Kegel exercise

The Kegel exercise strengthens your pelvic floor. These muscles form a figure eight around your urethra, vagina and anus and support your bladder and uterus. (See drawing.)


The location of your pelvic floor muscles.

The location of your pelvic floor muscles.


Pregnancy and birth can cause these muscles to lose tone. This can result in discomfort and a loss of bladder control. Doing Kegel exercises during pregnancy and after your baby is born may reduce these effects.

This exercise can also help you recognize if these muscles are tense or relaxed. It is helpful to be able to relax your pelvic floor when you are pushing in labor.

The first time you do this exercise, empty your bladder. While still sitting on the toilet, imagine that you have to stop the flow of urine. The muscles that you tighten are your pelvic floor muscles. After you have identified these muscles, you can do the Kegel exercise anywhere. You can stand, sit or lie down.

How to do a Kegel exercise

  • Tighten your pelvic floor muscles as much as you can. You should be able to feel the muscles lift up and draw in.
  • Hold these muscles tight for five seconds. If they start to let go, re-tighten them.
  • Breathe normally. Try to keep the rest of your body relaxed. Don't tighten your buttocks or thighs.
  • After you reach the count of five, relax the muscles.
  • Rest for 10 seconds and then repeat the exercise.
  • Do a series of five Kegels.
  • Rest for a few minutes. Do another series of five Kegels.
  • Plan to do 50 Kegel exercises (10 sets of five) each day.
  • After you can do 50 Kegels a day, lengthen the time you hold the muscles tight. Instead of holding the muscles tight for only five seconds, work up to holding them for 20 seconds. You will need to retighten the muscles several times over the 20 seconds. This is called a super Kegel.
  • Rest after doing a super Kegel and wait a few minutes before doing another one.
  • Plan to do 10 super Kegels a day. Spread them out over the day.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, seventh edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/02/2015


Don't do a Kegel exercise when you are urinating. If you keep starting and stopping the flow of urine, you could get a urinary bladder infection.