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By Dr. Ruth Westheimer
April 5, 2018

After 30 years of working as a sex therapist, the legendary Dr. Ruth isn’t done sharing her wisdom. Here, she answers your most pressing questions on sex, relationships and life. Email your own queries to drruth@time.com, or catch up on previous installments of the Ask Dr. Ruth series.

Q: Do Kegel exercises really produce stronger orgasms?

A: I call them Dr. Kegel exercises because they were discovered by a Dr. Arnold Kegel in the 1940s to help women who were experiencing urinary incontinence. Whatever you call them, the answer to your question is that doing these exercises might improve your sex life, but that depends on several issues and the effects may be stronger for your male partner.

First, let’s go over what Kegel exercises are and what they can do. The next time you urinate, stop the flow. The muscle you use to do that is the muscle that gets exercised when you do Kegel exercises. The concept is to squeeze this muscle and hold it tight for a moment and then release it. Each time you do this is considered a repetition, or rep, and the idea is to build this muscle up so that you can do sets of ten. Since no one can tell that you are doing these exercises, you can pretty much do them anywhere when you have a spare moment or two. I often tell women that when they’re driving and stopped for a red light would be a good time. If there’s someone in a car next to you, look at them and give them a wink. They won’t know why you’re winking, but you will and it will add to the fun of doing Kegels.

The benefit of doing Kegels occurs in the pelvic floor muscle, the one you used when you stopped the flow of urine. Over time it will become stronger. By squeezing that muscle during intercourse, your male partner should feel some added sensation and that might make sex better for him. Some women report that doing Kegels helps their sex life, in part because the stronger muscle might be easier to contract during orgasm and because this exercise promotes blood flow to the pelvic area. I also think that because doing Kegels is something that you control it can have a positive psychological effect that in turn will improve your sex life.

I hesitate to promote Kegels too strongly because I don’t want women to think that doing these exercises is some sort of magical cure for any problems they may have achieving sexual satisfaction. The main organ in the body responsible for a woman’s orgasm is the clitoris, which is not directly affected by doing Kegels. But any potential improvement that you can make to your sex life is worth trying and since they’re easy to do, and can be done pretty much anywhere and anytime, why not give them a try and see what happens.

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