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This weekend I had a bad calf cramp in the last part of a combat stick sparring match (Calf cramped right as I pushed off for a strike, and then really locked up). Yesterday and today sore when walking at the push off of the stride.

Gym today, and while the calf felt better, didn't want to risk either squats or the hip sled. So, I opted for leg extensions and curls. The extensions were fine, but when I was doing curls, I could feel the calf wanting to tense. I was using the curl machine where you are in a seated position, rather than one where you lay on your stomach.

However, the curl should be a calf neutral exercise. I tried varying my foot position, concentrating on solely using the hamstrings, but unless I had the weight low enough where it was just an exercise in form, the calf rebelled.

What form break am I missing that would cause the calf to be active in an exercise where (theoretically) it should be completely neutral?

  • Cramps are also a sign of dehydration. Are you getting enough fluid? Increasing potassium in your diet may also help. Bananas, avacados, sweet potatoes, beets are all a good source. Check here for some more ideas for how to avoid them. – TestWell Sep 29 '15 at 14:17
  • @TestWell - Thank you. I know the presumed etiology of muscle cramping, and I know what likely caused this one. I'm not looking for cramp cures, I was trying to see if there was something amiss in the exercise that I was doing. – JohnP Sep 29 '15 at 14:42
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I’ve had the same issue when occasionally using that machine(1). While compiling some anecdotal evidence, it always seemed to happen after a recent bout of calf cramps. I played with the positioning of the seat and other machine adjustments until I realized that I could not totally remove my calves from the exercise. Rather, I would lessen the involvement of the calf muscle by dorsiflexing (pointing my toes toward my head) while seated. I then found Muscles Worked in a Seated Leg Curl : Leg & Back Exercises which made things clearer.

(1) enter image description here

  • Odd. As I understand it, once the knee is bent and the ankles flexed, the calf should not be used. But, your experience pretty much matches mine. – JohnP Sep 29 '15 at 14:47
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The gastrocnemius is a two-jointed muscle, with its origin on the condyles of the femur. Knee flexion is part of what it does. This is why you usually have to dorsiflex the ankle during lying leg curls, so that you don't enter active insufficiency by tightening the calf across both joints at once. To work the hamstrings in isolation from the calf, you can train them across the other joint they cross instead, by extending the hips instead of flexing the knee. That's the Romanian deadlift.

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