We’ve done the math and the results are in: Don’t expect great sex to be a beneficial calorie-burner — or the best way to get better at sex.
Sure, sex is a type of workout in its own right. A small study found that sex burns about 4.2 calories per minute, for men, and 3.1 calories per minute, for women. But with the average sex session under 20 minutes, it’s not exactly a win-win solution. The same study showed that 30 minutes on a treadmill burned more calories: 276 calories for men and 213 for women.
But for more feel-good sex, science is pointing fingers at burning calories at the gym first. You may have heard that working out benefits sex — here’s exactly why. To feel aroused, your body engages similar functions as it would when you’re exercising. Meaning while you’re getting sweaty in bed, your body engages its heart rate, blood pressure and flow, respiratory rate, and muscles. Just as it would during a gym session. Working out also increases body awareness, which research shows could increase bodily sensations.
So which part of your body should you give extra tough love to?
Thankfully, there’s some research as to which muscle groups may possibly contribute. For example, pelvic floor muscles! One study found that even after childbirth, an eight-week pelvic muscle exercise routine could increase strength and sexual self-efficacy — or the woman’s “belief in her ability to perform sexual acts and sexual emotional reactions successfully” — after delivery.
Keeping the science in mind, we’ve designed a workout for you to target the key muscles for better sex. Welcome to the “better sex” workout, the routine where “practice makes perfect” finally pays off as you fine-tune your body before the big performance.
It’s time to really take advantage of the feel-good endorphins and newfound strength a workout can give. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes and repeat this routine until the timer goes off, or complete this routine three times.
Better sex workout:
- Plank for 20 seconds.
- Glute bridges for 15 reps.
- Jump squats for 10-15 reps.
- 10 Kegels with 5-10 second holds.
- Pushups for 10-15 reps.
- Pigeon pose, holding for 1 minute on each side.
Practice this routine and let it contribute to a little extra enthusiasm beneath the sheets.
It may also help to do this workout before actually having sex. One study found that general exercise immediately before sexual activity improved the arousal of women taking antidepressants.
Planks are simple but definitely not #basic. For both men and women, core strength is paramount for good health, sex included. It builds muscles around your abs, back, and pelvis — all of which can make a difference for lasting longer in bed.
Equipment needed: none
- Start in a pushup position and then drop to your elbows. Your feet should be closer than shoulder-width apart with your toes grounded into the floor.
- Your core needs to be tight to prevent your lower back sagging. Your shoulders should roll back and down, and your neck and head should be neutral to maintain a straight line.
Glute bridges not only work the pelvic floor, they also help your hamstrings and glutes so you can thrust better, providing more pleasure for you and your boo. We don’t use our glutes very often, so by engaging them, you’re also building muscle memory. This will come in handy when it comes to trying out different positions during sex.
Equipment needed: a light dumbbell or weight plate if you need a challenge
- Lie on a mat, knees bent, feet on the ground, and palms on the floor at your sides. If you want to use added weight, rest the dumbbell or plate on your pelvis (carefully!), steadying it with your hands as you go.
- Focus on your core as you push through your heels, raising your pelvis off the ground. Ensure that your shoulders and upper back stay glued to the mat.
- When you reach a stiff bridge position at the top, squeeze your glutes. Then slowly lower back down.
Want more stamina during your bedroom romps? Incorporate a little HIIT (high-intensity interval training) into your workout. This can get your body primed for intense or marathon sex sessions. Jump squats are great for getting the heart rate up, plus they improve leg strength and stabilization, in case you’re interested in trying out some new positions with your partner.
Equipment needed: none
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and arms down at your side.
- Squat down, bringing your arms out in front of you (or whatever feels comfortable).
- Jump up to rise and push your arms down to your sides as your feet come off the ground with the momentum.
- As your feet come back to the ground and arms come back up, drop immediately into another squat.
Stronger pelvic muscles mean a stronger O! Researchers looked at 176 women around the age of 37, and found that orgasms and arousal are related to pelvic floor muscle function. Plus, squeezing those muscles at the right time can enhance pleasure for male partners too.
Equipment needed: none
- To perform Kegel exercises effectively, you’ll need to first identify the right muscles. The easiest way to do this is to stop urination midstream. The muscles that help you do that are the ones used in Kegels.
- Contract these muscles and hold for a goal of 10 seconds. Release for 10.
- If you’re just starting, make your hold goal 5 seconds and slowly make your way toward 10.
For best results, practice Kegels 10 times, three times a day — not just during your workout. The great thing about Kegels is that you can do them anytime, at work or while you’re watching TV.
Besides being a great whole-body exercise, pushups are a must for people who want to experiment with positions or try new things. The body and arm strength that pushups build is crucial for positions that require your entire body to engage.
Equipment needed: none
- Start with your arms straight and palms shoulder-width apart so your shoulders are directly over your hands.
- Keep your head and neck neutral and core strong, so your body forms a straight line from top to bottom. Your feet should be hip-width apart unless you’re tackling the easier version, where you keep your knees together.
- Lower your body down by bending your elbows and keep going until your chest touches the ground.
- Push up through your palms, extending your arms. Don’t let your lower back or hips sag. Maintain a neutral spine and neck.
To cap it off, pigeon pose enables a deep stretch in your groin, hips, and glutes, increasing flexibility in your nether areas. Simply put: better flexibility equals better sex.
Equipment needed: none, or a yoga mat if preferred
- Start on all fours.
- Bring your right knee forward and let it rest behind your right wrist. Swing your right foot up and to the left, placing your right ankle near your left hip.
- Begin to straighten your left leg and slide it back behind you, pointing your toes.
- Gently lower yourself down, as much as is comfortable, by bending your elbows and letting your upper body fall toward the ground. Your pelvis should be pointed to the ground during this stretch, but don’t force it.
If you don’t have this flexibility, consider a gentler move instead:
- Lie on the ground on your back.
- Bring your left leg off the ground and bend your knee so your leg forms a 90-degree angle.
- Bend your right leg and bring your right ankle to rest on your left thigh.
- Reach through your legs to grab the back of your left thigh, pulling until you feel a stretch.
According to science, working out for better sex sounds like a better deal than using sex as a workout. In fact, the calories burned is something like a cherry on top after a satisfying meal. (The satisfying meal being our better sex workout, and the cherry on the top being the extra calories burned in bed, of course.)
Remember: There’s no single routine that’s guaranteed to provide better sex, but exercise helps! Sex is highly dependent on heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and muscle contractions. So think about which muscles you use while you’re in bed and find a routine that gets them ready for a nice workout session — in the gym and the bedroom.
Nicole Davis is a Boston-based writer, ACE-certified personal trainer, and health enthusiast who works to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. Her philosophy is to embrace your curves and create your fit — whatever that may be! She was featured in Oxygen magazine’s “Future of Fitness” in the June 2016 issue. Follow her on Instagram.