As we age, we begin to notice some unwanted—and sometimes embarrassing—changes to our physiological function.
Our erections are not as firm as they once were, premature ejaculation may become more frequent, and adequate bladder control can become problematic.
Thankfully, there’s a technique that could alleviate these problems.
Previously, people believed that Kegel exercises were a “female-only” domain. Yet, recent research shows that these powerful techniques have enormous benefits for male health too.
This article is the ultimate guide to Kegel for the male physiology.
It all started in 1948 when the American gynecologist Arnold Kegel published an article explaining how exercising the pelvic floor muscles inhibited incontinence in women. It’s a technique that is still the initial recommendation of health practitioners today.1
However, after studying the techniques first proposed over 70 years ago—researchers have discovered that these exercises are not only equally beneficial for men, but they also have numerous applications over and above urinary issues.
What Are Kegel Exercises?
First, a quick male biology 101.
Imagine the pelvic floor muscles (also known as the pubococcygeus muscles) as a miniature hammock—extending from your tailbone (coccyx) at the back through to your pubic bone on the front.2
These muscles are found in both men and women. In males, they perform four main functions:
- Supporting the organs located within the pelvis—the bladder, bowel, and urethra.3
- Protecting these essential body areas from external damage.
- Playing a role in erectile function.
- Assisting with ejaculation.
The pelvic floor muscles contract when you laugh, sneeze, or cough—theoretically preventing urine leakage.4
These muscles are usually always under tension. When you urinate or open your bowels—they relax, allowing for the expulsion of waste matter. After passing urine or defecating is complete—they re-tighten. Ideally, preventing the unwanted passing of feces, gas, and urine. 4
But, these muscles can weaken through:5
- Chronic coughing.
- Surgery on the prostate gland.
- Pushing too hard when trying to evacuate your bowels.
- Lifting heavy objects.
- Pelvic trauma.
- Being overweight.
- Low-levels of fitness.
Kegel exercises, also known as PFMT (pelvic floor muscle training), are scientifically proven methods of strengthening the pelvic muscles. Just as completing dumbbell curls increases the power of the biceps—the simple techniques outlined in this article have the same effect on the pelvic floor.
Why Should I Do Kegel Exercises?
Kegel exercises work to both treat and prevent.
Hence, if you’re a young guy in your 20s—pelvic floor training can lower the chance of developing genito-urinary issues later in life. If you’re a more mature gentleman—who’s already suffering from the embarrassing symptoms of pelvic weakness—they can act to reduce or eliminate these problems.
Following a Kegel exercise routine has the benefits of:
Preventing Premature Ejaculation
Incredibly, one in every three men suffers from this issue. Not only is it embarrassing at the time, but it can also place stress on otherwise healthy relationships.6
Research shows that using Kegel exercises increases control of the ejaculatory reflex—meaning that you can prevent climax until the point at which it’s desirable.7
Improving Erectile Function
Studies explain that at some point, every man will experience erectile dysfunction. That is, the inability to obtain or maintain an erection.
By the time a man is 40 years of age—he has a 40 percent chance of having erection issues—a statistic that increases by 10 percent with every decade.8
In 2017, researchers examined six random trials—all of which investigated the ability of Kegel exercises to improve erections. Each one of these demonstrated that strengthening the pelvic floor enhanced penile firmness and duration during intercourse.9
Inhibiting Urinary Issues
The older we become—the more likely we are to suffer from male incontinence. The chance of this occurring increases yearly. By the time we pass 60 years of age—31 percent of us will suffer from this condition.10
However, don’t just consider this as an issue for the older generation.
Many of us have experienced the post-urination “dribbling” or leakage (medically known as post-void urinary incontinence). This is where your main urination stream has finished—you replace your penis back into your underwear—and some urine leaks out.
This is a widespread phenomenon affecting over 50 percent of men—usually after the age of 18 years.11
Experts have discovered that Kegel exercises are an effective method of both preventing incontinence and post-urinary dribbling.
Preventing Fecal Incontinence
Major fecal incontinence (the inability to control the bowels at all) is relatively rare—affecting 1.4 percent of men.12
However, while few statistics exist—anecdotally, minor fecal incontinence is much more common. That is, passing a stool, or part of a stool when attempting to expel gas.
This lack of control is usually a sign of weak pelvic floor muscles. In 2016, researchers illustrated that Kegel exercises are a productive method of reducing its occurrence.13
How to Find Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Before you can begin your Kegel exercises, you need to locate your pelvic floor muscles. Despite using them every day when urinating, pinpointing them does involve a little effort.
Here are what I consider to be the best two techniques in finding your pelvic floor muscles.
The Mid-Stream Urination Method
- Stand, not sit, at the toilet and begin to urinate.
- Halfway through the process, attempt to stop the flow completely. If you cease urination, you’ve located the correct muscles.
- Mentally recognize the sensation of squeezing these muscles.
- Release and continue to empty your bladder fully.
It’s crucial that you understand this is not an exercise in itself. Continually stopping and starting is more likely to cause harm than good—possibly leading to urinary tract infections. It’s merely a process of identifying the correct muscles.
The Mirror Method
- Take a hot bath or shower. This releases tension in the testes, allowing them to “hang-low.”
- While naked—stand in front of a full-length mirror.
- Attempt to raise your testes purely by squeezing your pelvic floor muscles (if you’ve already completed the mid-stream method, this shouldn’t be difficult).
- In your reflection, you should witness the base of your penis draw in while your testes rise.
- If this occurs—you have again located your pelvic floor muscles.
Don’t worry if it takes a few attempts to find your pelvic floor—some men find it easier than others. However, once discovered, your muscle memory will kick into action, allowing you to exercise them at will.
How to Do Kegel Exercises?
The correct technique is vital. When completing the following exercises—you should notice a ‘squeeze and lift’ sensation inside your pelvis. Your lower abdomen could flatten a little—however, attempt to keep everything lying above your belly button relaxed and continue to breathe normally.
The Three-Second Hold and Release Kegel Exercise
This Kegel exercise focuses on holding and tightening the muscles that are required for urine, fecal, and ejaculatory control—building their strength.
- Lie, stand, or sit in a comfortable position with your knees slightly apart.
- Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles—hold for a count of three seconds.
- Release and relax—count to three again—then repeat the squeeze and lift.
- You should follow this three-second-hold—three-second-relax procedure 10 times.
- Complete this set of 10 repetitions three times every day.
The Resistance Kegel Exercise
This Kegel exercise is a development of the three-second hold. It’s ideal for men who find that the three-second approach isn’t sufficiently challenging—or wish to vastly improve their ejaculatory control.
- Again, make yourself comfortable in a standing, lying, or sitting position.
- Lift and squeeze the pelvic floor muscles—hold for as long as you can—timing the duration.
- When you cannot hold this contraction anymore—release.
- Rest for the same amount of time as you held the contraction.
- Lift and squeeze again—hold for as long as possible while timing or counting—then release.
- Again rest for the same period.
- Repeat this procedure 10 times.
- Conduct three sets of 10 repetitions twice more during the day.
You will notice over time, that your holding duration increases. This is a sign that your strength and power are elevating.
The Squeeze and Release Kegel Exercise
This Kegel exercise is a rapid “squeeze-and-release” technique. It increases the ability of the pelvic floor muscles to react quickly.
- Lie, stand, or sit in a comfortable position with your knees slightly apart.
- Squeeze and release your pelvic floor muscles as fast as possible—do not attempt to sustain the contraction.
- Rest for three seconds.
- Quickly squeeze and release again—followed by a three-second rest.
- Complete this procedure 10 times.
- This regime should be performed in total three times every day.
Tips & Tricks
Following the below kegel exercise tips will ensure that you receive the maximum benefits and make your program more enjoyable.
1. Don’t Squeeze Other Muscles
There’s a temptation, especially in the lying down position, to squeeze the lower abdominal muscles. While this will have no harmful effect—it means that the pelvic floor is doing less work and therefore not being “trained.”
While in the holding stage—place the palm of your hand on your abdomen to ensure that these muscles aren’t being worked too.
2. Repeat, But Don’t Overdo It
Little and often is the key.
Like a bodybuilder—it’s vital to concentrate on a few properly executed repetitions rather than working like a machine for hours.14
Ten reps, completed three times a day, is the ideal way to maximize the returns from Kegel exercises. Pushing the muscles too hard can be counterproductive. In the short-term, it can lead to weakness—preventing them from adequately functioning.
3. Switch Positions
Alternate between sitting, standing and laying down Kegel exercises.
These small adaptations can place demands on different areas of the pelvic floor muscles—enabling them to receive a fuller “workout.”
What’s more, use these different positions to fit in with your lifestyle. Standing and sitting pelvic exercises can be inconspicuously completed anywhere—at home, work, or in the subway.
4. Switch Routines
Similar to the above, alternating between the hold and rapid techniques provides greater all-around benefits than concentrating purely on one method.
5. Do Not Hold Your Breath
Holding the breath increases tension—making it difficult to complete Kegel exercises. Slow and steady breaths relax the body, including the abdomen, allowing you to concentrate purely on your pelvic floor muscles.
Additionally, remember this is an exercise—and as such, you require oxygen. The more you breathe, the higher your stamina and the more reps you’ll be able to complete.15
6. Be Patient—But Keep At It
Kegel exercises don’t deliver immediate results. You’re training your muscles—and it takes time for them to rebuild stronger.
This means that the returns from Kegel come within months—not days. For example, for premature ejaculatory improvement—research shows a minimum of two months pelvic floor workouts are required.16
One of the hardest aspects of Kegel training, especially if you’re not familiar with completing a daily fitness routine, is remembering to exercise.
Personally, I recommend setting the alarm on your watch or smartphone. All it needs to be is a distinctive “beep”—and you’ll be prompted to complete your exercises.
Alternatively, you could:
- Put sticky notes in the bathroom or kitchen to remind you to exercise.
- Make a habit of completing Kegel workouts every time you empty your bladder.
- Squeeze the muscles when you wash the crockery or boil the kettle.
- Incorporate it into your office life—for example, checking emails also means completing Kegel.
7. Start a Pelvic Muscle Log
Whether a spreadsheet on your laptop, smartphone, or tablet—or a back-to-basics notebook—a pelvic muscle log is an ideal way to track your progress.
If nothing else—a log can make you more committed to your training. Empty spaces in this Kegel diary means you have missed exercises. This can inspire you to complete the workouts daily.
Secondly, as Kegel is a long-term regime, it provides evidence that your exercises are yielding results. Not only can you see how your holding duration or time spent has increased over time, but also you can use it to show enhancements to your daily life.
Hence, I’d recommend making notes in your log relating to your area of concern. Note down the frequency of post-urinary dribbling, or time taken to ejaculate for example. Seeing improvements in these areas over the weeks is a massive boost.
8. Stay Hydrated
Insufficient fluid intake can lead to dehydration—in turn causing constipation.17
As you strain to pass waste—the pelvic floor muscles can become stretched and weakened. Hence, drink regularly to ensure you don’t undo the hard work you’re putting in.
9. Avoid Certain Exercises
If your doctor has advised you that you have a weak pelvic floor—there are some exercises you should avoid. This is because they can place an immense amount of strain on these muscles. Hence, do not complete:
- High-impact exercise such as running.
- Repetitive lifting—such as barbell squats and presses.
- Straight-leg sit-ups.
- Double leg lifts.
What Other Exercises Can Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles?
Increasing the strength of the hamstrings and glutes supports and elevates the power of the pelvic floor muscles. Two of the most powerful exercises to work these areas are bridges and squats.18
- Lie down on your back, arms by your sides—palms downward.
- Raise your knees, legs slightly apart with your feet flat on the floor.
- Squeeze the pelvic floor and raise your buttocks around 10 inches off the ground—hold for 10 seconds.
- Relax the pelvic muscles and slowly lower your buttocks back to the floor again.
- Complete 10 repetitions.
- Rest for two minutes.
- Perform two more sets of 10 repetitions with another two-minute break between each.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Extend your arms out in front of you—so they’re at right angles to your body.
- Lower yourself slowly into a squat position by bending at the knees.
- Stop when you reach a “sitting” position—your buttocks should not pass below your knees.
- Hold for three seconds.
- Return to the standing position by pushing through your buttocks and thigh muscles while squeezing the pelvic floor.
- Complete 10 repetitions—then rest for two minutes.
- Perform an additional two sets of 10 repetitions—always having a break between sets.
Dropping the buttocks below the knee-line makes it a challenge to squeeze the pelvic muscles—hence the shallow squat in this exercise.
When to Seek Medical Advice?
While these Kegel exercises are safe and you can complete them easily in the home, there are a few critical points to consider. The pelvic floor is a sensitive area, home to many of the important organs relating to genito-urinary health—so some caution is advised.
Firstly, pelvic floor muscle exercises are recommended by health practitioners after prostate surgery—reducing recovery times.
However, completing Kegel maneuvers immediately after treatment (while using a urinary catheter) may irritate the bladder, induce discomfort, and cause injury. Hence, I recommend that you avoid exercise during this time. Ensure that you have your doctor’s approval before starting pelvic floor training.
Secondly, if you suffer from any of the below symptoms, seek professional help before starting a Kegel program:
- Urgently needing to urinate or empty the bowels.
- Frequently leaking urine, water, or gas.
- Severe difficulty in emptying the bladder or bowels.
- Bladder or bowel pain.
It’s possible that these issues may be related to something other than your pelvic floor—and should be assessed by a professional.
As with any training program, Kegel exercises are most effective when they’re monitored and specifically tailored for the individual. The exercises above are simply a guide—they may not help if performed incorrectly or if the workout is inappropriate for the symptoms.
Don’t be embarrassed to ask for advice from your health practitioner in regard to Kegel—there are many specialized pelvic floor and continence physiotherapists. They’re able to assess your current function and advise on the best program for your specific requirements.
This is particularly the case for those people who have trouble locating their pelvic floor muscles. These specialists can assist you in identifying the correct area using different biofeedback devices.
This equipment involves placing electrodes on particular areas of your body— and then asking you to squeeze the pelvic floor muscles. These electrodes relay information—indicating if you’re contracting the correct location.
In other circumstances, a person may have nerve issues that prevent them from squeezing their pelvic floor without assistance. In this situation, a continence physiotherapist may provide pelvic-stimulation treatment, which can induce muscle contractions.
When to Expect Results?
Dedication and patience are required when following a Kegel exercise program.
Week on week, strength and conditioning elevates—but only when you perform these exercises correctly and regularly.
Most people begin to witness improvements in their pelvic floor strength after eight weeks of continuous training—with the most impressive returns being apparent after three to four months.
Once you have located your pelvic floor muscles—Kegel exercises are simple, free, and can be completed anywhere.
Being able to relieve incontinence, premature ejaculation, and erection issues—they’re the ideal “man’s” exercise.
Discuss with your doctor about following the above techniques. You could solve many of your physiological issues without the use of drugs or surgery.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Biswadeep Das in August 2019