Pelvic Floor Exercises For Men
Pelvic floor exercises can help men with a variety of bladder and bowel problems, and may even improve sexual health. They’re easy to do, and with practice, can be done anywhere and at any time.
Before you begin doing these exercises, it is important to know more about how to locate the pelvic floor muscles, as well as the correct technique to use. This will ensure the best results in the shortest amount of time.
Why should you do pelvic floor exercises?
There are many problems that pelvic floor exercise can help with. Some of these include:
- Urinary incontinence - when you uncontrollably leak urine on a regular basis
- Urge incontinence - a lack of control when you urgently need to go to the toilet, and leaking before you get there
- Stress incontinence - a tendency to leak urine when you cough, laugh or sneeze
- Frequency - a need to go to the toilet frequently during the day or night
- An inability to control the passing of wind
- Urge faecal incontinence - an urgent need to visit the toilet to empty your bowels and leaking stool before you get there
- Dribbling - when you constantly dribble urine once you’ve finished urinating
- Erectile dysfunction
- Premature ejaculation
Men who have had a radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) due to prostate cancer, may also have some of the above problems. Strengthening the pelvic floor helps support the bladder and bowels, which leads to better control of the urethra (the tube that urine passes through) and the anus (the back passage through which you open your bowels).
By better supporting these organs, prostatectomy patients can better control problems like urge incontinence and faecal incontinence, ensuring a better quality of life.
The pelvic floor is a layer of muscle situated at the base of the pelvis. This layer of muscle stretches from the pubic bone in the front, to the coccyx (tailbone) at the back, creating a muscular sling that supports the organs of the pelvis.
How to locate your pelvic floor muscles
To be able to exercise your pelvic floor muscles, you’ll need to know where they are. There a few ways you can do this:
- While urinating, try stopping the flow mid-stream. You can feel the muscles being used when you do this. Don’t hold it for too long or do it regularly, as it can be damaging to the bladder. The purpose is to get a feel for where the muscles are and to use the same process when doing the exercises.
- Another way is to clench the muscles in your anus like you're keeping in wind. Again, the muscles used are those from your pelvic floor. Try not to squeeze or tighten the muscles in your buttocks, thighs or abdomen. Keep breathing normally.
Why The Pelvic Floor Muscles Become Weak
Like any other muscle in the body, the pelvic floor muscles can become weak due to inactivity. An example is where there has been a lack of exercise of these muscles following surgery (such as if someone has had a prostatectomy).
Being severely overweight or having a chronic cough can also weaken the pelvic floor. This is because the ongoing pressure can stretch the muscle, making it soft and less effective.
How to Exercise the Pelvic Floor Muscles
Not only are pelvic floor exercises discreet, they’re also easy to do. They don't take up much time, and results are often seen quickly.
Exercises to Strengthen the Pelvic Floor
When you’re first starting out, it may be helpful to do the following exercises lying down. This will help because your muscles won't be fighting against gravity. As your muscles get stronger, gravity will no longer be an issue and you can do these exercises sitting, lying down or even standing up.
Kegel exercises are a type of pelvic floor exercise. They can be done in the following way:
- Contract the muscles like you're trying to stop the flow of urine.
- Do this for a slow count of five
- Release the muscles for a slow count of five
- Repeat this ten times
- Do a set of ten every day, three times a day
The Fast And Slow Twitch
There are another two types of exercises. They are referred to as the slow twitch and the fast twitch. They can be done anywhere, and at any time, and in any position, you’re most comfortable in.
When starting out though, it is recommended that you learn these exercises in the following position;
Sit on a chair or toilet seat, and make sure your feet are flat on the floor and that your legs are slightly apart. Lean forward, and rest your elbows on your knees.
Start with the slow twitch
- Draw up the muscles around the back passage as if you’re trying to stop passing wind. Make sure that you do not contract your buttock muscles while doing this
- Draw up the muscles around your urethra as though you’re trying to stop the flow of urine
- Hold for as long as you can
- Slowly relax and let go
- Do as many repetitions as you can until you feel your muscles getting tired
- Gradually increase the length of time that you hold each contraction (build up to 10 seconds or more if you feel you can)
Then progress to the fast twitch
The Fast Twitch
- Pull up the pelvic floor muscles as before
- Hold for one second and then relax
- Repeat until your muscles feel tired
You may notice that it initially takes a lot of concentration to do these exercises and that your pelvic floor muscles tire easily. This is totally normal and will get easier.
In the beginning, you may also find that your muscles ‘let go’ too quickly and that you cannot hold the slow twitch for very long. Again, this is normal, and will get easier. Just hold them for as long as you can. For example, if you can only hold the contraction for a count of three, use that as your baseline and build up gradually.
How often should I do my pelvic floor exercises?
You should aim to do them every day. Try changing it up a bit by challenging yourself, and going for more repetitions and longer holding times. It can take up to several weeks before any significant results are seen, but sometimes it can be sooner than that.
Like any muscle, inactivity will cause them to go weak again, so it is best to keep doing the exercises daily even when the results are evident.
If your exercises are through a bespoke programme, your nurse or doctor will determine how often and for how long you need to do them.
How do I know my pelvic floor exercises are working?
In the same way, we determined the location of the pelvic floor muscles by trying to stop the flow of urine midstream, we can use the same technique to test the strength of the muscle. If it becomes easier to stop the flow or at least slow it down, then your muscles are getting stronger.
Gradually over the weeks you should notice an improvement. It is important that you do not do this test more than once a fortnight as it may cause problems with your bladder - it’s just a test to see how your muscle strength is progressing.
If you don’t notice a change in your muscle strength after three months, ask for help from your continence nurse or physiotherapist.
A helpful hint for stress incontinence
If you suffer from stress incontinence, try ‘bracing’ your pelvic floor muscles (as you’ve learnt above) before you cough, laugh, sneeze or lift anything heavy. In fact, do it before any activity that is likely to make you leak. As your muscles grow stronger, this little trick becomes more effective.
A helpful hint if your bladder is not emptying properly
Following normal urination, some people tend to leak a few drops of urine after they think they’ve finished. This occurs because the urethra is not being emptied properly, which is mostly due to weak pelvic floor muscles.
The best way to deal with this is to push the last few drops of urine out by squeezing your pelvic floor muscles. Here’s how you can do it if the muscles are not yet strong enough:
- After passing urine, wait for a few seconds to allow your bladder to empty
- Place the fingertips of one hand close to your anus
- Keeping gentle pressure, draw your fingers forward towards the base of your penis. This pushes any remaining urine forward to where it can be emptied by shaking in the usual manner
- Repeat this twice to make sure that your urethra has been properly emptied
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