If you have ever experienced arousal in the midst of an intense set of crunches or while holding a plank, it's actually not abnormal. Our friends at Self explain everything you need to know about the "coregasm" and how to have one, just in case you're interested.
Exercise and sex are similar in more ways than one. For instance, they can both turn you into a sweaty, endorphin-flooded mess, and they both offer plenty of heart-healthy benefits. So on its face, a "coregasm," or exercise-induced orgasm (EIO), seems like an easy way to kill two birds with one very pleasurable stone. But in reality, exercise-induced orgasms are much more multifaceted than that. Here, experts explain what a coregasm really is, why they happen, and how you can take control of your coregasm potential.
What exactly is a coregasm?
"'Coregasm' is a term used to describe orgasms that seem to occur from exercises or movements that engage the core abdominal muscles," Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., associate professor at Indiana University and author of The Coregasm Workout, tells SELF. The technical term is exercise-induced orgasms, although some women experience exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP) without going the full nine yards. In Herbenick's book, she discusses how instead of feeling overtly sexual, many women say exercise-induced orgasms and sexual pleasure feel different.
One woman said "her exercise arousal felt closest to her vaginal intercourse arousal, just less intense," also calling it "more dull" than the pleasure she felt during sex. When describing how that arousal felt while hiking, she added, "It's like the lead-up to an orgasm when you're having sex." Other women explained that their exercise-induced orgasms made them feel "tingly" in various parts ranging from their legs to abdominals to their actual vaginas.
How do exercise-induced orgasms happen?
Experts don't have a definitive answer as to which muscles cause EIO. Although the "coregasm" term is catchy, it's not 100 percent accurate. In a March 2012 study in Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 530 women shared their experiences with exercise-induced orgasm and arousal. When it came to the kind of exercise that caused these sensations, abdominal work was the clear winner, with 51 percent of the women surveyed reporting that ab exercises had led to an EIO within the past 90 days. But it also turns out the phenomenon can happen during exercises as varied as weight lifting (27 percent), yoga (20 percent), and biking (16 percent). So really, there's no singular surefire way to achieve it.
"It's similar to any other type of orgasm in that it's more a matter of what works for one person instead of one specific thing that works for everyone," Dean Somerset, C.S.C.S., an exercise physiologist in Edmonton, Canada, tells SELF. Somerset has been exploring the mechanisms behind exercise-induced orgasms and sexual pleasure, and he says a popular theory is that they occur because of some sort of external friction. But if that were really the case, exercises like biking would probably take the lead in bringing about EIOs. Instead, Somerset thinks it might come down to "pelvic floor recoil," or contractions of the same muscles Kegel exercises target. In a survey he did of 191 people, 52 percent of respondents agreed.
Herbenick is also of the mind that abdominal muscles are key in causing exercise-induced orgasms and sexual pleasure, but the exact process isn't clear. "Right now, we are actively recruiting women and men who experience exercise-induced orgasms to participate in a study about muscular movements," she says. So for now, the answer about which specific muscles are involved is still in the works.
Can you boost your chances of having an exercise-induced orgasm?
Even though experts aren't exactly sure how they happen, you can structure your workouts to potentially make exercise-induced orgasms more likely. That's the premise behind Herbenick's book The Coregasm Workout, which focuses on four key factors in triggering EIO:
You're less likely to have an orgasm during some leisurely elliptical activity than a heart-pounding workout. "They tend to happen from intense or demanding exercise. For example, for women who experience them while doing crunches, they pretty much never happen on the fifth crunch and are more likely to occur after 50 or 100 crunches," says Herbenick.
- Order matters. Herbenick has found that EIO may be more likely if you first warm up with cardio for at least 20 minutes, then launch into the abdominal portion of your workout rather than doing strength, then cardio.
- Relax and receive. Just like during sex, if your mind is closed off or distracted when exercising, you're less likely to have an orgasm. That's not to say you should actively focus on sexual fantasies to have an EIO. If it works for you, go for it! But Herbenick has found it's not necessary to fantasize in order to induce an exercise orgasm, it's more about focusing on the workout so your body and mind are fully immersed in the experience. It's hard to truly work your core, or any part of your body, if your mind is elsewhere.
- Engage your lower abs. "Common coregasm exercises include leg lifts on the Captain's chair, pull-ups, chin-ups, and climbing exercises, probably due in part to how demanding they are of the core abdominal muscles," says Herbenick. In Somerset's survey, he found that hanging leg raises were five times more likely to cause EIO than any other move. "With these kinds of exercises, you have to contract your pelvic floor in order to bring your legs up," he says. Try performing different moves that loop in your ab muscles and see where that gets you.
Even though these are expert-approved guidelines, feel free to mix it up until you find what might work for you. Women have reported EIO and EISP from moves as diverse as glute bridges and hiking. But in the end, exercise-induced orgasm won't happen for everyone—Herbenick has found that about 10 percent of women and men have experienced one, which means it's not the most common thing in the world. "Just like not everyone orgasms from fantasy or from direct clitoral stimulation or from vaginal intercourse, not everyone will orgasm from exercise," says Herbenick. "We're all a little different, and that's OK. What's important is that women feel that they can explore their bodies and their sexuality in ways that feel good to them."
So, what to do if you don't think you can have one?
If you've tried various techniques but still aren't having an orgasm during exercise, you're still in luck. The good news is that working out can boost your sex life even if you're not actively orgasming while you do it. "Cardiovascular exercise helps to keep the heart strong and your veins and arteries in good condition," says Herbenick. That's essential for good sex, since blood flow is a necessary part of sexual arousal. "When you feel aroused, blood flow increases to the genitals, which helps with vaginal lubrication for women and erections for men," says Herbenick. There's also the fact that exercise helps you stay flexible and boosts your general endurance — great for the times you want to go all night.
— Zahra Barnes
Check out more great stories from Self:
- 9 Sneaky Things That Might Be Killing Your Sex Drive
- I Suffered From Pelvic Organ Prolapse After Childbirth, and Here's How I Learned to Love My Body Again
- Are You Pooping Wrong? The Sitting vs. Squatting Debate