Kegel or pelvic muscle exercises are discrete exercises that work the perineal or pubococcygeus muscles. In the past, they have been largely promoted by physicians to their female patients in an effort to aid with stress incontinence following childbirth.
However, these same exercises are now being promoted to men in an effort to improve urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and even sexual health. Unlike typical exercise routines, these exercises don’t require the participant to buy any weights or expensive machines.
What Are Kegel Exercises?
California gynecologist Dr. Arnold Kegel created Kegel exercises in the late 1940s to help women control incontinence following childbirth.
Later research discovered that the exercises could also be helpful in preventing prolapse and alleviating pelvic pain during intercourse.
The exercises target the muscles of the “pelvic floor,” which are medically termed the pubococcygeus (PC muscles). Both men and women have these muscles, which provide support to pelvic organs such as the urethra, bladder, and bowel.
What are the benefits of Kegel exercises for men?
Kegel exercises primarily aid men with urinary incontinence. Besides preventing embarrassing urine leakage, they also decrease the urge to void.
Secondly, they have been shown to help male sexual health by allowing some men’s erections to last longer when affected by sexual dysfunction and premature ejaculation. These benefits all equate to a better quality of life.
These exercises are often recommended to patients with weakened pelvic floor muscles such as patients with diabetes, patients having had a prostate surgery in the past such as a radical prostatectomy, or obese patients.
It should also be mentioned that these exercises have not been scientifically proven to increase penis size and are thus not recommended solely for this purpose.
Kegel exercises are harmless if performed correctly. Chest and abdominal pain have been reported in some, but these occurrences are the result of inappropriately performed exercises.
PC Muscles Weaken with Age
In young people, PC muscles are typically taut and strong, helping to hold pelvic organs in place and assisting in bladder control and sexual function. However, they can become weakened and stretched as you age, losing efficiency.
Just as you can strengthen your arm muscles or leg muscles through exercise, you can strengthen your PC muscles. Because these muscles aren’t exercised enough during your normal, everyday life, you have to make a focused effort.
Do Kegels Work?
In 2006, researchers from New Zealand found that pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) helped women with stress urinary incontinence—a condition in which coughing and laughing produces urine leakage.
Another study examined Kegels in women with pelvic organ prolapse—a common condition in which pelvic muscles like the bladder can drop out of position due to weakened PC muscles.
Again, scientists found that PFMT may reduce the severity of prolapse. But what about for men?
How can men perform Kegel exercises?
Prior to beginning the exercises, it is important to correctly localize the pubococcygeus muscles. To achieve this, one can simply attempt to stop his urine flow midway through.
The muscles allowing for the pause in urination are the ones targeted by the Kegel exercises.
There are many different techniques that can be used to efficiently strengthen one’s pelvic floor muscles. Women often use Kegel balls or Kegel weights to perform the exercises, but those are unnecessary for men.
The first technique requires a contraction of the anus muscles as if trying to hold in gas. The feeling of a pulling or lifting sensation on the anus tells you that you are performing the exercise correctly.
The second requires the use of a mirror in order to observe the movement of your penis vertically without moving the rest of your body.
An elevator analogy can be used to illustrate the exercise. The anus, in this case, can represent an elevator.
The goal of the exercise is to bring up the elevator over five seconds to its maximal level and then to bring it gradually back down to the resting level.
The techniques are interchangeable. Men can perform a different technique each day. However, the important thing is to always use only the pelvic muscles.
When men first start performing these exercises, they may use other muscles to help them. Often, they may use their abdominal or gluteal maximus (buttocks) muscles.
It is thus important to become aware of which muscles are being contracted. It is also important to avoid holding the breath or crossing the legs.
Arguably, one of the strongest points of Kegel exercises is that they can be performed anywhere without anyone but the participant noticing.
Unlike typical core exercises for men requiring sit-ups, planking, or other unusual positions, Kegel exercises can be performed during a variety of activities such as shaving, sitting at one’s desk, or even while driving.
This feature allows them to be universally accepted by men.
The Easiest Kegel Exercise for Men
Once you’ve found your PC muscles, the next step is to practice flexing them, much like you might practice abdominal exercises to tone your torso.
Simply imagine you’re stopping the urine stream, hold for 5 to 20 seconds, then release. This is the simplest exercise, and one you can repeat 10 to 20 times, three to four times a day.
Do Kegels Improve Sexual Satisfaction?
Some studies have indicated stronger PC muscles improve orgasm intensity in women, but whether men might enjoy such benefits is still unclear.
In 2006, researchers reported that men who suffered from chronic pelvic pain syndrome experienced significant improvement in pelvic pain, urinary symptoms, erectile dysfunction, and libido after performing PFMT exercises.
How long does it take to see results from Kegel exercises?
Results such as improved urinary continence are commonly experienced within three to six weeks of regularly performing Kegel exercises.
As with any exercise routine, the key to obtaining results quickly depends on efficient, targeted, and frequent exercise techniques.