Getting Started: How Do You Find Your Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Parts of the bladder control system
Image © 2003 Fairman Studios, LLC.

There are several ways to find your pelvic floor muscles. When using the pelvic floor muscles, women will feel a slight pulling in the rectum and vagina. Men will feel a pulling in of the anus and movement of the penis. Every person is unique, and different techniques work for different people.

General Technique

Everyone at one time or another has been in a crowded room and felt as if he or she were going to pass gas. Imagine that this is happening to you. Most of us will try to squeeze the muscles of the anus to prevent the passing of gas. In fact, the muscles being squeezed are the pelvic floor muscles. If you feel a "pulling" sensation at the anus, you are using the right muscles. In most of our patients, we have found this to be the most successful technique.

Technique for Women

Lie down and insert a finger into your vagina. Try to squeeze around your finger with your vaginal muscles. You should be able to feel the sensation in your vagina, and you may also be able to feel the pressure on your finger. If you can feel this, you are using the right muscles. If you cannot detect any movement with 1 finger, try 2 fingers.

Technique for Men

Stand in front of a mirror and watch your penis. Try to make your penis move up and down without moving the rest of your body. If you can do this, you are using the right muscles.

You may not find your pelvic floor muscles immediately. Many people have to take their time with this.

Don't Exercise the Wrong Muscles

One of the most common mistakes is exercising the wrong muscle(s). When trying to find a new muscle, especially a weak one, most people tighten other muscles too. Some people clench their fists or teeth, hold their breath, or make a face. None of these help. It is very tempting to use other muscles, especially stronger ones, to support smaller, weaker muscles such as the pelvic floor muscles. However, using other muscles interferes with learning how to use the right ones. It is best just to relax your body as much as possible and concentrate on your pelvic floor muscles.

Not Your Abdominal Muscles

To avoid using your stomach muscles, rest your hand lightly on your belly as you are squeezing your pelvic floor muscles. Do you feel your belly tightening? If you do, relax and try again. Be sure that you do not feel any movement of your stomach.

Not Your Chest Muscles

If you find yourself holding your breath then you are probably using your chest muscles. To avoid this, relax completely and notice how you are breathing for a few moments. Then squeeze your pelvic floor muscles while you continue to breathe normally. This will help to make sure that you are not using your chest muscles because these are usually relaxed when you breathe.

Not Your Buttock Muscles

The other set of "wrong muscles" are the muscles of the buttocks (bottom). To test whether you are tightening your buttock muscles by mistake, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles while sitting in front of a mirror. If you see that your body is moving up and down slightly, you are also using your buttock muscles.

Not Your Thigh Muscles

Another set of muscles to avoid using is the thigh muscles. If you see your upper legs moving while you are sitting, causing your entire body to lift, you are contracting the wrong muscles. When done properly, no one should be able to tell that you are squeezing your pelvic floor muscles except for you.