Understanding the correct muscles to use when doing kegel exercises can be a little confusing when you first start.
Unlike many other muscles, it’s not so easy to visually confirm that you’re doing the exercises correctly.
Part of the problem is that many websites advise men to squeeze their Pubococcygeus muscle (PC muscle), and don’t provide accurate descriptions of where it is exactly.
They also miss out the fact that the Bulbocavernous muscle (BC muscle) plays a major role for men if they want to do kegels to control their ejaculation.
In an interesting piece of research into pelvic floor rehabilitation for men with lifelong PE at the University of Rome in 2014, the researchers note that:
The pelvic floor undoubtedly plays an important role in sexual function; evidence suggests active roles of the ischiocavernous and bulbocavernous muscles, and sphincters, with a significant increase in electromyographic activity during the entire ejaculatory period
Personally, I don’t think the name matters too much as long as you’re exercising the correct muscles. You don’t need a full understanding of anatomical terminology – you just need an understanding of which muscles to use.
The simple way to find the right muscles
There are 3 ways you can check if you’re using the correct muscles:
1. Locating the muscles while urinating
The first technique is to mentally squeeze the base of your penis to stop yourself urinating mid flow. The muscles that you use to do this are the muscles you need to use when doing kegels.
If you can’t stop urinating then it may be that the muscles just aren’t well developed at the moment. Don’t worry though – as long as you find that the flow reduces, you’re probably using the correct muscles.
When first doing this, you may find it useful to start and stop the flow of urine several times until you gain an understanding of which muscles to use.
Please note that stopping the flow of urine is something you only need to do to get an idea of which muscle to use. Don’t do it every time you go to the toilet, as this isn’t recommended by Urologists.
2. Finding the muscles manually
The second technique is to feel the pelvic floor with your fingers while lying on your back. Lie down, raise your knees and then use a couple of fingers to push gently onto your perineum – the area of skin between your testicles and anus.
If you then try to squeeze the muscles you would if stopping yourself peeing you should feel contractions under your fingers. You can experiment by trying to squeeze whichever muscles you can in that area until you’re able to feel those contractions.
3. Locating the muscles with an erection
A third technique, and one which can be a useful visual check, is with an erection. If you squeeze/contract the pelvic floor muscles, you should find your erection rises slightly. And if you then relax the squeeze, it should drop down a little.
You might also find that you can feel or see your erection getting bigger or harder. This is another function of the BC muscle, so you may find this is a useful way to check you’re using that muscle.
Understanding the different muscles used
There are 3 main muscles of the pelvic floor which are targeted by kegels. They all have different roles, but are also connected in a sort of pelvic floor hammock of muscles. So trying to exercise one muscle specifically will also work the others to a certain extent.
You can see the locations in the following diagram, with explanations of each one below.
The BC muscle is the main muscle to use when doing kegels, not just the PC muscle. It’s located around the bulb, or base, of the penis. The two main roles of the BC muscle are:
- Squeezing semen or urine out of the urethra.
- Squeezing more blood into the end of the penis.
So in this way, it contributes to both erection strength and ejaculation.
The Pubococcygeus muscle
The PC muscle is the large muscle which stretches from the pubic bone to the tailbone. Its main roles are:
- Also plays a role in urination and bowel movements.
- Forms a large part of the pelvic floor, supporting lower organs.
- Contracts during orgasm.
The Ischiocavernosus (IC) muscle
The IC muscle sits next to the BC muscle, and its roles are:
- It’s involved in maintaining an erection and stabilizing the penis.
- It helps to flex the anus.
Which muscles to use and when
When doing a normal kegel squeeze just before the point of no return you need to focus on contracting mainly the BC muscle, and the IC and PC muscles will also contract when you contract that area.
When doing reverse kegels, the idea is to relax all the muscles – during sex you should try to keep all of the muscles of the pelvic floor relaxed.
You would only do a strong kegel hold before the point of no return by contracting/squeezing the pelvic floor muscles.
To quote the same piece of research as earlier again:
we demonstrated that active perineal muscle control inhibits the ejaculation reflex through intentional relaxation of the bulbocavernous and ischiocavernous muscles, which are active during arousal and should be intentionally relaxed during this phase of sexual intercourse.
So it’s good to do kegel exercises on your own to gain an awareness of your pelvic floor muscles and develop strength and control.
But when you have sex, forget about squeezing and contracting and focus instead on keeping nice and relaxed.
Read more: my guide to kegels