|The Lounge | Champions | The Wire | Schedule | Audio | Arcade | The Top Ten | Historical | Email | Video|
Muscle Cramps and Exercise
Quite often runners and exercisers experience painful muscle cramping either during or immediately following a strenuous exercise bout and as a result, these types of cramps have become known as Exercise Associated Muscle Cramps or EAMCs. Much confusion surrounds the causes of EAMCs including dehydration to electrolyte imbalances. This article aims to explain the latest model for describing EAMCs, how to prevent them and how to deal with them once they occur.
What is a muscle cramp?
A muscle cramp is defined as a painful, involuntary, spasmodic contraction of a muscle. The muscle remains contracted and may last for a few seconds to several minutes. The muscles most prone to EAMCs are those that cross two joints - for example the calf muscle called the gastocnemius (crosses the ankle and knee joint) and the hamstrings (cross the knee and hip joint).
What causes an EAMC?
There are many theories surrounding the cause of muscle cramps. Some proposed causes are fluid loss and dehydration, electrolyte imbalances (sodium, potassium, magnesium), heat and congenital/inherited conditions. Recent evidence collected by Professor Martin Scwellnus at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa indicates no strong relationship between these causes and exercise cramps. After completing several studies and studying the results of other experiments using electromyography or EMG (measures muscle nerve electric activity), Schwellnus has proposed a novel model of the cause of EAMCs.
What is the new model for identifying the cause of EAMC's?
Dr. Scwellnus identifies two possible factors that may affect nerve activity - causing excessive muscle stimulation to contract and resulting in a cramp. The first suspected factor is fatigue; since motor nerve firing patterns have been demonstrated to be irregular during conditions of fatigue. The second factor is proposed as resulting from the muscle working too much on its "inner range" or "on slack". To explain this concept it must first be understood that a muscle cannot work efficiently if it is not at its optimal length - a muscle works progressively less efficiently when overly stretched or overly loose/on slack. The protein filaments (actin and myosin) that make up muscle fibers require an optimal "overlap" to be able to generate force. The position of the body's joints determine muscle length, so it follows that muscles that cross two joints like the gastroc and hamstrings might be more likely to operate in the slackened position and experience a cramp. For example, consider a free-style, swimmer who performs flutter kicks at the ankle with a slight knee bend. The flutter kick involves the ankle flexing and extending in a small range very near the plantarflexed (toes pointed) position. Couple this with a slight knee bend, and it makes the gastrocnemius muscle even more "passively insufficient".
Recall from our article Plyometrics and the Stretch Shortening Cycle we discussed the role and significance of the small cellular bodies of the muscle spindle and the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO). The muscle spindle is a tiny cellular structure usually located in the middle portion of each muscle fiber. Very basically its role is to "switch on" a muscle and determine the amount of activation and the strength and speed of the contraction. The GTO is a small structure located in the tendon that joins the muscle to a bone. This structure senses muscle tension and performs the opposite role of "switching off " the muscle in order to protect it from generating so much force as to rip right off the bone.
Dr. Schwellnus suggests that when a muscle works within its inner range and/or when fatigued, muscle nerve activity shifts progressively toward muscle spindle activity (contraction) and less toward GTO activity (relaxation). More specifically, the nerves that control the muscle spindle (Type IA and type II nerves) becomes overly active while the nerves that controls the GTO (Type Ib nerves) become under active or inhibited. The result of this nerve activity imbalance is an uncontrolled, painful cramp.
What do I do if I experience an EAMC?
If you should experience an EAMC, the best solution is to perform a gentle, passive stretch of the affected muscle. Do not attempt to walk or run it off. Slow, passive stretching will act to restore nerve balance to the muscle by increasing the activity of the GTO, while simultaneously minimizing that of the muscle spindle. Stretching increases tension in the tendon, which is sensed by the GTO. The result is a relaxation of the contracted muscle and a breaking of the muscle cramp. For example, in the case of the swimmer mentioned earlier, to stretch the gastrocnemius he or she may perform a standard calf stretch while pushing against a wall or use a stretching strap or cord to pull the foot up toward the shin. To accentuate the stretch, it is important that the knee remain straight, since as mentioned this muscle crosses the knee joint.
How do I prevent EAMC's?
The best way to control and prevent EAMC's is to begin a regimented stretching routine. It may be beneficial to perform dynamic stretches after a brief warmup at the beginning of the exercise session or workout. Dynamic stretches involve using functional movements such as lunging, squatting and reaching and can be used to simultaneously train balance and core stability while sensitizing the muscles in preparation for exercise. In fact, dynamic stretches if performed correctly, may actually serve as a warm-up in themselves. Static stretching may be more effective at the end of the exercise session as part of the cool down, as the muscles will be warm and more pliable. The best long-term solution to control EAMC's however is to restore muscle balance throughout the body by combining stretching with a well-designed functional strength training routine -concentrating specifically on core stability.
In conclusion, muscle cramping is a complex condition and this article has hopefully provided the reader with a new perspective on the scientific relationship between exercise and muscle cramping. The fact that cramps occur most often in the situations described make this model a very plausible and practical one. It is hoped that this information will assist the casual exerciser and professional athlete alike in understanding and dealing with exercise related muscle cramps.
David Petersen is an Exercise Physiologist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and the owner and founder of B.O.S.S. Fitness Inc. based in Oldsmar, Florida. More articles and information can be found at http://www.bossfitness.com
NOTE: You're free to republish this article on your website, in your newsletter, in your e-book or in other publications provided the article is reproduced in its entirety, including the author information and all LIVE website links as above.
McCaul, Homeland Security chair, rejects concerns about Jade Helm military ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)
7 Ways To Guarantee You Stick To Your Workout Program
1. Begin Looking at Exercise Differently.
How to Choose a Good Jogging Stroller
If you lead an active lifestyle and you want to include your new family additions in your outdoor activity then you need to consider getting yourself a good jogging stroller.Choosing a jogging stroller can be like trying to decide on what car to buy.
Tour of Diet - Cycling for Your Health
The last seven years, or so, at the Tour de France has shown a success story that is very uncommon. Winning seven Tour de France championships is a feat that will be extremely hard to duplicate.
Exercise Tips: Move Your Body - Boost Your Productivity
Do you find yourself setting a New Year's Resolution (every year) to get fit/go to the gym/lose weight/drink more water? If you could answer yes to any of those. I totally understand.
Success Versus Failure in the Exercise Department
Success is what you are prepared to make of yourself every single day. That one cold morning when you want to roll over but instead get up and go to workout, is a defining moment.
The Two Greatest Myths About Abdominal Exercises
If you have ever read a fitness magazine..
Warming Up Properly
In our 'Stretching' article series (http://optimumlife.co.
Get Out and Play: Top 7 Outdoor Exercises
Do you remember when our parents used to yell at us to go outside and play? They would get so tired of us running around the house munching junk food and fighting with our siblings that they would practically kick us out of the house!Well, we may not have the same child-like activities lined up to get outside for anymore, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't still get out and enjoy the world! Exercising outdoors has many benefits, and they include the following:- Little or no equipment needed to get a good workout- No crowded gyms or obnoxious people to put up with- No driving time to the local fitness facility- No need to put on makeup or special clothing to workout at the gym- Vitamin D enhancing sunshine for our skin- The ability to workout anytime, anywhere - even on vacation- Two words: Fresh AirThere are probably other reasons that you can think of why an outdoor workout would fit into your particular lifestyle, so now all you have to do is learn what kind of activities can be done outside.Refer to the following Top 7 list of exercises that are sure to leave you sweaty, worn out, and feeling great when it's all over!LUNGESLike all exercises, lunges should be done with absolutely perfect form.
Why Core is Key
Do you currently suffer or have you ever suffered from any of the following: Lower back pain, frequent hamstring injuries, a twisted knee or a pulled shoulder?Have you ever considered that it may not be just the fact that you slipped and twisted something or your back simply 'goes'? It could be you need to strengthen your core?Core training is a buzzword in the fitness industry that's been around for a while now. The measure of its popularity can be seen in the increased use of stability balls or Swiss in gyms, books, classes & videos and the fact that big name clothing stores are even selling stability balls alongside underwear and belts!But in order to train something correctly we must understand exactly what it is we are training.
Yoga traditionally conjures up images of long hair, loin cloths and incense burning in a darkened room with strange music playing! It had an almost cultish persona. Nowadays your gran is quite likely to tuck her Yoga mat under her arm and head on down to the local gym for an hour of Yoga and meditation.
Why would I want to write about yet another fitness program? There are so many out there. There is no escape from fitness programs whether you watch TV or read a magazine or newspaper.
Exercise TipsThe most effective exercise regimen includes both strength training and cardiovascular (aerobic) training in a consistent, regular program.· 2-4 days of strength training and· 2-5 days of aerobic activity; or· 3-4 days of circuit training.
Essential Power Walking Tips
Ever since I took a power walking class in college, I have been hooked. If you are thinking about learning how to power walk, I strongly urge you to do so.
The Importance of Stretching Exercises
Muscles and connective tissues shorten over time and that results in less flexibility. If your muscles have gone some time without being used, they tend to become weaker and quite stiff.
How to Avoid Using Your Home Gym as a Clothes Rack
So here's the situation?You have a home gym, treadmill, elliptical trainer, or some other piece of home fitness equipment. But it's sitting in the corner of the room being used as a clothes rack.
How to Start a Walking Program
Did you know that walking is the number one participation sport in the world? Walking is one of the best things you can do for overall health and wellness. When you walk you use more muscles than any other sport.
3 Great Weight Loss Exercises
It's a given that effective weight loss is much more then simply going on a "diet". To really lose weight and (hopefully) keep that weight off, you need to add exercise to the equation.
No Time For The Gym?
As you have undoubtedly heard, college students around the country are gaining weight at a rapid rate. A recent study by Cornell University found that on average, college freshman gain about 0.
The New Lover Approach to Starting an Exercise Program
Approach a New Exercise Program Like a New LoverHow many times have you decided to get back to some type of exercise program? You've bought gear, new shoes, new clothes, whatever is needed. You've set aside some time, and off you go.
Top 10 Exercise Mistakes and How To Fix Them
This is a list of ten common mistakes made during exercise. Quite often the exerciser and even the personal trainer or coach is unaware of these mistakes, decreasing the effectiveness of the exercise and even risking injury.
Section Site Map - Submit News - Feedback - Comments - Advertise with Us
Copyright © 2006 Luminati Inc. All rights reserved.