Muscle cramping is no fun at all. You’re lifting weights and suddenly your calf (it’s always my calf) starts cramping and spasming! Aside from just distracting you from your workout, muscle cramps are bloody painful and don’t do anything to help you. Here are some ways to make them less painful, and even make them go away entirely.
If you’ve gotten a lot of muscle cramps in the past, this will be intuitive but it still surprises me how many people I meet who don’t stretch. Stretching when you get a Charlie horse is the best way to get rid of an immediate muscle spasm. As soon as your muscle starts cramping up, immediately stretch it in the opposite direction. This is the best way of forcing your muscle to stop contracting.
Handy Tip: Try to use your relaxed bodyweight as much as possible when stretching against your cramping muscle. If you start contracting the other muscles in your body, they might start spasming too and then you’ve just complicated your problem to a whole other level.
Are You Too Fatigued To Be Working Out?
If you’re tired and sore, then maybe you shouldn’t be working out. Believe me, your muscles will tell you when you shouldn’t be working out. If you’re sore or your muscles are otherwise spent, they may not do exactly what you want them to do. I’ll be really weak when I’m trying to tense up to lift a barbell and then random muscles will start spasming. This is interesting, curious and really painful. Make sure to rest more and workout only when you’re in shape to train.
Too Out of Shape For Your Workout?
If you’re too out of shape for a workout you’re doing, this is a perfect reason for your muscles to start complaining about what you’re doing, so they may start cramping up. Ideally, you can ease into a new workout routine or (if you’re crazy and intense like me) you can take short breaks to stretch out your muscles whenever they start cramping up.
When I first started doing Jujutsu grappling after a hiatus, this was a big problem. There’s a lot of leg-work (and intricate calf muscle work) to keep people from choking you and getting near you, and this asks a lot of your calves. I would take mini-breaks between bouts to stretch out my calf muscles, just so I could keep going.
After a few classes, my calves got stronger and more used to the movements. But for the first few weeks, when I was building a base level of strength, I had to do a lot of first aid stretching.
Work Out Any Trigger Points
Trigger points are tiny, contracted patches of muscle that cause excruciating pain. Intense muscle contraction can make them start causing you pain, and they can help your muscles start spasming all over the place.
There’s not enough space here for a full treatise on trigger points but in a nutshell, you want to massage them out when you find them. If you have ever had a friend massage out a muscle knot in your tight shoulders, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Stopping Muscle Cramping
Aggressive stretching and massage are the best ways to get rid of a muscle that’s cramping up. To make muscle cramps happen less often, simply rest more and do a workout that doesn’t push you too hard. These simple methods are the best for dealing with muscle cramping.