Posted May 22, 2014

Coregasms: Potential Mechanisms

A few weeks ago while at the Fitness Summit in Kansas City, Bret Contreras and I got into an intriguing discussion about the potential mechanisms that could lead to an exercise-induced orgasm (EIO), better known in fitness circles as a “coregasm.” After describing our own theories as to what we thought might cause coregasms, we realized that neither of us actually knew what was happening. Being a couple of research nerds, we decided to hit this problem head on. We decided to take a multi-pronged approach to solving this problem, but we need your input first.

Back to the topic of coregasms… Women can experience vaginal, clitoral, or G-spot orgasms, according to the literature. However, there’s a much less-researched type of orgasm that can occur during exercise, and it may or may not be accompanied by sexual thoughts or pleasure. It does not involve external friction, such as what might occur if a woman were to perform a back extension with the pad rubbing across the genitalia. Coregasms are internal in nature, and the precise mechanisms through which they occur are currently unknown.

Seemingly any exercise that involves abdominal contractions has the possibility to produce a coregasm, and some women even reporting them while walking or mopping. That being said, there are many women who perform a lot of abdominal exercises in various positions and directions and feel absolutely no sexual stimulation from them, which makes this somewhat of a vexing concept to address.

This phenomenon was first mentioned by Alfred Kinsey in 1953 in his book “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.” It was then discussed by Debbie Herbenick, a researcher at Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, in her 2011 article “Exercise Induced Orgasm and Pleasure Among Women.” However, the exact mechanism of how exercise-induced orgasm (EIO) occurs is still somewhat elusive.

Coregasms tend to occur with open kinetic chain movements such as hanging leg raises, straddle holds, rope climbs, chin ups, and other ab-centric exercises. Herbenick’s research has put the incidence of women who experience coregasms during workouts as high as 45%, which we think is highly overestimated. Some women reported this as feeling uncomfortable and occasionally painful versus pleasurable. It ranged from very minor (“just a funny feeling”), to somewhat severe and intense. Many reported their first experiences when they were in gymnastics at fairly young ages and didn’t know what they were until they became sexually active. However, the average age of recognition was 18-19 years old.

We wondered whether coregasms are simply a good thing, or a potential cause for alarm. Is the phenomenon a normal variation of biology, and if so, can women learn how to actively pursue them in their training? Or, is it a symptom of something not working properly that needs to be addressed, and if so, how? Was this something that would be affected either positively or negatively by childbirth or complications from surgical delivery or episiotomy? Or is it a sign of a well functioning core and sexual health that should be encouraged? For trainers, is this something to try to ignore, or something that could be positionally cued in order to prevent, and if so how?

The following video is NSFW with the volume on. There’s no nudity or anything, but, yeah. It shows a woman having a coregasm during an abdominal-based workout.

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Bret and I came up with three potential mechanisms that may lead to a coregasmic reaction based on different anatomical actions and mechanisms of stimulation. We would like for you to watch all three quick 60-90 second videos so that you can provide your opinion:

  1. Abdominal Friction Theory:

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Here’s the Theory:

  • Fascial stimulation could impact clitoral stimulation.
  • Movement of the thighs during open-chain flexion based movements could cause proximal stimulation through the clitoris and labia

Here are Limitations of the Theory:

  • Fascial stimulation would have to travel through a bony block of the pelvis to transmit stimulation from the rectus to the clitoris.
  • Friction from the femurs rubbing the genitals would also cause a higher rate of occurrence in activities like cycling.
  1. Pelvic Floor Recoil Theory

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Here’s the Theory:

  • Pelvic floor activation could play a role in either clitoral stimulation or deep vaginal stimulation.
  • Pelvic floor contractions cause a pressurization of the vagina in multiple planes, potentially stimulating different sections that direction stimulation.

Here are Limitations of the Theory:

  • Other activities that increase intraabdominal pressure would also cause a greater incidence of coregasms, which means movements like deadlifting, squatting or any heavily loaded movement would also cause a greater incidence of coregasms.
  • Would natural childbirth or situations where abnormal pelvic floor function were present cause a concomitant decrease in incidence of coregasms? Interestingly, this article discussed a woman who was starting a post-partum routine who would develop them from her core work, even if it was from a Tracy Anderson DVD.


  1. Hypertonic Pelvic Floor Nerves Theory

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Here’s the Theory:

  • Activities that increase activity through the pelvic floor, regardless of intraabdominal pressure, could increase tension through the floor. This could possibly increase stimulation through the genitals and increase incidence.
  • This takes into consideration the neural branches that innervate both the clitoris and the vaginal walls, which are incredibly impactful on orgasmic stimulation.

Here are Limitations of the Theory:

  • This doesn’t explain why young women and seemingly normal healthy women experience coregasms.
  • Would these coregasms still be present in a situation like post-episiotomy, where the perineal nerve and dorsal clitoral nerves could be severed?

pelvic floor nerve supply

  • Women who have had children through natural childbirth, and even multiple childbirths, have reported having coregasms, so assuming their pelvic floors haven’t become hypertonic from deliveries, the theory may not hold in their instances.

In fitness circles, coregasms have not been discussed in depth, especially in terms of anatomy and mechanisms of actions. That doesn’t mean magazines haven’t already published their own versions of the Coregasm Workout, even though only one of the exercises has shown any correlation to increased occurrence. The topic was first addressed in Men’s Health in 2007, where the experts were speculating about potential mechanisms. For trainers and strength coaches working with female clients and athletes, this could be a very important topic, especially if the specific workout is producing undesired effects that could compromise the safety of the individual or reduce the efficiency of their workouts.

Additionally, if your client is getting these on a regular or occasional basis, is this something that you should be aware of as a red flag, or is it just a something to ignore? Should you professionally broach the subject, or avoid it? If a client confides in you, what will you tell them in order to explain the mechanisms and try to help them feel better about the situation?

We wanted to get to the bottom of this, so we’re collaborating by gathering data, talking to some of the leading researchers and clinical therapists in the world, formulating a thought process on how and why they happen, and whether they’re potentially beneficial or harmful, or indicative of something deeper.

For step one, we’d like your input. For females reading this, we have a short anonymous questionnaire we’d like you to fill out, whether you’ve had a coregasm during exercise or not. We’d like to collect some data to help us better understand how prevalent this phenomenon is in the world, what exercises may have a greater rate of occurrence, and whether it’s at all affected by pelvic floor dysfunction or childbirth.

We’d love to hear from you. It’s completely anonymous, and no personal information will be collected or logged. This data will help us formulate our hypothesis as to what may or may not cause coregasms. From here, it may lead to a body of research to help others find solutions or ask better questions.


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