Abs cramp up when working them out

  • qd2009

    Posts: 164

    Nov 14, 2015 5:01 PM GMT
    Whenever I work my abs (especially when doing the planck and situps), they cramp up. I usually try to shoot for 5 sets of 15 reps (various situps, bicylces, planck) but my abs really cramp up by the end of the second set. It's really annoying because I can't continue, and I don't feel that I've hit my abs properly.

    Perhaps I need to 'stretch' my abs before I start working them out? Is that possible? I've tried to do a warmup set before trying to hit them hard, but it really doesn't seem to work.

    Any ideas?
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    Nov 14, 2015 5:56 PM GMT
    For how long you've been working them out? If you've just started, then go with low volume initially, and then increase it over the weeks. It's like weight training where you increase weights and sets gradually.
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    Nov 14, 2015 7:46 PM GMT
    Anytime you work your abs, you should work your lower back to an equal degree. Back Bridges are also an excellent stretch to end your workouts with, although they take some time to develop enough skill to do them properly.
  • badbug

    Posts: 800

    Nov 15, 2015 5:54 AM GMT
    To me it sounds like you may not be getting enough magnesium and potassium in your diet. It's hard to get enough potassium, like 95 percent of the population doesn't. Also on the magnesium tip, calcium and magnesium compete for absorbption in the body, so you will want to not take them both at the same time.


    I would rec. stretching your abs after your workout, i don't do any stretching until after my workouts when everything is warmed up. There's a few studies that indicate this is the best possible time to stretch.



    When you say warmup set? Do you mean abs work? or just warming up on the bike? Maybe do abs at the end of your other workouts, cardio or otherwise and see if it helps when you are already warm.


    Also, how long do you wait until your workout after you eat? Maybe digestion could be an issue. You could try eating a liquid meal as your pre-workout meal on ab days.
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    Nov 15, 2015 5:10 PM GMT
    Stop doing sit ups and crunches.... mix up your routine....do more yoga style twists of the abdomen, more cross-body dynamic tension, more time on a core-ball, and time on a bosu working the core....sit up and crunches are very old-school, over rated, and do more damage than good, because of predominantly BAD FORM. planks and variations are great too! (with good form)...but STOP ALL CRUNCHES AND SITUPS.icon_cool.gif
    add water, add potassium, magnesium and calcium citrate to your daily...magnesium, calcium and iron all compete for the same uptake receptors and need to be taken a few hours apart. Don't workout on a full stomach, food or shake.....if you eat before workout, do so an hour before and relatively light (complex carbs and a bit of protein) and lean....and afterwards ( MORE Protein and some carbs), still lean....WATER!
    Good luck.icon_cool.gif
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    Nov 15, 2015 5:32 PM GMT
    Wikipedia: Stretching, massage and drinking plenty of fluid, such as water, may be helpful in treating simple muscle cramps. With exertional heat cramps due to electrolyte abnormalities (primarily sodium loss and not calcium, magnesium, and potassium) appropriate fluids and sufficient salt improves symptoms.
  • badbug

    Posts: 800

    Nov 20, 2015 3:50 AM GMT


    Potassium: It is also an electrolyte, a substance that conducts electricity in the body, along with sodium, chloride, calcium, and magnesium. Potassium is crucial to heart function and plays a key role in skeletal and smooth muscle contraction, making it important for normal digestive and muscular function.

    University of Maryland Medical Center (not wikipedia)


  • qd2009

    Posts: 164

    Nov 20, 2015 8:35 PM GMT
    Hi everyone, thanks for all the great tips...

    _morphic_: I've been working them out on and off a couple years. And maybe I really am doing more than my abs can handle. But, the cramps really start by the second set... I can't imagine a first set of 15 reps is a lot.

    Radd: I really haven't been working out my lower back as much -- The only lower back exercise I know is the deadlift, and I haven't been doing them because I don't know the proper form..

    badbug and woodsmen: I'll have a look at the electrolytes issue. I haven't paid much attention to it.

    Also, Sport_G: I didn't realize that sit ups and crunches are so bad. Is it really true?? I'll have to go back to the black board to rethink my ab exercises.
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    Nov 20, 2015 9:57 PM GMT
    Actually, what you describe sounds sort of normal to me, if you haven't worked them in a while. As someone said, keep at them regularly and work up the volume. e.g., look through the "workout plans" section of this web site - it hasn't been updated in years, but is a good starting point.

    Also, sometimes just stretch and do something else for fifteen minutes or so, then come back and try another set when you've had time for blood to infuse the muscle.

    One of us had one of those "ab wheels" in college and it was always a great joke to trick some guy who'd never seen one into doing twenty reps. "No big deal..." then two minutes later he'd inevitably be doubled up with massive cramps. icon_twisted.gif

    ab-wheel.jpg
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    Nov 21, 2015 12:44 AM GMT
    Drink more water.

    My entire body cramps up after a long downhill mountain biking session (very intense) if I don't drink enough water.
  • badbug

    Posts: 800

    Nov 21, 2015 2:23 AM GMT

    Deadlifts and squats are so good. For so many reasons. I cannot list them they are too numerous.

    Youtube some videos on proper DL form, and do light weights till you got it down.

    Then, after you are pretty sure you know about correct form yourself, ask someone at the gym to critique your form who looks like they are an experienced lifter. Most people don't mind at all giving a quick helpful hint if you're polite. People like talking about sh)t they're good at.
    Deadlifts also are good for your abs. you can lift light with squats and deads, if you are worried about becoming too thick.


    Why do you work your abs? Cause you want a six pack right? Or atleast less gut?
    Doing heavy compound exercises like Deadlifts, will cause your body to release more Growth hormones, which will help increase your metabolism and increase your muscle mass, which burns calories.