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How to do pelvic floor exercises

What you need

Space, time and focus are the essentials. You need to take your pelvic floor exercises seriously - contrary to common belief, they are not something that you can do effectively while you are waiting in the supermarket queue.

You should:

  • set aside a dedicated time to do your exercises - they don't take long, 10 minutes is a guide
  • find a private space where you are comfortable and won't be disturbed
  • concentrate on what you are doing

When you've found some time and space, you are ready to get started.

Getting started

Identify the right muscles

The next time you go to the loo to do a wee, try to stop your flow. Concentrate on which muscles you are using - these are your pelvic floor muscles. Make sure you relax completely and finish your wee.

If you are not sure that you are squeezing the right muscles, there are a couple of things to try. You can put a couple of fingers into your vagina - you should feel it gently grip your fingers when you squeeze. Or use a mirror to see what's going on - when you squeeze, your vagina and anus should move away from the mirror.

Click here for more help on how to identify your pelvic floor muscles.

Get comfortable

We recommend that you do your exercises lying on your back to start with. This takes the weight off you pelvic floor making it easier to contract and allows you to focus entirely on contracting your muscles.

Lie down on your back with your legs apart and your head resting on at least one pillow, relax and bend your knees keeping your feet flat.

(Note: As you get better at doing your exercises, you can experiment with different positions to see what works best for your; try sitting on a chair, squatting or standing.)

Practice squeezing

When you are comfortable, try to contract the muscles that you used to stop your urine flowing. Squeeze for a couple of seconds, then relax completely for at least 10 second before trying again. A few things to remember are:

  • The movement is upward and inward, not down
  • Breathe normally throughout, do not hold your breath
  • Keep your stomach, bottom and legs relaxed

Keep working on this until you are confident that you can squeeze whenever you choose to and hold a squeeze for 10 seconds. If you don't manage this after a few minutes, don't worry, have another try the next day. If you don't have any success after a week, it is probably a good idea to see your GP, who can arrange supervised pelvic floor training for you.

Your exercise regime

Once you are able to contract your pelvic floor muscles (to squeeze) when you want to, you are ready to start working on to a planned programme.

What you should do

Your programme should consist of long squeezes, short squeezes and snaps.

Long squeezes

A long squeeze helps you to develop the strength and stamina in your slow twitch muscles that you need to support your pelvic organs throughout the day and night.

You should hold each long squeeze for at least 10 seconds (longer as you build strength) and you should squeeze at about 60% of the maximum you are capable of. You should relax competely for at least 10 seconds between each long squeeze.

Short squeezes

A short squeeze exercises both your slow and fast twitch muscles, helping you to support your organs and to perform the knack to cope with a sudden increase in pressure.

You should hold each short squeeze for 3 - 5 seconds and you should squeeze at about 80% of your maximum and relax completely for at least 5 seconds between each squeeze.

Snaps

A snap focuses on your fast twitch muscles, building the speed and intensity of your squeeze, making your knack more effective.

A snap takes less than a second and should be the hardest squeeze you are capable of. You should relax completely between each snap. 

How many should you do

Your exercise programme should:

  • be made up of number of sets of exercises (usually 3)
  • each set should contain long squeezes, short squeezes and snaps
  • you should do fewer long squeezes than short squeezes and more snaps

There are no set amounts to do, you should work to a level that is achievable, but which takes some effort on your part. You can click here to try our exercise programme, or come up with your own. Like any exercise, the harder you work, the faster your will progress. But if you over do it, you may cause yourself some harm, which will set you back.

We recommend that you work steadily: find a level that you can achieve, then increase that level when it becomes comfortable.

How often should you exercise

We recommend that you should exercise 4 to 6 times a week. More is not necessarily better, your body needs time to recover too. You can work hard, but you should not leave yourself tired or in discomfort.

Try our exercise programme

We have developed an interactive pelvic floor exercise programme that will

  • optimise your exercises to a level that works best for you
  • give structure to your exercise programme
  • help to keep you engaged and motivated
  • deliver progress over time.

Next: Try our online exercise programme

Exercise Programme

To use our online exercise programme, just enter your email, click on "Start now" (below) and follow the instructions. And don't worry, it's completely free.

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