What Causes Your Muscles to Shake During Exercise?

Exercise-related muscle shakiness can happen to anyone, no matter your fitness level, age or gender. It can be caused by a variety of factors and poor choices. Because it can sometimes signal a more serious underlying condition, it is important to understand why shaking muscles can occur during exercise and how it can be treated.

man lifting weight (Image: Minerva Studio/iStock/Getty Images)


Shaking muscles during exercise can vary from mild to extreme. Any muscle in the body can be affected, including the legs, abdominals and arms. Shaking can be uncontrollable and can occur when you are straining the muscles or even while they are at rest. Additional symptoms can include tiredness, muscle cramps and decrease in muscular performance. Your muscles may even give out if shaking is severe, causing you to collapse.


Exercise-related shakiness occurs as the muscles naturally shorten and lengthen with physical activity. Although this action will become less noticeable when your muscles become stronger, it can develop if your muscles are not used to the type of exercise you are performing, you increase the intensity of exercise or work out for a long time without taking proper breaks. Your body also releases metabolic byproducts like lactic acid when you exercise, which can cause shakiness and fatigue. Improper nutrition and hydration can also trigger shakiness. See a doctor if shaking is severe or lingers long after exercise. It could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as Parkinson's disease or an essential tremor.


Decrease the intensity of your workout and take breaks as needed. Rest for about a minute between each exercise set or until you can catch your breath. Larger muscle groups, such as the thighs and buttocks, may require up to three minutes between sets. Stop and drink a glass of water or have a carbohydrate-rich snack if you suspect shakiness due to dehydration or poor nutrition.


"Real Solutions" magazine recommends moving while you rest between exercises or sets. For example, walk around or switch to a different muscle group rather than sitting down. This will help your muscles recover more easily from intense exercise. Cool down by gradually decreasing your activity and allowing your heart rate to slowly return to normal over a five-minute period. This will help remove metabolic byproducts from your blood and muscles, helping to reduce shakiness and fatigue.

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