especially painful penetration)
- Difficulty inserting anything into the vagina
- Penis problems like erectile dysfunction and rapid ejaculation
How To Care For Your Pelvic Floor
Let’s get one thing straight first, being “tight” down there is not actually a good thing. Sure, you want those muscles to be strong, and to be able to clench when you want them to, but you also need to be able to relax them too. An overly tight pelvic floor can cause as many problems as a weak one.
The right balance of strength exercises, like Kegels, and relaxing exercises, like stretching, keep the pelvic floor in tip-top shape. According to pelvic floor physical therapist Dr. Uchenna Ossai, “If you don’t strengthen your pelvic floor, if you don’t work on relaxing your pelvic floor, if you don’t work on lengthening your pelvic floor, it’s not going to be functioning the way you need it to”. So how do you exercise your pelvic floor? Here’s how.
How To Do Kegel Exercises
Doing Kegels is basically like going to the gym, but for your pelvic floor. And on the bright side, it takes way less effort than the gym, and you probably won’t break a sweat doing it. But before you dive into Kegels, it’s important to know that they’re not suitable for everyone. If you have a healthy or weak pelvic floor, then go for it. On the other hand, if you have an overly tight pelvic floor, Kegels can make things worse. Seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist will help you work out the state of your pelvic floor and which exercises are best for you. Below is a step-by-step guide to Kegels for people with vaginas.
Step 1: Isolate The Correct Muscles
You’ll want to be in a neutral spine position, that means you aren’t too arched and you’re not too flexed. Find somewhere in the middle where everything feels natural and comfortable. You can isolate different parts of your pelvic floor by focusing only on the anus, vagina, and urethra! But for general purposes, focus on engaging the entire muscle group.
For more info on how to isolate the correct muscles click here.
Step 2: Squeeze AND Lift Your Pelvic Muscles
Think about picking up a Kleenex with your pelvic muscles. Imagine squeezing your urethra, anus, and vagina to pick up a Kleenex and pull it up towards the ceiling.
Step 3: Keep Breathing Throughout Your Kegels
Breathe normally while you do your Kegel exercises. Don’t hold your breath, pull your belly in, tighten your inner thighs, or arch your back. You are just trying to work those specific pelvic floor muscles and keep everything else relaxed.
Step 4: Release The Muscles
After a few seconds, release the muscles. Imagine you are letting go of the Kleenex and let it float down to the floor. You should completely relax the muscles at this stage. But don’t push down with your muscles when releasing. Remember, the goal is to have good pelvic floor tone, which means muscles that are able to relax as well as squeeze.
Step 5: Repeat
Before you decide on how many reps you need to do, you first need to figure out where you stand. Start with a 10 rep max; lay down and repeat the above instructions for a max of 10 reps. If you get tired after four reps (it will feel like you cannot find your muscles), then that is your starting point. Begin with two to three sets of four reps, once a day for general maintenance and then build yourself up to two sets of 10 reps.
You also might want to work on your endurance, which means you should practice holding the contraction for a few seconds, and then release and relax the muscles.
Some Final Notes
Many people think “tight is right,” but that’s not always the goal. Your pelvic floor needs to have rhythm—it needs to be able to tighten when you need it to tighten and relax when you need it to relax. Having good muscle awareness and coordination are key ingredients to a healthy pelvic floor.
If you want to delve deeper to work on your own muscle awareness and coordination, Dr. Uchenna Ossai suggests talking with a health care provider that can do a pelvic floor assessment and help you come up with a program that is right for you.
Images: Openstax, Rice University; video courtesy of O.school