If you’ve ever worried about not lasting long enough with your partner, you might have heard about Kegel exercises to help you last longer. But how do these exercises compare to traditional treatment options like the stop-start method and the squeeze technique exercises, medicines, and topical agents? Well, here we’ll dive into what you really need to know about Kegels and premature ejaculation.
What are Kegel exercises, anyway?
Kegel exercises or pelvic floor exercises are a type of treatment used to help people with urine or stool accidents.
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and connective tissues that lie between pubic and tail bone. You can think of it as a hammock that supports the urethra, anus and genitals. Research shows that when people with urine or stool accidents are taught to strengthen these muscles, they can learn to slow down or even stop these accidents. On the other hand, people who have very tight pelvic floor muscles may have problems with constipation, emptying their bladder or pelvic pain (and even pain with sex).
That means that there is a fine balance between too tight and too weak pelvic muscles. They need to be “just right” so that we have ease in the bathroom and bedroom.
How effective are Kegel Exercises for Premature Ejaculation?
Since we know the pelvic floor affects how easily we pee or poop, it makes quite a bit of sense that they can also affect sexual functioning. Pelvic floor muscles are important for both erections and ejaculations and pelvic muscle tone might impact how long you last.
A recent study looking at research over the past 30 years shows that while there is some promise for pelvic floor training to treat premature ejaculation, there is much we still do not know. For example, none of the studies looking at pelvic floor treatments included more than 100 men and the majority of the studies didn’t follow the men after the treatments ended to see how they were doing.
One study that followed men for 6 months showed that they now lasted just under 2 minutes— an improvement from their starting point of 40 seconds— but a result that pales in comparison to the results of other treatments.
This 2006 study for example showed that men who were treated with behavioural methods (the stop-start method and squeeze technique), increased their ejaculation latency from an average of 56 seconds to almost 8 minutes. The results lasted at a 3-month follow-up.
This research on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) showed it can help men delay ejaculation for up to 9 minutes.
The results are even less promising, since they only followed a third of the men who began treatment—the other two-thirds of the men didn’t show up for the 6 month check in.
In another study that defined “cure” as lasting 6 minutes or longer, only a quarter of men using pelvic floor treatment were cured at 6 months. Interestingly, when men combined pelvic floor treatments and SSRIs, the cure rate increased to half.
The truth is that while some articles may tout Kegels as the next best treatment for premature ejaculation, these claims aren’t based on sound research that has stood the test of time. Quickly scanning headlines or jumping to the results— without looking at all of the facts—is an easy way for misinformation to spread and half-truths to be advertised as good advice.
Were these studies really just looking at Kegel exercises?
Great question: the answer is no. In all of the studies that have looked at pelvic floor therapies for premature ejaculation, Kegel exercises were just one part of a comprehensive pelvic floor treatment.
First, men were treated by physical therapists who walked them through how to do Kegel exercises correctly. That’s important because doing Kegel exercises correctly doesn’t just mean “stopping your urine stream.” Men had to participate in biofeedback sessions, some with rectal probes and a vacuum erection device, to make sure they were targeting the correct muscles while they were hard.
And, in all the studies, men had electrostimulation (defined as “mild painless electrical pulses”) to directly target and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. These treatments lasted from one to three months, before the men graduated from treatment.
Many of the studies also included behavioural therapy (like the squeeze-pause technique) and required buy-in from the men’s partners.
Can strong pelvic floor muscles help me to stop ejaculation?
Ejaculating is a complex process that requires coordination between the brain, spinal cord, and the pelvic floor muscles. While both orgasms and ejaculation involve rhythmic contraction of some pelvic floor muscles, other pelvic floor muscles actually relax for normal sexual function.
For example, some men can learn to actively relax specific pelvic floor muscles to help delay ejaculation. These techniques are not always intuitive and often require biofeedback—a mind-body technique that uses immediate feedback to let the man know if he is targeting the correct muscles.
That’s why men who try to tighten their pelvic floor muscles during ejaculation may actually run the risk of more sexual problems. To have any chance of working, pelvic floor strengthening must be taken in a holistic approach so men know when to tighten— and just as importantly— when to relax.
Do Kegel exercises really work for premature ejaculation?
It looks like the jury is still out on this one. But what we can say is that simply doing Kegel exercises without targeting the right muscles, or relaxing the right muscles, can cause harm and might even be a recipe for sexual dysfunction.
Some small studies— which looked at comprehensive pelvic floor treatments rather than simply Kegel exercises— show that pelvic floor treatments may help men last longer. But we still need to learn a lot more about these exercises before they are routinely recommended to men. Also, many of the studies didn’t follow men after they stopped pelvic floor treatments, making it difficult to know if Kegels are a good long-term solution.
Before you think about trying Kegel exercises to help you last longer in bed, it’s important to understand that pelvic floor muscles are simply one part of healthy sexual function. It’s more important to take a holistic approach realizing that medicines, topical agents, psychologic and behavioural therapies, and—very importantly—honest communication with your partner can all be used to help you last longer in bed.
Final thoughts: Kegels and premature ejaculation
Kegels by themselves are not bad. They can be the right option to help some men last longer in bed— when used correctly. From what we know, pelvic floor techniques should be taught by pelvic floor physical therapists and may require other tools like biofeedback and electrostimulation to achieve full effects.
Remember that gaining the ability to last longer in bed requires a holistic approach that stands the test of time, not the newest quick fix.