Muscle Cramps Working Out (WHAT REALLY CAUSES THEM!)

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Muscle cramps when working out are very common, but what causes them is a topic of much debate. When you are lifting weights, it is not rare to feel the contracting muscle cramp or tighten up especially during the moment of peak contraction. Now, this could be a very common occurrence if you are generally dehydrated and haven’t been drinking enough water leading up to your workout. If you are properly hydrated however, the cause could be quite the opposite of what you might think it is.

Often times, when people cramp during their workouts they obviously get tight and stiff. The immediate reaction is to want to stretch the tight or cramped muscle in an effort to relieve the cramp. While that may be a fine short term solution to the problem, the bigger problem lies much deeper. The muscle most often actually cramps not because it is too tight but because it is too weak to handle the loads placed upon it in the exercise that you are experiencing the cramping.

Most of the time, muscle cramps occur in exercises that place peak tension on a muscle in it’s maximally contracted or shortened position. This is a very common theme of exercises such as a spider curl for biceps, cable crossover for pecs and glute/hamstring bridges for the posterior chain. When the cramps occur they are actually reflexively occurring as a way to provide stability and support to a weakened muscle to ensure that there is enough stability to prevent damage to the joint in question.

In the example of the biceps, you may experience cramping in the biceps as you near contraction because you lack the strength in the biceps to handle the load that you are lifting. By creating a cramp or spasm mid-set, you are able to lend additional stability and support to the elbow joint to prevent injury from occurring at the joint as well as to the biceps itself. The problem with this is that this form of stability is actually quite uncomfortable, as you know!

If you want to provide the appropriate stability to the joint and the muscle, you want to have sufficient muscle strength to do this. Spasm, when substituted for inferior strength can cause big problems for that muscle and it’s development.

In order to try and correct this, you should back off the exercises that place peak tension on the muscle in its peak contraction state. For the biceps, you’d want to stick to exercises like the barbell curl where the strength curve maxes out in the middle of the rep. Cable curls and spider curls would likely cause a problem for you. That said, you don’t forgo these latter exercises forever. You instead work with the barbell curl and increase your strength with it before coming back to the exercises that are more likely to cause the cramping. Likely, you’d find that after improving your strength you will have far fewer muscle cramps, if not none at all.

If you are looking for a complete workout and nutrition program that helps to fuel your body with the right nutrients to minimize muscle cramps when training, head to and get the ATHLEAN-X Training System.

For more workout and nutrition tips to help you avoid muscle cramps and build big muscles safely, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at

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