Understanding the
Kegel Exercise

Dr. Holly Durney, a pelvic floor physical therapist and 2021, 2022 HER Expert Panelist discusses the most common mistakes she sees when teaching her patients how to do a kegel exercise.

Featuring Dr. Holly Durney, PT, OCS


Hi, this is Dr. Holly Durney. I’m a pelvic floor physical therapist.


Today I want to talk about the most common mistake I see, when I teach my patients how to do a kegel at some point. Most women’s lives, whether they’ve had children or not, they’ve had a doctor or a Pilates instructor or a yoga instructor, or even a physical therapist tell them that they need to tighten or strengthen their pelvic floor, do your kegels.


But I feel like most of the patients that I’ve come across when I asked them okay, well, do you know what a kegel is? They’re like, I think so.

When you do a proper kegel, the pelvic floor muscles contract together and they lift up, they then support your internal organs, your bladder, and close off your urethra in order to prevent any sort of urinary leakage.

And so today, I’d like to dispel that myth or that confusion once and for all, and teach you what a kegel is.


So the kegel is the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that sits in between the pubic bone here in the front, and the tailbone in the back. When you do a proper kegel, the pelvic floor muscles contract together and they lift up, they then support your internal organs, your bladder, and close off your urethra in order to prevent any sort of urinary leakage. What I do find when I asked my patients, okay, well, you’ve said you’ve been doing kegels, can I see how you’re doing them? I get a lot of glutes squeezing.


They’ll squeeze the glute muscles together, pelvic tilt, and the glute muscles actually have nothing to do with the pelvic floor. So if you’ve been doing kegels, and you’re frustrated, because you don’t feel like your symptoms are improving, potentially, you’ve been doing them incorrectly.


I’m an orthopedic therapist, as well. And if someone says that their shoulder’s not getting stronger, and I look and they’re doing squats, then I’m like, Well, of course, your shoulder’s not getting stronger, you’re not actually activating the muscles that you think that you are. So in the same way, if you’re doing a kegel, you want to be activating the muscles that you think that you’re activating.

Sitting on a hard surface, seat bones in contact with the chair, I want you to tighten up what you feel like is your pelvic floor, your vaginal muscles, where you would close off if you were going to the bathroom if you were urinating and you had to stop quickly.


Thinking about engaging those muscles and what you should feel is that little bit of a lift up and away from the chair below you. If you feel a descent or if you feel your glutes squeezing, then there you go. There’s the mistake that you’ve potentially been making. So dialing it down, thinking a lower level effort, and really trying to hone in on what the muscles are doing and which muscles you’re actually trying to activate.


Proper form is really important in order to see change. I hope today that I’ve helped you understand what a kegel is and what it means. Thanks!

Dr. Holly Durney is an APTA Orthopedic Certified Specialist and has pelvic floor rehabilitation training from the Herman and Wallace Pelvic Rehabilitation Institute. Her pelvic health training focuses on treating pelvic floor dysfunction and related issues in the pelvis, hip, and spine. Her pelvic floor treatments involve assessment including movement patterns, ligament structure, current activity level, and pregnancy history. She believes that treating the whole person is the key to complete health and wellness and to help her patients achieve their goals. Dr. Durney sees patients at State of the Heart Health.

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