How to Prevent & Deal with Muscle Cramps
Because there is no generally agreed upon source of muscle cramps, there is no singular course of treatment and prevention.
Treatments such as cryotherapy, massage, pickle juice, sports drinks, and more all lack experimental research.
1. Stay hydrated.
Don’t just wait until you get to practice to start crushing water. Swimmers who drink a liter of water 60 minutes or so prior to practice or competition can be assured that the fluids will be fully absorbed and available.
2. Add salt to your water jug.
If you are one of those super sweaty athletes, you add 0.3 to 0.7g of salt to your water jug in order to help you avoid cramping up.
3. Stretch it out.
Gentle stretching on the affected area can help to soothe they soreness and immediate pain. Soreness can last for a few minutes or up to a few days. Light passive stretching makes it go away faster.
4. Dial up your intensity accordingly.
How to Get Rid of Leg Cramps During Freestyle Swimming Kick Sets
Be a flexible kicker: Men especially have cramping issues in their legs (whether it be foot, calf, or hamstring), and often it is because
they go a bit too rigid in the muscle as they try to get power.
Kick with tone, not too much tension: Feel the water on the top of your foot and hold just enough tension to give dynamic energy to the down-kick. Try to hold no more than 20 pounds of tension (preferably only hold 10-15 pounds) in the leg muscles. 10-15 pounds of tension is equivalent to having athletic tone in the muscles without “trying too hard.”
Kick from the core: The power from the kick should come from the lower abdominal muscles, especially the psoas. If swimmers concentrate on transferring power from their core, they will be using the appropriate set of muscles to get a powerful kick.
Kick with small, quick kicks: Swimmers should kick in small, tight motions, not big kicks. Many triathletes try to get the leg super deep on the down-kick, which makes for a slow, plodding kick and also causes them to bend on the up-kick. Keep the legs closer together, which should encourage a small, quick kick and straighter legs.
Kick with a straighter (not straight) leg: Another likely cramping culprit is bending the knee too much during the up-kick phase, which engages the hamstring. Instead, swimmers can clench their glute muscle to engage the glute, which should result in a straighter up-kick. Then bend the knee only at the top of the up-kick just before beginning the bent-knee down-kick. This may eliminate the cramping problem.
Build kicking fitness: Finally, I’d encourage people to commit to
Simple sets to increase speed include main sets like the above example, as well as drill sets, which work on the streamline or hydrodynamic component of your swimming
Other simple sets to include are sets like:
8 x 50 — start each one easy and ‘build’ each to fast effort
while maintaining good form. Rest 20-30 seconds between
8 x 25 — fast/hard while maintaining good form. Rest as
much as you need to catch your breath.
4 x 200 negative split — first 100 is easy to moderate and
the second 100 is moderate hard to hard. Rest 20 seconds
to 1 minute between each.
You could do these as your main set, as part of your main set, or as a final set after your main set.