Exercise and sexual performance in women is usually addressed by a journalist with quotes from a doctor or therapist. Seriously, what does a journalist know? I am writing this from the perspective of a Physical Therapy professional with additional credentials in pelvic floor musculature. Whether it is sexual performance or athletic performance, it all comes down to muscles and movement. As a 17-time bodybuilding champion, I know muscles, and as a professional in Physical Therapy, I know movement.
Regardless of what you are doing, if you are moving, it is because of muscle contractions and this is certainly true during sex. Muscles that are active during sex not only need strength, but also endurance unless you are left disappointingly done in 2 minutes. While the muscles of the pelvic floor, often trained with Kegel exercises, can enhance sex for both men and women, these muscles do not contribute to movement during sex.
Sexual positions and the muscles involved
There is no reason to feel frustrated if you feel that your performance is not at its best. This can be improved upon with the proper program. The primary muscles a woman should focus on for sexual performance are those within the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, which are the muscles surrounding the pelvis. These are all core muscles, but the emphasis should be placed on the more active musculature, and some are more active than others. Secondary muscles would include the extremities and the less active core musculature.
The muscles responsible for movement during sex, or the “prime movers”, are different depending on the position you are in. If you are in the missionary position, different muscles will be engaged than if you are in the “doggie-style” position. Many sexual positions require a woman to have strength and control of the muscles responsible for pelvic tilting to align the vagina and also for pelvic rocking or what some call the “humping motion” or “twerking”. This motion also can give great stimulation to the clitoris.
The prime movers for the pelvic motion are the mainly the muscles of the low abs and low back that cause anterior and posterior tilting (rocking) of the pelvis. For many women, these muscles are not only very weak but also are not well connected to the brain, meaning that they do not have proprioception or good conscious control of the muscles. Training these muscles will not only give you strength and endurance but also open the connection between the brain and body, to give you smooth and coordinated motion during sex.
The upper abs are the prime mover for a crunching or sit-up motion, but it is the lower abs that tilt the pelvis, and it is these that are more important during sex. As a professional, I have developed specific protocols for targeting these muscles. In order to target the low abs, you have to place the body in a such a way as to challenge the position of your pelvis, forcing the low abs and low back to engage in maximal contractions.
Gain control of your pelvis
The starting point for a sexual performance fitness program is mastering anterior and posterior pelvic tilts. The posterior pelvic tilt is probably most easily understood in the missionary position, where this motion helps tilt the vagina to an angle in which a woman can easily and enjoyably accept her partner. To experience this, lie on your back with your knees bent. Now without lifting your butt, flatten your low back to the ground. As you do this, your pelvis tilts backward a bit and brings your vagina forward and up.
Once you have mastered the anterior and posterior tilt, the sexual performance in women is greatly increased. While it is easiest to learn this movement while lying on your back, it can be transitioned into being performed on your hands and knees. During sex, this is sometimes called the “doggie position”. The movement of anterior and posterior tilting of the pelvis is often used in yoga and is called the cat-cow pose. When your back is raised like a cat, this would be an anterior pelvic tilt and not an easy access position for a man entering you. But with the cow position, you have a posterior pelvic tilt and is lines everything up real nice.
From the woman’s perspective, when you are on top of the man, mastering of the pelvic tilting greatly enhances sexual performance and stimulation to the clitoris. Often being in great control from this position, repeated pelvic tilting (some call grinding) can be demanding on the strength and endurance of the muscles required for this movement.
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Benefits other than sexual performance
The beauty of exercising the muscles responsible for sexual performance in women is that they have carry over into your appearance as well. I have mentioned the posterior pelvic tilt a number of times and the low abs are responsible for this. Located from the belly-button down, your lower abdominals are where a lot of women have a “pooch”. Training the low abs will not only enhance sex for you and your partner but also help tone and flatten this stubborn area.
The anterior pelvic tilt movement is given to you by your low back muscles. There should be a balance of strength and endurance between your low back and low abs. It is this balances that gives you enhanced sexual performance in the bedroom, but this also carries over outside the bedroom in preventing low back injuries.
While I recommend focus of your sexual performance program being on the muscles surrounding and controlling your pelvis, I would also suggest attention being given to your legs and arms. While this does not come into play a great deal with the missionary position, when in the doggie-style or woman-on-top position, a tremendous amount of strength and endurance is needed in the extremities.
I recommend a great deal of attention being given to strengthening the lower abs. This muscle group stabilizes the spine and thus has great carryover for a healthy back. You need to be careful that you are performing the exercises with perfect form, as it is easy to compensate and use other muscles. You can challenge your pelvic tilt using simply bodyweight, or with external sources of resistance like rubber bands or cable machines. The same can be said for the low back, which also can be targeted from different angles.
Because your low abs and low back are postural muscles, meaning they help keep us upright all day, they can be exercised with higher repetitions to enhance this endurance. Using an undulating program will give you some workouts where the repetitions are lower but the resistance is higher, which focuses more on strength.
For optimal sexual performance in women, I recommend doing a larger variety of exercises that challenge the muscles from different angles. This also helps prevent the muscles from becoming accustomed to the exercises, which often leads to fitness plateaus. This is called muscle confusion in the fitness industry. If each exercise is a tool in your toolbox, the greater number of tools, the better.
Along these lines, as mentioned before, I recommend mixing up the repetitions a bit to focus more on strength at times, and endurance at others. If you want a day more focused on strength, I would recommend 12-15 repetitions on some exercises, while if focusing on endurance 20+ repetitions is acceptable. Of course, this does not apply to all exercises, especially as your fitness level increases and 12-15 repetitions does nothing to challenge you. In this case, you need to step up the repetitions, or do a more challenging version of the exercise.