Your yoga teacher calls it mulabandha. Your personal trainer might call it the pelvic floor. And your mama would lovingly refer to this region of the anatomy as the naughty bits. Indeed, it is the wondrous pubococcygeus muscle, from now on referred to as the PC. This is the muscle that makes a kegel a kegel.
I was largely unprepared for the prodigious amount of information available on the wonder of kegels; apparently, they are a big thing. Upon studying the subject, I was hoping to embark on a grand kegel experiment that would allow me to offer a firsthand account of the benefits of kegel exercises—from both a physiological and a sexual perspective. Alas, the deadline was a bit too tight, as it were.
Kegels in a Nutshell
In the 1940s, Dr. Arnold Kegel began to prescribe an exercise to women who were having problems with incontinence. That exercise was the repeated engagement of the PC muscle, the muscle you use to keep from peeing your pants when you have to go really, really bad. Not only did the women Kegel prescribed this exercise to find that the daily routine of contracting their PCs helped with their incontinence, but they also noticed that their sexual experiences were becoming more gratifying, their orgasms easier to come by and more frequent. In other words, best side effect ever.
It wasn’t long before word spread that the world’s easiest exercise had explosive benefits. And it makes perfect sense when you think about it: The tighter the muscle, the more contact pressure is created. The greater the contact pressure, the greater the surface area. Suddenly sex really is a full-contact sport. Not to mention the regular exercise of a muscle, any muscle, increases its vascular distribution, bringing more blood and therefore more oxygen to an already sensitive area of the body, heightening the overall tactile experience. Furthermore, during orgasm, the PC muscle contracts repeatedly and reflexively. A well-exercised PC will contract with more strength, theoretically increasing the intensity of an orgasm.
Have you started doing kegels compulsively yet? I’ll bet you have.
They’re Not Just for Sex
Regular kegel exercises offer up other benefits as well. For one thing, the PC muscle is what holds your bladder, your uterus, and your bowels in place. I think we can all agree that these are organs we don’t want moving around too much. A strong PC will help maintain the placement of these vitals. This is the main reason it’s an exercise prescribed to women for the final stage of pregnancy and for the first weeks after giving birth. Childbearing and birthing naturally rearrange a woman’s insides pretty significantly, to say nothing of their stresses on the vagina itself. A kegels regimen will help everything get back to normal.
Also, the original intent of kegel exercises—to prevent incontinence—is still in full effect. If you keep the PC in shape, you are less likely, as you get older, to experience this inconvenience. Who wouldn’t be willing to sign up for Depends-free golden years, right? In addition, in those moments that catch you off guard—a sudden sneeze, perhaps, or raucous laughter, which can sometimes call your bladder control into question—well-toned pelvic muscles will keep such prosaic moments from being all too memorable.
And They’re Not Just for the Ladies
Women aren’t the only ones who can benefit from regular kegeling. And I’m not just talking about the secondhand sexual benefits a man might experience when getting intimate with a lady who also happens to be a regular kegeler.
Everyone has a PC muscle; it’s a pelvic muscle, not necessarily a vaginal muscle. Pelvic contractions massage the prostate, promoting prostate health. And that’s great. However, the direct sexual benefits a man can reap from regular kegeling are as tangible as those that women experience. First off, strengthening the PC increases ejaculatory control, which is good news for everyone. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, this muscle reflexively contracts during orgasm, making for more pleasurable and prolonged climaxes.
Okay, you’re on board with kegels now, in case you weren’t already. Really, there’s no reason not to do them. But there are tools for being an overachieving kegeler. Tools, you say? Indeed.
Allow me to introduce you the vaginal barbell. I’m not even kidding. It’s a one-pound weight, phallic in shape (unsurprisingly), made of stainless steel, with rounded bulges on each end, one side smaller than the other. As you can imagine, it can double as a sex toy if you want it to. The idea behind it is the same as with any other weight-lifting device: resistance equals increased strength. The idea is to contract your PC, with the vaginal barbell in place, and hold it there … while standing up. For advanced kegelers with super-strong PCs, you can even walk around with the vaginal barbell, if you dare. And I’m not talking about carrying it in your hand.
Vaginal barbells come in other varieties as well—balls and springs, mostly. But they all work on the same concept as the barbell described above, and many of them are marketed as a remedy for incontinence, rather than as sexual enhancements.
There’s not really a wrong way to do a kegel, provided you always contract and never push. But if you want to get really deliberate about starting up a daily kegels regimen, follow this routine: exhale a long breath, then contract your PC and inhale deeply at the same time, holding the contraction for at least eight to ten seconds, then release. And repeat. For new kegelers, ten repetitions of this simple exercise each day will suffice for the first couple of weeks, then ramp up to fifteen reps when you start feeling ambitious. If only sit-ups were so easy, right?
What does anyone—male or female, young or old—have to lose? Kegels can be part of your corporeal routine of well-being. The same way you eat your five servings of vegetables a day and go to the gym, you can sit at your desk at work and give your lady parts a discreet workout. No incontinence and better sex for all!