Skeletal muscle cramping after exercise is a common condition that can be caused by a number of factors including some underlying medical conditions. Therefore, the best course of action may be to first have the client discuss the situation with their physician. After ruling out any medical issues, your client’s doctor may simply label his condition as Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps or E.A.M.C. Although the origin isn’t exactly known, the two most common theories as to the cause of E.A.M.C. include dehydration/electrolyte imbalances and neuromuscular issues caused by improper warm up and stretching (Miller, 2010).
Standard Hydration Protocol
Although individual fluid requirements may vary, it’s best to have our clients begin their session well-hydrated and minimize fluid loss through the following general guidelines:
17 -20 ounces of water two hours prior to exercise
7-10 ounces of fluid every 10-20 minutes during exercise
16 -24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise
As the intensity of your client’s workout increases, so does their need for replenishing electrolytes lost through sweat. Therefore, you may ask them to consider utilizing a thirst quenching sports drink for a portion of their fluid replenishment for super intense workouts or those lasting greater than 60 minutes (SCAN, 2009).
Dynamic & Static Stretching
Taking the time to properly warm up via dynamic stretching before exercise, followed by post-workout static stretching are important steps in reducing the possibility of E.A.M.C. You’ll want to have your client spend at least 10 minutes performing gentle dynamic stretch movements. An example to give may be easy walking while doing slow controlled arm circles forwards and backward. After the dynamic stretch warm up, you may go through your client’s normal routine followed by a series of static stretches held just to the point of tension for 15-30 seconds (ACE, 2013).
Although the origin of cramping after exercise is somewhat a mystery, we may be able to help our clients minimize the condition and the discomfort it causes with these standards of practice.
Miller, K. (2010). Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention. Sports Health, 2(4), pp. 279-283.
Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) (2009). Exercise Hydration: Nutrition Fact Sheet, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.