If you’ve ever gone on a crunch bender, performing tens or hundreds of crunches in an effort to flatten your belly, you may have experienced abdominal muscle spasms during or after your routine. Not to worry, plenty of tips can help you avoid spasms, or at least stop them once they start, according to Adam Campbell, author of “The Men's Health Big Book of Exercises.”
Working a muscle group at high intensity without a warm-up can be a recipe for spasms, as your muscles may not have enough blood flow to manage the workload. Try adding a 10-to-15-minute cardio component to your routine prior to your crunch series. Work from an easy pace to a faster pace, moving your arms, legs and torso. This draws more blood circulation through your body, prepping it for more intense work.
Every time a muscle works, it requires a chemical reaction inside your body. To fuel those reactions, your body uses electrolytes. If you are low on magnesium, potassium, calcium or any other electrolyte, you may experience more cramps and spasms during or after your workout. Many athletes swear by bananas, since they contain potassium. Sports recovery drinks and all-natural coconut water both offer a broader spectrum of electrolytes. If spasms and cramps are a common occurrence for you, consume electrolyte-rich food or drink early in the day, before you work out. If you more often experience spasms later at night, consume them after your workout.
Working your abdominal muscles to full exertion can cause spasms. To nix the spasms, try the knee flop stretch immediately after your crunch routine. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Flop both knees to the right, allowing your trunk to rotate. If your knees do not reach the floor, prop them with a pillow or bolster. Breathe in this position for a slow 10-count, and then switch to your left side. You can fine-tune this stretch by tucking your knees closer to your shoulders or lower by your waist.
Sometimes, more isn’t better. Spasms or cramping can also be a sign of over-exerted muscles. Although your trainer may coach you to perform 100 crunches, you need to listen to your body, says Campbell. Crunches work abdominal muscles; if you feel your back or neck working, you’ve over-taxed your stomach muscles. It’s better to perform 50 crunches with perfect form than to do 100 with increasingly sloppy form that causes your body to go into spasm.
- The Men's Health Big Book of Exercises; Adam Campbell
- MedlinePlus: Electrolytes
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