Why You Get Off Accidentally During Your Workout
Picture this: You're in the middle of a core-quivering ab series—V-ups followed by toe touches followed by single-leg lowers and so on—and all of a sudden you feel not the muscle-burning fatigue you'd expect, but a tingling...maybe a throbbing...are your toes starting to curl?!
Yep, you very well might be having an orgasm. At the gym.
This phenomenon is known colloquially as a coregasm, but "we use the term 'coregasm' and 'exercise-induced orgasm' interchangeably," said Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., author of "The Coregasm Workout" and associate professor at Indiana University. "They both refer to a kind of orgasm that arises from exercise—usually exercises that engage the core abdominal muscles—think: crunches, situps, pullups, chinups, Roman chair leg raises."
While research on coregasms is scarce (Herbenick has done the majority of it), nearly 10 percent of U.S. women and men have experienced such an orgasm, she said—and an older survey in the CrossFit Journal found that this kind of O is relatively common among those athletes.
It's something down deep
A coregasm is not the same as rubbing one out against the saddle of your Peloton. Herbenick's interview research (and the hundreds of emails she's received from people who experience coregasms) suggests "they feel more like orgasms from internal stimulation than orgasms from external stimulation," she explained. "In other words, people who have enough different kinds of orgasms to notice nuances almost always liken coregasms to feeling like orgasms from vaginal intercourse or prostate stimulation as opposed to clitoral or penile stimulation.”
Obviously, though, you're probably not experiencing internal stimulation when you're working out—unless you're doing something really unique with a kettlebell. So what's going on? Unfortunately, researchers don't know exactly what triggers an exercise-induced orgasm. Considering that sexual thoughts or fantasy related to exercise-induced orgasms were rarely reported, Herbenick found in a 2012 study published in the journal Sexual and Relationship Therapy that it's likely this phenomenon is purely physiological.
However, they do know—thanks again to Herbenick's study—that 51 percent of the 530 women surveyed said ab exercises had led to a recent orgasm (hence, the term "coregasm"). "They more often occur when taxing the core abdominal workouts," Herbenick confirmed, but weightlifting, yoga, rope climbing and biking were also cited as inducing an O at the gym.
But don't expect to inadvertently climax after one or two trunk twists.
"I've yet to hear from anyone who experiences coregasms from one unassisted pullup, for example, but I have heard from a number of people who have experienced coregasms from five, eight or 10 pullups," Herbenick explained. "Similarly, when we hear about them from crunches or Roman chair leg raises, it's often after 50 or 100 or even 200."
The key element there seems to be muscle fatigue: the harder your core is working, the more likely you are to tap into an arousing sensation.
Can you take it up a notch?
Can you increase the likelihood of having a coregasm, though? To be determined.
"We conducted a study in which we taught cisgender women how to modify their exercise routine to try and enhance arousal during exercise—not necessarily to teach people to have an orgasm during exercise, but to see if people could use something like exercise (which is free and good for us anyway) to heighten arousal," Herbenick said. "We did have some people learn to experience coregasm, but much more often we found that participants could learn to adjust their exercises in ways that enhanced arousal."
If you're not super into the idea of getting off in the middle of your gym, the solution is simple: Avoid the specific movements that might trigger it.
"Recreational exercisers can usually just stop short of the number of crunches or leg raises or the length of cycling that it takes for them to experience a coregasm," Herbenick said. "It may be easier said than done for other people, though, like those who are in the Army or Navy or who are elite athletes and often have less control over their training."
If you do start to feel that tingling sensation inside your core, don't be embarrassed. Just grip something nearby and let it wash over you. It's a totally natural response. As is getting turned on by a workout—but that's a different story.