Squats are a whole-body workout. When you do them properly, they build nearly every muscle you have. Do them improperly and you run the risk of real pain or even leg cramps when squatting.
Even if you're a squatting pro, you might still suffer severe leg cramps after squats. Cramps are a bit of a mystery. Despite how agonizing they are, scientists have no surefire methods to eliminate them.
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Consider what can influence "leg day" cramps and adjust your routines to see what brings you relief. See your doctor to determine the underlying cause of your leg cramps.
Read more: Is This the World's Greatest Exercise?
Dehydration and Leg Day Cramps
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, dehydration is a common cause of leg cramps. Staying hydrated is one of the simplest solutions you can try to combat severe cramping. If your cramps are really that bad, you may just need a lot more water in your system.
Drink eight full glasses every day. If you're sweating a lot, drink even more. Same goes for warm climates and hot gyms — keep guzzling water.
Electrolyte loss often goes with dehydration. Squats use your shoulders, upper back, lower back, glutes, thighs, calves and more. If you don't have enough sodium or potassium or you sweat it out, you're more likely to get cramps after your workout.
You might notice twitching in your muscles before a cramp sets in. If you're in the middle of your squats when this happens, it's easy to attribute the tremors to the intensity of the workout.
Drink sports drinks with salt and potassium before and during your workout, particularly if your workout lasts more than 60 minutes, as advised by the Mayo Clinic.
Consider Your Medications
Even if the problem is dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, your diet or fluid intake may not be to blame. There are plenty of prescription drugs that influence severe cramping for lots of reasons. Diuretics will flush out electrolytes.
Statins, drugs used to lower cholesterol, can lead to muscle pain, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Talk to your doctor to see if you can switch drugs and keep squatting.
Notice Nerve Problems
If you have nerve damage, some leg cramps may be with you for the long haul. Since you're using so many muscles at once when you squat, communication gets slowed between them and your legs cramp, either while you're squatting or afterwards.
Unfortunately, you don't know when you're fatigued because your legs don't tell you. This is most likely for smokers, alcoholics or people who have experienced accidents. Nerve pain is also common in people with diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Move slowly, build up weight slowly and take breaks during your routine — and of course quit smoking.
Read more: 12 Essential Squat Variations to Try
Use Proper Technique
The problem may not be your muscles at all. Squats can be tough, and proper form, as demonstrated by ExRx.net, is key. Stick to full squats, for starters. Your knees are strongest when they're fully extended or flexed, so they'll work with your legs best when you don't strain them with half-squats.
Get a professional trainer to coach your technique. Your chest should be out, face looking forward with a thumbless grip at the right width for you. Your stance might need a little adjustment too. Watch the feet and direction of the toes.
Every movement counts when you squat, so learn to do them right to avoid excruciating pain. Consider squatting with less weight. Consider isolating the various muscle groups of the leg with machine exercises as an adjunct to your squats and to assist in your squat execution and performance.
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Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.