Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D.’s useful blog post Kegel Exercises Offer Sexual Benefits to Both Women and Men notes that researchers have discovered that Kegel exercises, which were originally developed to help women with urinary control issues after childbirth, also offer sexual benefits to both women and men.
Kegel exercises are the rhythmic squeeze – hold – release of the pubococcygeous (PC) muscle in the pelvic floor. Dr. Lehmiller describes the rationale and method of Kegels, but focuses primarily on its strengthening and toning effects.
Effects of Chronic muscle tension in the PC
This is great for men and women who lack tone in their PC muscle. It needs to be strengthened for optimal sexual performance and health. BUT — there’s another side to this. Many people carry some chronic muscle tension in their PC, without being aware of it. This is similar to the chronic tension many unconsciously hold in their shoulders, necks, or tongues.
This chronic muscle tension can have a deleterious effect on your sexual functioning. Andrew T. Goldstein, MD, reports his research findings that a 10% increase in muscle tension in the pelvic floor muscles causes a 50% decrease in blood flow and oxygen going to these muscles. This significant decrease in oxygenation can degrade the sensitivity and responsiveness of the PC muscle.
Why does this matter? The PC muscle contracts during orgasm, producing the spasming sensation that accompanies ejaculation in men and orgasm in women. A weak PC muscle or a chronically underoxygenated PC muscle will not respond as strongly, or for as long, as a toned and relaxed PC muscle. In other words, your orgasms will be stronger and last longer with a healthy PC muscle.
How to use Kegels for toning AND relaxing the PC muscle
Here’s how to make sure you’re relaxing as well as strengthening your PC muscle when you do Kegels. Do the exercise once a day, for thirty repetitions. You can be sitting, standing, or lying down. Do not do this while driving! Before you begin, empty your bladder so you will not be distracted by the need to urinate.
Locate your PC muscle. It’s the muscle you squeeze to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. After you’ve found it, squeeze it and hold with moderate tension for three seconds, then release it. That’s it! Do thirty repetitions, once a day. When you squeeze your PC muscle, be sure that’s the only muscle you’re activating. Don’t squeeze or tense your abdominal, leg, or gluteus muscles.
There are several fine points about the exercise to ensure you get the most benefit. First, don’t overdo it. You’re not training for the Olympics. If you squeeze too hard, or hold too long, your muscle can get sore. No harm done, but you may feel uncomfortable for a few days.
Next, the squeezing part is easy because it’s a very tangible action. The relaxation part is more subtle, and requires a bit more focus. After you hold your PC in the squeezed state for three full seconds, gradually release the muscle tension there. Take a breath, and then let it go again. Aim for the feeling that you would be leaking urine if your bladder were not empty. There may be a subtle sensation accompanying relaxation – emptiness in the pelvic area, warmth, or tingling. Or there may be no sensation! Repeat the squeeze and the hold, then focus carefully on really letting that muscle completely relax.
It can be useful to synchronize your breathing with this exercise, breathing in as you squeeze and hold; then breathing out as you relax your PC. This also helps with your focus on the relaxation aspect of the practice.
Learning to relax your PC can reduce chronic tension there and increase your ability to relax it at will. Strengthening your muscle, combined with reducing muscle tension, should increase the strength and duration of your orgasms after only a few weeks! This is a useful exercise for men and women throughout their lives.