The Valsalva maneuver: how lifters delay ejaculation

Powerlifters use this technique to last longer in bed, and you can too.

Jason holding a dumbbell: sex tip from a powerlifter

Eric reached out to me with this insight:

When I have sex, I do the valsalva maneuver. Then I can last pretty much as long as I want. A lot of powerlifters know this. Problem solved 🙂

Intriguing, don’t you think?

I’ve come across the valsalva maneuver in weight training. It’s a way of taking a big breath, holding it and increasing thoratic pressure.

Powerlifter doing an assisted squat

This helps pump you up and keeps your back safe when you’re lifting heavy, doing squats and deadlifts.

Mark Rippetoe – the ultimate authority on safe lifting form IMO – teaches the valsalva as part of training. It’s good stuff.

By the way, if you’re wondering: the name comes from A M Valsalva who came up with it 300 years ago as a way to blow pus out of your ears. Using breath to create pressure, you see.

From blowing pus out of our ears to heavy squats to lasting longer in bed?

That’s quite a leap, I know.

Man using valsalva to clear his ears, helped by a doctor

I hadn’t made that last connection before because the valsalva is a breath hold, for the 10 seconds it takes you to squat or whatever. Big breath, you go down, you come back up and you breathe again.

But if you’re having sexual intercourse for longer than 10 seconds, how does that breath hold work?

In sex therapy, we want guys breathing more during sex, not holding it in.

So I get back to Eric:

Hey thanks, interesting. So are you holding your breath during sex? How does that work?

And Eric replies – he’s happy for me to share all this, btw:

No not during intercourse, but I do it as a warm up, just before having sex. And when I need to take a quick break, to reset my arousal. Doing the valsalva primes my pelvic floor and slows me down at the same time. Hold, push down and through, breathe… that’s my advice????

Ah OK. I think I get it. And I think there’s something in this for guys who want to delay their ejaculation, whether they do squats and deadlifts or not.

Push-down pelvic relaxation is key to overcoming PE

You’ve seen all this before: deep breathing during sex, pelvic relaxation, the PC muscle, reverse kegels, etc.

But here’s where I think the valsalva is helping Eric and the powerlifters, in their intimate lives.

Muscular man in bed with his partner, both looking happy

Big breath… hold. It’s like a glottal hold, you can still open your mouth. Think blowing up a balloon or pushing your broken down car up a hill, as Mark Rippetoe says.

That bit of downward pressure on your pelvic floor has a reverse kegel effect. It’s pushing your PC muscle into relaxation a bit.

For lasting longer in bed, a relaxed PC muscle is way to go. Not the opposite, the sucking it up and clenching feeling. Because tension builds down there as we get closer to ejaculation.

So doing the valsalva – just before sex and now and again, during pauses – is resetting that build up of tension. It’s saying to your pelvis “not now, calm down there…“.

Vagal maneuvers to reset sexual arousal on demand

I teach a similar technique and we call it the cooldown.

It’s a single breath technique followed by relaxation all the way down. It’s a quicker reset than just stopping and trying not to think about coming – that’s not fun for you or your partner.

Another reason why the valsalva and the cooldown are effective: they’re what’s known as vagal maneuvers.

That big outward breath activates the vagus nerve, which is the prominent nerve along the spine that influences how activated we are.

Doing these things engages more of the parasympathetic nervous system – the relaxed, taking my time, enjoying the ride state. We want more of that during sex too.

If you like this stuff, see Andrew Huberman and the physiological sigh. Same concept, a relaxation effect on demand.

Form is important – in the gym and in bed

Describing and teaching these techniques so guys really feel the benefits during sex… it isn’t easy.

The reverse kegel, the letting go of tension, the relaxing down and through the pelvis, is quite a subtle thing to do.

So learning how to hold things tight under the bar, to get that valsalva effect and then let it all go is another way of getting it.

And there’s yoga too – that’s another way to get it, and tantric work like using your breath to draw sexual energy through your body.

Man in yoga pose by the sea

All different approaches to deeper relaxation and more engagement with your parasympathetic state.

There are lots of resources about the valsalva and I should mention that it’s relatively safe to do, but be mindful if you have a heart condition or high blood pressure. Any exercise that raises pressure, even temporarily, should be run past your doctor before you start doing it.

The Valsalva maneuver helps men overcome premature ejaculation

So yes – a beneficial insight for men who want to delay their ejaculation. All the more reason to do some strength training, build up to lifting heavy.

Experience what your body can do with proper form. Because the same applies to sex too.

Remember: we want to be breathing during sex. We want to be tension-free down in our lower bodies. The opposite is a fast-forward to ejaculation.

Letting go down and through your pelvis, down to your ass and forwards a little is way to go. This really helps with sexual function.

The more familiar you are with that deeper relaxation, the more you can access it before and during sex.

Men who struggle with PE are often advised to do more exercise, but the direct benefits aren’t always obvious. So thank you Eric for this top tip.

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