For the last two years, I haven’t been able to scroll through TikTok without someone reminding me that I really ought to be squeezing my pelvic muscles right now. It’s become a sort of competition or challenge to do kegels on the app, with women coming up on my For You page demanding I clench and unclench at the snap of their fingers or to the rhythm of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Thot Shit.” And as a writer who’s explored a number of sexual health problems pertaining to penises, I too have touted the importance of pelvic strength under the kegel umbrella. But, more recently, something has shifted. With rising frequency, I’m seeing people say that kegels are not the curative we’ve claimed them to be. Apparently, most of us shouldn’t even be doing them at all.
“Kegels need to be done with a full range of squeezing and relaxing, but research has shown that most people do them incorrectly,” Anna Lee, co-founder Lioness and a sexual health content creator, said in a TikTok from August. “Most people are only doing the squeezing — imagine you were doing bicep curls and only doing this motion,” she says, flexing a curled bicep repeatedly.
In other words, what people aren’t doing is relaxing — they’re just squeezing their muscles and forgetting to slowly release them. This is an equally important step, but ultimately, you should talk with a doctor or pelvic-floor therapist before you even attempt kegels at all — that way they can show you how to do them right.
The thing is, pelvic-floor therapists are no kinder to kegels on TikTok. In fact, Lance Frank, DPT, has essentially made a name for himself with anti-kegel content. Most often, his videos express his frustration with the fact that doctors recommend kegels to patients with problems like urinary incontinence or pelvic pain. “Nine times out of 10 times, kegels are not the answer,” he says in one video.
Generally, much of the average population (myself included!) seems dismayed by this change in attitude. “Wait! What did I miss? No kegels!? Wait, whaaaaaaaaaaaat?????? No seriously, tell me what I missed,” a woman commented on one of Frank’s videos. With the popular advice being that kegels can help with everything from better orgasms to easier childbirth, there seems to be little reason not to do kegels constantly.
But another pelvic floor therapist on TikTok, Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas, reiterates Frank’s sentiment: It’s not that kegels are inherently bad, it’s that they’re wrong for most of us. If anything, most of us need the opposite of a kegel — that is, we need to learn to relax our pelvic floor. “The vast majority of people I see have a hypertonic [overly tight] pelvic floor,” Jeffrey-Thomas says in a TikTok. For them, kegels can potentially make things worse by overstraining them.
That said, they’re certainly not off the table completely. As both Frank and Jeffrey-Thomas stated, there are plenty of people for whom they’re appropriate, mainly those who have a hypotonic pelvic floor. But without seeing a pelvic-floor therapist myself, I probably won’t know if I’m one of them. Case in point: Symptoms that we commonly cite kegels as being good for — again, like incontinence or pain — can potentially be the result of either a hypertonic or hypotonic pelvic floor, which is difficult for the everyday person to distinguish between.
Admittedly, maybe this is all just a campaign being waged by Big Pelvic Floor Therapy to get new clients, but I don’t feel much is lost by giving up kegels. Honestly, I’m just glad there’s one exercise I have an excuse not to do.