How Kegels For Men Can Lead To Better Sex
February 01, 2021
From doctors to journalists, there are a lot of people out there talking about how men can do Kegels to have better sex. But a lot of that talk is pretty high level and doesn’t really get into details. So for those who are interested in understanding a bit more about exactly how pelvic floor health and wellness impacts sexual health for men, read on.
A quick anatomy lessonIn the male body, the pelvic floor is a kind of hammock of muscles, ligaments and other connective tissue at the base of the pelvis (shown in blue below).
It has responsibilities related to core strength, supporting the pelvic organs, and leakage / urinary incontinence, but for today we’re focused on sexual function, where it plays a key role.
You can think of the pelvic floor muscles as having three layers, with the layer closest to the outside of your body (aka the superficial perineal pouch) being the most relevant for sexual function. This layer contains muscles like the bulbospongiosus and ischiocavernosus and has an important role as part of ejaculation and rigidity / hardness of erections. (The innermost layer, which is called the pelvic diaphragm, includes the pubococcygeus and is also quite important for other aspects of pelvic floor function).
The pelvic floor also has a lot of nerves that help your body to regulate and control the muscles as they participate in sexual function. In particular, those bulbospongiosus and ischiocavernosus muscles specifically play a key role in controlling blood flow to the penis and affecting ejaculation and engorgement / hardness of the penis. Lastly, strong contractions of the bulbospongiosus muscle in men can lead to stronger orgasms.
How is the pelvic floor related to sexual dysfunction in men?In addition to being a key part of normal sexual function for men, the pelvic floor is also closely tied to multiple types of sexual problems or dysfunctions.
This is basically when men are unable to generate or sustain an erection. Prevalence is thought to range from 9% to 40% by age 40 and go up by approximately 10% for each decade from that point on (1, 2). It’s a big deal, and pharmaceuticals like Viagra and Cialis that can treat it are big business. The pelvic floor muscles, and in particular the bulbospongiosus and ischiocavernosus (the two usual suspects), help regulate blood flow into (and out of) the penis and control rigidity. In fact, research has shown that men with erectile dysfunction are less able to voluntarily activate their pelvic floor muscles than men with normal erectile function.
Premature Ejaculation / Orgasmic Dysfunction
Premature ejaculation is the most common type of sexual problem for men, and of course impacts the experience for both participants in partnered sex. The official definition is when ejaculation occurs within the first 1 minute of penetration. Multinational research (US, Italy and Germany) has found that it occurs for about 23% of men, so it is definitely not rare!
When men ejaculate, it is actually kind of complicated from a physiological perspective. It involves simultaneous muscle contractions in multiple locations, including the prostate gland, pelvic floor and bladder neck, and also relaxation of the muscles in the urethral sphincter. And an involuntary contraction of the bulbospongiosus muscle is what actually expels semen from the urethra (note that this means it happens without you trying to activate the muscle on your own; kind of like your heart pumps without you thinking about it or consciously making it happen). And while the exact mechanisms are still an area of ongoing study, researchers have found compelling evidence that voluntary control of the pelvic floor muscles can be effective in delaying ejaculation (more details in down below). In other words, if you want to last longer, working on your pelvic floor muscles could be the key to unlock that door.
What can you do to keep your pelvic floor healthy and have better sex?
One of the recurring themes above was that the pelvic floor muscles, and in particular the bulbospongiosus and ischiocavernosus, have important roles in multiple aspects of sexual function, whether it’s orgasm intensity for men who don’t have any issues or helping with erectile dysfunction or ejaculation control for those who are looking for a little boost.
With that in mind (and knowing that the title of this article is about Kegel exercise for men), it probably won’t come as a surprise that pelvic floor strengthening is something that can help those muscles become healthier and stronger, with all the associated benefits as far as better sex.
So, how does that work exactly? Step one is to identify which muscles are the pelvic floor muscles, and make sure you know how to activate them. This is a little trickier than it sounds, since you can’t really see them. There are a couple ways to do it, though:
- Imagine you are urinating and think about how you would try to stop the flow of urine mid-stream (without using your hands!). Those muscles that you just tensed to stop peeing are your pelvic floor muscles, and you just did a pelvic floor muscle contraction. You can also imagine that you are trying to stop yourself from passing gas (aka farting), which should also help find those muscles.
- Stand naked in front of a mirror. When you are correctly doing a pelvic floor muscle contraction, you should see your scrotum lift up and your penis draw inwards slightly (you can visualize your penis lifting like an elephant’s trunk).
After you have found the right muscles and determined how to activate / use them, you can start working out. The good news is, it’s very simple. You basically need to squeeze/contract the muscles and then relax (the relax part is important!). You can vary how hard you squeeze, how long you hold before relaxing, but the general idea is super simple. There are a number of exercise routines that you can find online, or you can try (if you’ll forgive a little horn-tooting) using an exercise aid such as kGoal Boost, which can provide biofeedback to help identify the muscles and also guided (and tracked) games and workouts.
However, it’s important to note that on the flip side of the coin, abnormally high pelvic floor muscle tone (generally, REALLY high muscle tone) may cause some problems, including pelvic pain or even erectile dysfunction. So don’t go crazy -- as with your other muscles, exercise is good but it is possible to go overboard.
What is the evidence that pelvic floor exercise actually helps have better sex?
Hopefully right now you are thinking to yourself “that sounds good, but I’m not sure I buy it -- the internet is, after all, full of lies.” That skepticism is well-founded, which is why we are going to highlight a number of studies about pelvic floor exercise and health for men, performed by people way smarter than we are.
Can pelvic floor muscle training lead to better sexual performance (and enjoyment) for men without any kind of sexual dysfunction?
“This randomised controlled trial of active and resisted pelvic floor muscle training in men without ED… has demonstrated increased pelvic floor muscle strength, erectile rigidity and durability, ejaculation control and force. Additionally, sexual confidence and sexual pleasure were improved.” (Siegel 2014)
“Improvements in both ejaculation/orgasm and erectile function have been demonstrated with implementation of male pelvic floor treatment plans.” (La Pera 1996, Claes 1993)
Can pelvic floor exercise increase rigidity / hardness for men with erectile dysfunction?
“Male pelvic floor muscle training has been shown to increase penile rigidity and penile hardness in some men with erectile dysfunction.” (Rosenbaum 2007)
Can pelvic floor exercise help people with premature ejaculation difficulties?
“We treated 40 men with lifelong premature ejaculation… at the end of a 12-week pelvic floor muscle rehabilitation, 82.5% of the 40 patients had gained control of their ejaculatory reflex.” (Pastore 2014)