Kegels vs. Pilates For Your Pelvic Floor, Which Is Better?

Think doing Kegels is old-school? We get it (but you should probably read this article).


Kegels are healthy, simple, and effective. Yeah, yeah, you know all that, right? And that knowledge totally won’t stop you from hating them. But … do you need them? Let’s find out.

Owners of pelvic floor muscles (that’s you, gorgeous) know just how hazardous postpartum leaks can be.

Once your pelvic floor has run the 40 week marathon of baby carrying and TOTALLY feels like a needs a BIG vacation – er, we mean, “experienced the miracle of childbirth” – then laughing too hard, coughing, and sneezing become treacherous. If you feel a sneeze coming on, you focus, you squeeze, you think you’re as prepared as can be … and still find yourself running to the bathroom.

But, of course, lovely, it DOES NOT have to be that way.

Enter the Kegel, recommended by obstetrician Dr. Arnold Kegel around 1950. Yep, she’s the be-all end-all pelvic floor exercise that has helped countless postpartum mamas sail through life without leaks. If you’re not sure WTF they are, basically they’re a simple regimen of squeezes that you can do anywhere, anytime, and that seriously change your sneeze game.

They’re powerhouses for increasing pelvic floor strength.

There’s only one problem: heaps of women dread doing them.


Three totally understandable reasons you are not diggin’ on Kegels

  1. They’re not always easy. When you perform Kegels correctly, you activate specific muscles that include the sphincters that keep the pee and poo in. If you’re postpartum, your pelvic floor muscles may be at their weakest. The contractions can be flat out hard.
  2. You think they only target one area. Most of us like getting bang for our buck, and that includes exercise. Kegels are effective because they’re so focused on one muscle group – which kinda seems like a waste of your non-existent time.
  3. They’re easy to forget. If it’s hard to for YOU to see the results, it’s impossible for others to see them. Kegels are performed invisibly. No one at the gym notices – so no one can keep you accountable. Many women simply wake up and realize they haven’t done their pelvic floor exercises in weeks. Usually when they leak during a cough.

If you’ve done your pelvic floor exercises faithfully for years, good for you! We bow down. You are a gorgeous, sparkly rock star and we hope you’ll teach us your ways and possibly also organise our closets – because you are just that on top of things.

But if you’ve struggled to stay on top of those pelvic squeezes – and trust us, girlfriend, you’re not alone – we’ve got a little secret just for you.

Lean in close. You listening?

Pilates works just as well. 

You heard us!

new study shows that core-focused Pilates-based exercises – like the specialised program developed at BBB – are just as effective as standard pelvic floor exercises at strengthening the muscles of your deepest core.

Here’s how it went down:

Women were sorted into two groups. One did a Pilates-based program, and the other did standard pelvic floor exercises. At the end of 12 weeks, both groups exhibited the same increase in pelvic floor strength.

And what we think is even better: two women reluctantly dropped out of the Pilates-based program due to life challenges, but seven women dropped out of the Kegels-only group because – wait for it–they just plain didn’t like it.

Can you relate?

If yes, you’re in luck.


Why Pilates is a no-brainer if Arnold’s Kegels are not your jam:

  1. It distracts you from the exercise you dislike. When you’re focused on keeping your shoulders aligned, your abs activated, and your spine long, you don’t have time to be grumpy about contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Even better is the fact that, while you can concentrate on contracting them, they will automatically be contracted if you’re focusing your attention on proper core stability. It’s like doing a good deed without even noticing.
  2. It gives you a whole lotta rewards. Pelvic floor-only routines will isolate progress in one area. But a full-body Pilates exercise routine will show you results in your upper body, lower body, strength, and posture. It’s so much more rewarding to feel strong, long, and toned all over than in one invisible place.
  3. It’s way more fun. Think back to the study –the women who did the full-body program were more engaged and committed because they enjoyed it. We’ve said it before: The exercise you enjoy is the exercise you’ll keep doing. You can do Kegels while you’re in the car at a traffic light, sure. But in the end, you’re just sitting in traffic making yourself even more uncomfortable. With a full-body workout, though, your brain’s pleasure centres fire at full power, making you feel more invigorated, alive, and powerful. And more likely to show up for the next session.

So stop beating yourself up if you’ve been accidentally-on-purpose forgetting to engage your pelvic floor multiple times a day.

It’s ok. You’re not alone. And you’re not a failure.

And there’s a better way.

There are so many ways to improve your overall fitness while healing your oh-so-important pelvic floor. Check out the Body Beyond Birth programmes and start your (totally not boring) journey toward leak-free sneezing and a toned postpartum bod right away (and from the comfort of your own home)!



About the authors:

This post was written by our friends over at Body Beyond Birth. Jackie and Becky are best-friends, mums, a physiotherapist, certified Pilates instructor and co-founders of the amazing pregnancy and postnatal exercise programme at ‘Body Beyond Birth’.

Body Beyond Birth is an online wellness studio for mums and mums-to-be. They have members from all over the world and are so good at what they do. We believe they have the best (and safest) pre and postnatal workouts online but you don’t have to just take our word for it, have a look at these reviews.

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