*This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to be a substitute for or provide medical advice or treatment. Please consult your urologist, physician, or health care provider if you have more questions about this topic.
We men spend a lot of time thinking about one aspect of our sexual function and performance: our penises. Yet perhaps we're giving short shrift to the pelvic floor muscles, a vital part of our reproductive system that we share with women. It turns out that this is an area where women are way ahead of men in maintaining sexual health. The secret is Kegel exercises.
Okay, Kegels aren't a particularly very well-kept secret, but what you may not know is that men can also use different techniques to up their game in the bedroom by working on and strengthening vital pelvic floor muscles.
Exercising the pelvic floor muscle (PFM) provides numerous benefits to men, including lasting longer between the sheets, getting more intense orgasms, overcoming erectile dysfunction, and improving erections. An added benefit: pelvic floor rehabilitation helps men who have gone through a radical prostatectomy (prostate surgery) to overcome stress urinary incontinence, i.e. no more leaking urine.
So, pelvic floor training a.k.a. Kegel exercises are a secret weapon for combating male sexual dysfunction. Great! But what exactly are they and how can you make them one of your healthy habits?
What Are Kegel Exercises?
Kegels are a set of exercises that strengthen muscles in the floor of your pelvic area, from the pubic bone to your tailbone--a kind of pelvic floor therapy. The pelvic floor muscles form a floating bed for your bladder, bowels, and in women, the uterus. Strengthen this area, and the pelvic floor will hold your pelvic organs in place.
Kegels are named after Dr. Arnold Kegel, a leading research scientist in the sexual and urinary health field. In the late 1940s, he championed this simple exercise to help new mothers overcome pelvic organ prolapse and stress incontinence resulting from pregnancy and vaginal childbirth. It wasn't long before women were also championing Kegels to improve sexual performance, but awareness of the benefits to men has lagged behind. Let's remedy that.
The Top Five Myths About Pelvic Floor Exercises For Men
First, some facts. Men have the same pubococcygeus muscles (PCs) in their pelvic floor as women and can exercise them to improve male sexual function because PCs play a crucial role in erectile function and achieving ejaculation during orgasm. This is not news to any medical practitioner who has studied the reproductive system, yet, renowned urologist Dr. Andrew Siegel believes that many health care professionals don't embrace the role of the instructor when it comes to training men to develop their PCs. This authority vacuum has led to some persistent myths about Kegel exercises for men.
Here are some of the most common ones:
Myth 1: Kegel exercises are only for women
In his analysis on the practical use of PFM training for men, Dr. Siegel writes that "females are often introduced to Kegel exercises at their first gynecology visit, and thereafter the exercises are reinforced at well visits, particularly during pregnancy and postpartum, whereas men do not see urologists for routine well-care and seek consultation only after a problem arises, usually later in life."
But this imbalance in attention to the benefits of Kegel exercises shouldn't be mistaken to mean they aren't as important for men. Men have the same pelvic floor as women, and utilize the PCs for controlling or supporting erectile function, blood flow, ejaculation, and orgasms. The health of these muscles affects prostate health, urinary health, and bowel control.
Myth 2: Men should do Kegels as often as possible
PCs are very similar to your biceps or pecs; they're skeletal muscles. After a workout, you need to give them time to recover before you hit the gym again.
The same applies to Kegels. You need to let your pelvic floor muscle rest and recover before you can put it through more reps. The recommended regimen usually involves 3 to 4 sessions a week, allowing for ample rest.
Myth 3: Kegels are nothing more than squeezing and releasing your pelvic muscles
Kegel exercises at their most basic are about squeezing and releasing, but try to do them efficiently, for maximum gains, and it's much more nuanced than that. To really tone your pelvic muscles, you need to consider the intensity and time of the contractions. Then there's the number of reps and sets to think about, and the importance of isolating the correct muscles. Add to that any resistance techniques you might want to apply, and you've gone well beyond simple squeeze and release.
Myth 4: Men should stop doing Kegels once they strengthen their pelvic floor muscles
Like with any other muscle-building regimen, you either use it or lose it. You need to work your muscles with constant regularity, providing more resistance and reps to keep them in tiptop shape.
PCs may not be vanity muscles that you can flex in the mirror, but they need regular attention to maintain structural and functional integrity. So, even if your pelvic floor exercises have yielded fruit, you shouldn't discontinue the regimen.
With these myths in the dirt, one question still lingers...
Kegel Exercises For Men: Do They Really Work?
It might seem improbable that such a simple set of exercises can contribute significantly to erectile function and even help with bladder issues such as urinary incontinence, but it isn't as far-fetched as you might think. Research has proven that Kegel exercises can help with urine flow, urine leakage, and bowel movement, fecal incontinence and can also help solve lifelong premature ejaculation and improve the quality of male orgasms.
Kegel exercises for men can also reduce the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, and just as importantly, they can bring that spark back to your bedroom.
Here's a more comprehensive list of advantages you can get from partaking in Kegels.
Kegel Exercise Benefits:
Improve Erections: The rigidity and duration of an erection are chiefly determined by blood flow to and from your member. Blood going to the penis is controlled by the bulbocavernosus (BC) muscle while the ischiocavernosus muscle maintains your erection by preventing blood from leaving. Kegels can strengthen these muscles, giving you something to be proud of in the bedroom.
More Intense and Stronger Ejaculations: Kegel exercises strengthen the muscles involved with orgasms and also play a key role in ejaculation by contracting rhythmically to expel semen during climax. Toning them can make for more intense and enjoyable orgasms.
Improved Sexual Stamina: Some men find it difficult to control the duration of their sexual encounters due to premature ejaculation, but Kegel exercises can tone these muscles to give more control. Holding back ejaculation during intercourse enables you to put in a long shift without reaching climax early - something your partner will be grateful for.
Better Bowel and Bladder Control: PCs play a significant role in controlling urine flow, defecation, and passing gas. When these muscles become weak after prostate cancer treatment like radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy, it can result in stress urinary incontinence (SUI), a condition making it difficult to control urine flow when laughing, coughing, or sneezing. Kegel exercises can make the PCs stronger for better bowel and bladder control and research scientists in the American Journal of Men's Health have shown that pelvic floor muscle training significantly improved symptoms of urinary incontinence.
Relieves Pelvic Pain: Men can experience chronic pelvic pain if their prostate gland becomes inflamed, and this same kind of pain can also result from pelvic floor dysfunction. In this condition, the PC muscles seem uncomfortably tense all the time. In his submission to the Journal of Urology, Dr. Siegel points out that pelvic floor exercises enable affected men to voluntarily relax the tensed-up PC muscles and soothe the pain.
So you know the benefits, and want to start pelvic floor muscle training. But how do you perform Kegel exercises?
Kegels and Other Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises
Kegels are the most essential part of a whole set of pelvic exercises you can include in your PFM training routine. Here's how to perform this exercise correctly:
Basic Kegel exercises:
Identify the right muscles. Beginners to the kegel exercise tend to activate other muscles such as the buttock muscles, inner thigh muscles, and more. You can identify the right muscles by holding your urine stream midway. If you aren't in a position to do that, you can try holding the muscles you use to avoid passing gas. These are the pelvic floor muscles.
Contract your pelvic floor muscles for about 3 seconds.
Relax them for 3 seconds.
Repeat 10 times to master your technique, ensuring to avoid using your inner thighs and/or abs.
Do 3 sets of 10 reps, scattered throughout the day. If you feel pain, you might be doing it wrong or overdoing it.
Once you've mastered activating your pelvic floor muscles, you can move on to more advanced techniques.
Lie flat on the floor. Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, with feet flat and arms straight down at your side.
Breathe in and lift your hips into the air, keeping your heels flat. When your hips are off the ground, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles, hamstrings, and glutes.
Hold this position for 1-2 seconds; you should feel a slight burn as you sink back down to the floor.
Do 2 sets to start, then increase the number of sets as you get used to the Kegel exercises.
Lie on your back on the floor raise your knees. Your lower legs should be perpendicular to the floor.
Tighten your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles at the starting position, keeping your knees together.
Slowly split and lower the right leg to the side while keeping the left leg in the same position.
When you can no longer lower the right leg without moving the left leg, hold the position for 1 second.
Move the right leg back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
Repeat with the left leg.
Complete 3 sets.
Keep in mind you won't see results immediately. Strengthening pelvic floor muscles can take several weeks, and overworking them might worsen symptoms, so before we get ahead of ourselves, some safety tips:
Safety when exercising your pelvic floor muscles
Interrupting your urine stream is a great way to identify the PC muscles. However, doing kegel exercises with a full bladder is dangerous, and could risk worsening any urine leakage and putting undue pressure on your bladder. Try to master isolating the right muscles as quickly as possible.
Your pelvic floor muscles are just like any other muscle and can be strained via overwork. Stay safe as you incorporate these exercises into your routine and practice the proper technique.
Making Kegel Exercises a Habit
Kegel exercises can help more if performed regularly.
Consistency is key. Try doing Kegel exercises at the same time daily. For example, while brushing your teeth, or on your commute.
Keep the goal in mind. Whether you're trying to improve your sex life, calm an overactive bladder or recovering from prostate cancer treatment, keep your end goal in mind.
Track your progress. The more you do the exercises, the more you'll notice improvements in your condition. By noting each improvement, you'll gain zeal to continue with your PFM training regimen.
Doing Kegel exercises regularly is where it's at for easy, do-it-at-home health solutions. Add them to your exercise routine and you can improve sexual function today. Your penis and partner will thank you!
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