Holy mother of all things good. Clearly I’ve been doing this whole exercise thing wrong, because apparently some women can orgasm while working out.
On the one hand, it shouldn’t come as a surprise -- the physical exertion, increased blood flow, and tightening of the pelvic floor muscles during exercise aren’t all that different from what takes place between the sheets. On the other hand, who the hell is having sexy-time thoughts during a set of squats?
As a personal trainer who tries to convince people of the longer-term pleasures of exercise, I had to investigate. I won’t lie. I’d love to climb that hill during spin class.
It happens more often than you think
Believe it or not, EIOs aren’t new or rare. They were first documented by Alfred Kinsey in the 1953 book, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” when approximately 5% of the women he interviewed mentioned the phenomenon. Yes, this is a trait unique to women, though it probably wouldn’t be too difficult for a man to find a way to orgasm at the gym if he really wanted to.
Then, in 2011, Dr. Debbie Herbenick published a study called “Exercise-induced orgasm and pleasure among women,” wherein 370 of the 530 study participants noted some level of EIO or exercise-induced sexual pleasure (EISP).
Given that the physical experience of self-reported incidents of EIO and EISP varied widely among participants from a mild “funny feeling” to a full blown climax, the true percentage of women maxing out at the gym is probably closer to Kinsey’s original assessment. What Herbenick’s study really adds to the body of knowledge is the whats, whens, and hows of the female coregasm. (Isn’t that what we all really want to know?)
The exercises that get you off
Sadly, there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to ensure you’ll hit the high note at the gym, but there’s a reason the phenomena has been called the “coregasm.” Of the women in Herbenick’s study who experienced EIO or EISP, 45% of them did so while performing abdominal exercises, most notably while using the “Captain’s Chair” -- a common piece of gym equipment that looks like a seatless chair and is used to perform hanging leg lifts.
The magic of the Captain’s Chair is likely twofold: 1) It requires strong pelvic floor engagement, and 2) It involves friction through the “lady parts” during the action of the leg lift. It’s these two factors -- pelvic floor engagement and friction -- that seem to be tied most closely to the coregasm.
Astroglide’s Resident Sexologist, Dr. Jess, a sexuality counselor with a PhD in sex education, notes that many of her clients experience coregasms during yoga, Pilates, and group cycling classes. Yoga and Pilates focus on core engagement, while group cycling covers “lady part friction” in spades. Dr. Jess explains, “Some women find that rubbing against a bicycle seat for a short period of time can be arousing -- particularly if they grind back and forth a little.”
Could explain the popularity of SoulCycle, no?
But it’s also possible to coregasm during other exercises; 7% of Herbenick’s survey respondents said that strength training does the trick. Patricia Johnson, a sex expert and co-author of books like Great Sex Made Simple, is no stranger to the experience, “I began having coregasms years ago while working out. They tend to happen when I’m lifting weights and focusing on larger muscle groups.” It makes sense: exercises like squats and lunges require pelvic floor engagement, and depending on how you experience arousal, even chest press or pushups could also lead to sexual pleasure through nipple stimulation.
How to get in on the fun
As someone who’s no stranger to the Captain’s Chair, spin bike, or squat rack, why might one person experience a coregasm, while I’m left high and dry? “It could be related to pelvic floor tone, circulation to the pelvic region, or the area on or around which you experience direct pressure,” explains Dr. Jess.
Johnson adds, “Orgasm is the repeated release of muscle tension. When muscles are contracted for a long time or stressed, they begin to tremor. These sensations can be expanded into an orgasmic feeling by focusing on them.”
In other words, you may or may not be physically inclined to the experience, and even if you are, you may still have to actively lean into it. Just as you might need to be mentally open to climaxing with a partner, you might also have to be aware, focused and open to the experience of a coregasm.
Note to self: it’s time to exercise a whole new kind of mindfulness at the gym.
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