Muscle Shaking: Is Your Workout Better If Your Body Trembles?


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I recently did a workout class where the intensity level was (admittedly) beyond what I probably should have been doing. There was also not much of a warm up at the beginning. During some of the moves, my ab muscles and thigh muscles wobbled uncontrollably. A friend told me his physical therapist says when your body shakes like that during a workout, it's good because it means those parts of your body are weak. But after researching it a bit myself, it sounds more like wobbling is a sign that you're overdoing it. What's the final verdict -- is "wobbling" during a workout good or bad?

-- Amanda

Many exercise programs advertise a certain kind of muscle quaking that they hold up as evidence that their workout is effective. But is the "wobbling" Amanda refers to actually a sign that your body is getting stronger?

The top kinesiologists and trainers we spoke with agreed that muscle quaking is a physiological response to muscle fatigue, but it isn't a sign that the muscle is in the midst of development. While it isn't dangerous, it could lead to injury -- and while working yourself to the point of exhaustion will help improve your fitness, working through that exhaustion will not.

"Twitching is not associated with improvement in terms of strength," confirms Joseph P. Garry, MD, the director of sports medicine and an associate professor at the University of Minnesota.

Muscle fatigue can result from one of several factors: dehydration, burn-out or a too-tough workout. "First of all, you could be dehydrated. Dehydration affects all of your body systems, and you will fatigue faster when you are dehydrated," says Keaira Lashae, trainer for DailyBurn.com and a former dancer. "Second, maybe your muscle hasn't has time to adequately recover from your last workout. This especially happens to people who work out many days in a row. Finally, your muscle may be close to failure. This isn't a bad thing! It just means that your muscle has been working out enough, and now it needs to rest."

The last option seemed the most likely to kinesiologist Allan Goldfarb, who sees one potential danger: injury from the lack of control.

"If you are not controlling your activation of your muscles with the proper nerve recruitment and there still is a load on those muscles then control will be compromised," Goldfarb, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, told HuffPost Healthy Living. "This could lead to lack of force, loss of balance and then could lead to injury if taken too far."

But does that mean the practice is dangerous or bad for you? No, says Lashae -- it's a good thing: "Too many people are afraid to push themselves to the max. The more intense your workout, the more calories you are burning, and the faster you will stimulate a fat burning response in your body. As long as you take the time that you need to recover by resting and grabbing a post-workout protein shake after these classes, there is nothing wrong with them."

Bottom line: if you are in a class and begin to experience muscle shaking, it's time to take it down a notch or hold off and rest. Don't worry that something is wrong -- but you won't help yourself by pushing through it.

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