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  • Muscles Cramping

    For some reason, my calves and hamstrings are vulnerable to cramping up. I will be doing a set, and half-way through, the muscle will bunch up super tight and start cramping, and almost always I have to end the set right then and there due to the pain (+ I get scared that I'll injure myself if I keep going).

    Why does this happen? Is it a lack of electrolytes? Or perhaps dehydration?

    One thing I never understood is why it doesn't happen in my quads, glutes, pecs, lats, bis, tris, etc...seems to only happen to calves and hams.

    The cramping usually goes away after a few minutes of stretching and whatnot.

  • #2
    Not enough water, and/or magnesium deficiency.

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    • #3
      Are you doing any foam rolling after lifting at all?

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      • #4
        Originally posted by bmp View Post
        For some reason, my calves and hamstrings are vulnerable to cramping up. I will be doing a set, and half-way through, the muscle will bunch up super tight and start cramping, and almost always I have to end the set right then and there due to the pain (+ I get scared that I'll injure myself if I keep going).

        Why does this happen? Is it a lack of electrolytes? Or perhaps dehydration?

        One thing I never understood is why it doesn't happen in my quads, glutes, pecs, lats, bis, tris, etc...seems to only happen to calves and hams.

        The cramping usually goes away after a few minutes of stretching and whatnot.
        bmp a lot of factors can influence cramping including heat, exercise stress, acclimation (to both of those), hydration status, sweat rate, sodium, etc. There is some research that indicates some folks are susceptible to it despite their efforts to hydrate, acclimate to heat and exercise conditions, and adequate sodium intake, although most of the research I've read on those folks are in more intense exercise and heat situations like preseason football practices and the like. Some things to try are first to make sure you are adequately hydrated and have good sodium intake. Another thing that may help is some tissue work to the area before you exercise. Getting something like The Stick or a Tiger Tail to message the lower leg can help inhibit neural input which may reduce it's susceptibility to cramp. Then, not jumping right into heavy high impact type calf work may help. Go slow with the rep tempos to begin, make sure you have good voluntary control of the musculature you're trying to contract, then build in weight and the explosive way in which you perform the reps. Also try contracting the oppsoing muscle group. So when you do go down on the negative contract your tibialis anterior (shin) or when you go on the negative on the hamstring contract the quads. Also it could be a protective mechanism because the calves are overly tight in relation the shins and the hamstrings could be overly tight in compared the quads or you have a anterior pelvic tilt that tilts the pelvis forward and lengthens the hamstrings. All this could impact it so make sure you're balancing your training around each joint. It's not sexy to train your anterior tibialis or peroneals or activate your glutes and train your hips, but a little bit of work upfront goes a long way to prevent injury down the road. I hope that helps.
        Last edited by ; 01-13-2013, 03:18 PM.

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        • #5
          awesome advice, that helps a lot!!

          I don't do any foam rolling after lifting, perhaps I should start? So I'm guessing essentially I want to be applying a lot of pressure while rolling around on my hams/calves, in an ART-esque fashion? (ie it should be slightly painful stretching the fascia)

          I don't really monitor my magnesium or sodium intake. What intake would you guys recommend for a 200 lber who is lifting high volume 5 days/week?

          I do have some anterior pelvic tilt, I'm sure it could be a contributing factor. I will work on really stretching out my hip flexors.

          That bit about contracting the tibialis anterior is very interesting, I do perform my calve movements under control but have never actually actively contracted the tibialis anterior on the eccentric portion. I'll give it a try. I have heard of this technique before, perhaps it'll spur some new growth in my calves too.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bmp View Post
            awesome advice, that helps a lot!!

            I don't do any foam rolling after lifting, perhaps I should start? So I'm guessing essentially I want to be applying a lot of pressure while rolling around on my hams/calves, in an ART-esque fashion? (ie it should be slightly painful stretching the fascia)

            ART is Active Release Technique, the active refers to moving the joint or contracting the muscle as pressure/message is applied. While you could do this it's kinda hard to do it to yourself...you really need a message therapist to apply it to you. Sometimes self myofascial release or self message can be painful. If you do find trigger points or sensitive areas you should definitely spend more time there and apply adequate pressure to relieve the sensitivity. That could be an indication of adhesions, but messaging the fascia also inhibits neural input which allows the tissue to have more extensibility. So, this IMO this is more beneficial pre-workout than post, although you could also do it post. I do it as a part of my warmup before every workout. A good dynamic warmup is also advisable.

            Originally posted by bmp View Post
            I don't really monitor my magnesium or sodium intake. What intake would you guys recommend for a 200 lber who is lifting high volume 5 days/week?
            For someone that is not either a) in an endurance sport, b) not training in a hot/humid environment, or c) not training for extended periods every day I don't think it's likely you need to worry about it. Most diets get plenty of sodium in them for someone not in the aforementioned. But, if you're doing a lot of cardio or train in a hot place, let me know I can re-evaluate.


            Originally posted by bmp View Post
            I do have some anterior pelvic tilt, I'm sure it could be a contributing factor. I will work on really stretching out my hip flexors.
            Tight hip flexors are part of it so it would be a good start to stretch them daily. But, you'll likely need to do some work to activate your glutes. Here's a good list of progressions:

            1. Bodyweight double leg bridge
            2. Bodyweight double leg feet elevated bridge
            3. Bodyweight double leg shoulder elevated bridge
            4. Bodyweight double leg shoulder and feet elevated bridge
            5. Barbell double leg bridge
            6. Barbell double leg shoulders elevated bridge
            7. Bodyweight single leg bridge
            8. Bodyweight single leg feet elevated bridge
            9. Bodyweight single leg shoulder elevated bridge
            10. Bodyweight single leg shoulder and feet elevated bridge
            11. Barbell plus band/chain shoulder elevated bridge
            12. Band single leg shoulder and foot elevated bridge
            13. Barbell single leg shoulder elevated bridge

            You don't need to do all this but start with #1 and integrate it into your daily warmup and perform 3-5 sets. Start out with either isometric holds for like 30 seconds and build in time or start with high reps, like 20-30. Remember you're looking for activation, not strength so don't go too heavy, pay attention to your ability to contract the intended muscle...it's all about motor control.

            Also, the glute medius should be worked too with things like clamshells, jane fondas, etc. And some other good stretches are the seated or lying 90/90 stretch and hip internal rotation (when lying on your back while keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground driving your knees together). I can give you more with better explanations if you need. You could probably just google hip mobility and find a ton.

            Originally posted by bmp View Post
            That bit about contracting the tibialis anterior is very interesting, I do perform my calve movements under control but have never actually actively contracted the tibialis anterior on the eccentric portion. I'll give it a try. I have heard of this technique before, perhaps it'll spur some new growth in my calves too.
            Yup, there are 3 parts to every lift, I don't want to give you a kinesology class here, but for a body part like calves so many people train the mirror muscle, the calf complex (gastroc & soleus) and ignore the rest of the lower leg. This could even be the source of the postural dysfunction mentioned above. But, when you come down on the negative on a calf raise don't just perform an eccentric contraction of the calves, but actively contract the opposing muscle group (tibialis anterior). So, instead of just letting the heel come back down actively pull it down...think of a toe up. I'd also recommend doing some dorsiflexion work and inversion/eversion work with a band for the lower leg if you're training the calves.

            Does all that make sense?

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            • #7
              yup, thanks so much for your time and patience

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              • #8
                Originally posted by bmp View Post
                yup, thanks so much for your time and patience
                NP...update the thread and let us know how you make out. Good luck.

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