Abdominal Muscle Spasms After Sit-ups

young man exercising in a park
Talk with a trainer to ensure your form is correct when performing situps. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Feeling a muscle spasm in your abdomen can be a mildly annoying experience or a downright painful one. In many cases, abdominal muscle spasms can be prevented by making changes in your eating and drinking habits, as well as your exercise. If the cramps continue despite taking preventive measures, consult a doctor.


A muscle spasm, also known as a muscle cramp, is a forceful, involuntary contraction. Abdominal muscles are particularly prone to spasms because they are so short and tend to stay contracted when doing exercises such as situps. A mild spasm is felt as a dull pulling or fluttering sensation, while a severe spasm feels like a sharp, stabbing pain. If the contraction of the muscle is severe enough, it can form a lump under the skin because the muscle is knotted.


The exact cause of muscle spasms is not clear, but certain conditions are known to precipitate them. Common conditions include dehydration, muscle fatigue, electrolyte imbalances or deficiencies and lack of a proper warm up. Holding your abdominal muscles in one position for a long period of time can also increase the likelihood they will spasm. In some cases, an underlying medical condition or prescription medication is the cause.


As soon as you feel your abdominal muscle start to spasm, grab the affected are and massage it until the spasm goes away. Stretching your muscles by gently twisting side to side or leaning backward may also help. Drink water or a beverage enhanced with electrolytes to help you hydrate. Eating a banana, which is high in the electrolyte potassium, may also help. Apply heat to relax tight abdominal muscles, and apply cold if your muscles are sore or tender. If the spasm is severe or doesn't respond to self-care measures, seek medical attention.


To avoid spasms, warm up your body and stretch your abdominal muscles before doing situps. Performing five to 10 minutes of light cardio is an effective whole-body warm-up. Drink water or a sports drink enhanced with electrolytes before and after performing sit-ups, particularly if you have been sweating a lot. Eat a nutrient-dense diet to ensure you get plenty of electrolytes, particularly potassium and magnesium. Taking a multivitamin can also help. Avoid overexertion and stop your situp routine if your muscles get fatigued or sore. Talk with a certified trainer to make sure you are using proper form, and talk to your doctor if you are taking medications to verify muscle spasms aren't a side effect. If you continue to experience spasms, consult a doctor.

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