by Erica Garza
If you reserve your Kegels for long lines at Starbucks or for when you’re watching Netflix at home, you may be missing out on a ton of pleasure in the bedroom. Research shows that when you do Kegels during sex, you can improve orgasms and sexual arousal for both you and your partner. Even more, performing Kegels regularly –– in or out of the bedroom –– can prevent or control urinary incontinence and improve the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse. Whether you’ve been performing Kegels for years or you’ve never heard of them before, here’s how you can incorporate them into your sex life and why you’ll be thankful you did.
What is a Kegel Anyway?
Don’t be ashamed if you’ve never tried a Kegel before or don’t quite know where to start. While the term may be mysterious –– it was named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, the American gynecologist who invented the exercise –– it’s actually quite easy to perform. Next time you use the toilet, stop your urine flow midstream and you’ve successfully found the right muscles and completed your first one.
To perfect the technique, squeeze your pelvic muscles for about three seconds, and then relax for three. Repeat. Aim for sets of 10 or 15 three times a day. You might also try a set of Kegel weights to actively exercise and tone your pelvic muscles. The Mayo Clinic suggests that by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles, Kegels then better support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.
Who Should Do Kegels?
Many women turn to Kegels to deal with incontinence (or bladder leakage) as they age or after giving birth. By repeatedly tightening and relaxing these internal muscles, women can strengthen their pelvic floor muscles just as they might strengthen their abs when doing crunches. Pelvic floor muscles can also be weakened by surgery, chronic coughing or being overweight.
Kegel exercises can also help to improve or prevent pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when the pelvic organs (uterus, bladder, rectum) drop lower into the vagina due to a weakening of the pelvic floor muscles. “Prolapse is often the source of much discomfort as well as incontinence in postmenopausal women," says Dr. Amy Jones. And men can also benefit from Kegels if they’ve had prostate surgery. However, there’s another reason why you might want to incorporate Kegels into your routine –– it may improve your sex life.
How Do Kegels Improve Sex?
Performing Kegels during sex can maximize pleasure by increasing blood flow and arousal, leading to more intense contractions during orgasm. This may also increase pleasure for male partners as Kegels mimic the tightening vaginal contractions that happen during orgasm. If you tend to experience pain during intercourse, Kegels may also help you feel more relaxed and more receptive to pleasure.
How to Use Kegels During Sex
There are a number of ways you can incorporate Kegels into sex. Dr. Kat Van Kirk, licensed sex therapist and resident sex expert at Adam and Eve, said you should start with short pulses, and work your way into holding for longer stretches of time. You can do this with a penis inside of you, a finger, a sex toy, or a Kegel weight. Check out some more creative ways to use Kegels (complete with pictures) here. While there are many reasons why you should incorporate Kegels into your life, we think there’s no better motivator than pleasure.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health and VICE.