A few months ago, Bret Contreras and I met up in Kansas City, and through the normal course of conversations, we wound up taking some tangential lines of discussion and wound up discussing the mechanisms of female coregams, or exercise induced orgasms (EIO’s). We each postulated a theory as to how we thought it would occur, realized neither of us really knew for sure, and wanted to look into it further.
There were a couple of big questions we had when beginning this thought process.
We decided to survey our respective audiences and see what you thought. We built a survey postulating 3 different possible mechanisms of action that could lead to a coregasm, and asked for some anonymous information from our readers. We hoped to get females answering, but undoubtedly had a few guys answering as well, which could have altered the results somewhat.
In total, we had 191 people answer the survey and provide information on what mechanisms they thought were most likely, what their history with coregasms was, as well as some other potentially influencing information. This is in no way an indicator of what the most likely cause is or a confirmation of one way over another, much like the “ask the audience option” in Who Wants to be a Millionaire was not always right, but it does give some guidance as to what could be the most likely answer. HERE is a link to the survey in case you didn’t yet read it.
Let’s dig into some of the data.
What this could mean
Based on these results, we can say that the common mechanism for a EIO may not come from direction friction stimulation, although it is still a possibility, but rather it may come from more pressure related stimulation internally versus externally. Movements that involved increasing intraabdominal pressure, moving the legs or tensing the muscles of the pelvis, and bracing based postures tended to produce the greatest occurrence, but then movements such as running or hamstring curl, which don’t have as direct a link to increased core pressure, also created an impetus, so it’s not definitive.
The sensations of an EIO seem to be just like a different type of stimulation, typically not better or worse, but just a variation. Those who have had pelvic floor histories are split between now having more or not seeing any difference. There is a plausible role in the pregnancy and delivery action that may create an increased sensitivity to stimulation. It would be interesting to dig deeper in this concept to see if the specific type of history (natural delivery, with or without episiotomy, C-section, prolapse, or stress incontinence) would lead to more or less of an occurrence compared to the others.
After Bret put up this discussion on his Facebook page, there were a few males who mentioned they had experienced EIOs as well, which would be another interesting area to look into to see if the rate of occurrence, mechanism of action, or causative exercises were similar or markedly different. Obviously because of anatomical differences, the exact mechanisms and pattern of stimulation would likely be different, but perhaps an increased pressure would also create stimulation, or maybe it would be frictional. I believe that research is being done on this as we speak.
The information presented currently doesn’t support whether EIOs are good or bad or something to encourage or discourage, but seems to just be a side effect of exercise for some people. There does seem to be a small connection to pelvic floor damage and the frequency of occurrence, but further research into this is needed to determine if it is a symptom of dysfunction or not, and also whether it is a good or bad thing in someone who has not had a pelvic floor history.
To answer our original 4 big questions:
So far, we don’t know. It appears to not be a problem, but I would say that if their occurrence is painful it might warrant getting a check up from your doctor, or even a consult with a pelvic floor specialist or ob/gyn.
Based solely on the results of this survey, it would appear that hanging leg raises, pullups, rollouts, and glute bridges seem to produce the highest incidences of occurrence. How these play into the specifics of producing an EIO still remains a mystery, as two proposed mechanisms involve direct action on the pelvis and one doesn’t. Mental state and psychological arousal may play a role in them, but it wasn’t looked at with this survey.
It appears to be a coin flip as to either increasing frequency or not changing it at all. Some women saw a decrease, but it was a very small percentage, although still significant. For most women, it would either increase or remain unchanged.
It doesn’t seem to be anything that is problematic, and could likely be broached in a professional manner between a client and trainer, especially if a certain exercise tends to produce a greater stimulation and occurrence where the client may feel uncomfortable in front of their trainer. A realistic substitute could be found to increase the client’s comfort with their core training and to reduce their stress during the session, but it does not seem to be a negative issue if they do occur.
The great thing about an initial survey like this is it has helped us to identify certain trends that can direct future study. There is nothing definitive in these results that can say once and for all what causes them or how to produce them, but it does give some guidance into what other questions we should ask in the future, as well as possible testing scenarios to see what mechanism produces EIOs, and whether they are actually healthy to have occur or not.
Bret and I are both very happy to have so many avid readers who are willing to divulge personal information like this in an anonymous manner to help further our understanding of the topic, as well as to shed light on something that isn’t commonly discussed in the fitness industry. Without your willingness to discuss this topic and produce the information we have, we wouldn’t have any answers to questions or any other questions to ask.
If any of our readers are highly interested in this topic, we advise them to follow Indiana University sex researcher Debby Herbenick on Twitter as this is her area of specialty. Debby and her colleagues will likely be the individuals who “crack the code” on coregasms/EIO’s over time. Like many aspects of science, much more research is needed in this area, and right now we can’t confidently speculate about the responsible mechanisms. In fact, coregasms/EIO’s likely involve a variety of interrelated mechanisms, which is why it’s important to follow the research.