From Kegels to Kettlebells?

Move over Strongman competition.  There’s a new title in town.  Roll a tire? Child’s play.  Pull an 18-wheeler? No problem.  Lift a 14 kilogram kettle bell with your vagina?  Yup. It’s true.  There is someone on record as having the World’s Strongest Vagina. If you haven’t come across this yet, you may see for yourself here. (Disclaimer: While not graphic, some of these photos are a bit suggestive.  But since I know you will Google it anyway, I am providing the link to make it easy on you.  Go ahead- I was curious too.)

Wow! I’ll admit that I am not sure whether to be impressed, appalled or a little insecure.  Vaginal weights are sometimes used for pelvic strengthening, and in the clinical setting may range from 40 to 90 grams.  If you are feeling wimpy about your Kegel exercises, let’s put it into perspective: 14 Kg = 31 lbs.  Yes, that’s right- 31 POUNDS! For those women leaking urine when lifting your child or a bag of groceries, imagine lifting that child or gallon of milk with your vagina.  Seems a little ridiculous, right? Why use your vagina when your arms are so much more convenient?

So how strong should the vagina be anyway? For starters, physical therapists grade muscle strength for many different muscles in the body.  The pelvic floor muscles (PFM) are a three dimensional group of muscles at the bottom of your pelvis that support your pelvic organs, assist in bladder and bowel control, and have an important role in sexual function.  PFM may be graded in different ways, but most commonly are tested by measuring the amount of squeeze and lift with 2 fingers inserted in the vaginal canal and graded on a scale of 0 (no contraction) to 5 (superhero).   But take note-numbers are great for measuring changes, but it is possible to have a 5 strength grade and still have pelvic symptoms. For better or worse, we don’t have a machine, tool or device that can tell us a magic ‘number’ that correlates precisely to strength or function, although sometimes vaginal sensors or pressure devices help us measure general improvement in the quality and hold time of pelvic muscles.

While we are on the subject, it’s important to remember that strength is only one part of the PFM picture.  Pelvic muscles are functional when strong and coordinated- in simplified terms, they need to contract AND relax.  Toned or ‘tight’ vaginal muscles are not necessarily strong or coordinated and may contribute to difficulty with painful intercourse or bowel and bladder problems like urinary urgency and frequency, incontinence, and constipation  if they do not relax appropriately.  So while it’s important to be proactive with your pelvic parts, bear in mind that strength is not the only piece of the puzzle.

We have a sample in our clinic of a 16 ounce weighted bar designed for pelvic muscle retraining.  Typically we get a good chuckle about how heavy one pound feels in the palm of the hand, let alone lifting it with the vagina.  That’s not to say that strength training your PFM is a bad idea, but I would hold off on ordering that kettleball for now.   If you think you may need a pelvic exercise program but aren’t sure where to start,  give us a call or contact your local pelvic physical therapist for a consultation.