Muscle cramps are an inconvenience faced by all those who engage in physical activity – from runners, cyclists or swimmers to bodybuilders. What types of cramps most often affect the latter?
When we talk about a cramp, we usually mean a sudden, unpleasant pain, the cause of which is too much contraction of muscle tissue. Muscle cramps can result from a number of different factors, such as overtraining, lack of warm-up and stretching, dehydration, salt and mineral deficiency or staying in one position for too long. Regardless of their cause, everyone will surely agree with the thesis that cramps are nothing pleasant. However, some of them play an important role in the functioning of the human body. It is worth bearing in mind that this phenomenon affects not only beginners, but also seasoned bodybuilders. In this article, we will present and discuss the three basic types of muscle cramps that regular gym-goers most often encounter.
A type of contraction in which muscles shorten in the process of producing force. This happens because the points of the muscle’s initial and final attachments come closer together and, as a result, the entire muscle is contracted. By generating a force greater than the load acting on a muscle, we tighten the muscle and reduce its length. What does this look like in practice? This type of contraction can take place during activities as trivial as combing hair. We then lift the upper limb, so concentric work involves the biceps muscle of the arm. This is the so-called positive phase of the movement.
Contractions that are the opposite of the concentric contractions discussed above. This time we are dealing with a situation during which the starting and ending points of the muscle move away from each other, in view of which the muscle similarly lengthens. This type of contraction occurs, for example, when we want to put down the dumbbells held in our hands. We then generate a force that is less than the weight lifted (so that the successful putting down of the dumbbells is possible at all). This kind of phenomenon is expertly called the negative phase of the movement and is the last phase of the exercise.
A type of contraction that has an extremely significant role to play in the proper work of the musculoskeletal system and the maintenance of proper posture. Isometric contraction is said to occur when opposing muscle groups – for example, flexors and extensors – act at the same moment. As a result, the length of the muscle remains the same. This type of contraction occurs, among other things, when we grasp a weight with the arm flexed – in this arrangement, our biceps will work isometrically. A good example of isometric contraction is also a daring attempt to lift a barbell that exceeds our strength capabilities. The instrument, of course, will not budge, and the high muscle tension will not change its length.
main photo: unsplash.com/Alonso Reyes