One of the most common injuries among bodybuilders, athletes, and even fitness enthusiasts who enjoy a good run is a strain in the thigh or calf muscles of the leg. While some strains are mild, others can be quite serious and take you out of the game for weeks at a time. Understanding these injuries, why they happen, and how you can prevent them will help you make the most of your workouts.
What Causes Injuries to Muscles of the Leg?
Injuries to muscles of the leg are caused by different things. Calf muscles, for example, are put under the most strain when you push off from a standstill, such as when you jump, run, or even just walk down the sidewalk. Thigh muscles, on the other hand, are put under the most strain when you change directions while you are in motion, when you kick, or when you accelerate or decelerate rapidly, such as when playing basketball or football. Read how to recover from a hamstring injury here.
Strains to the muscles occur in three grades that describe the severity of the injury and the treatment required to heal. A grade one strain refers to only a few torn muscle fibers and mild soreness. A grade two strain has more serious symptoms, including significant acute pain and more torn fibers. A grade three strain means that the muscle or the tendon that attaches the tendon to the bone has ruptured. This causes extreme pain and usually requires surgical intervention.
The best way to handle an injury to the muscles of the leg is to avoid it in the first place. There are several different things you can do to reduce your chances of even a mild sprain.
- Increase workout intensity slowly. Pushing your body too hard and too fast puts undue stress on muscles that haven’t been properly conditioned.
- Work with a professional. It’s important to learn how to lift, run, and move in such a way that you are minimizing the stress you place on your muscles.
- Don’t skip the warm-up. Warm muscles are more pliable and can therefore handle more stress than cold, tight muscles. In the winter months, make sure your warm-up is long enough to compensate.
- Wear good shoes. If you’re a runner, or if you play sports that require kicking, jumping, and changing directions frequently, make sure you’re changing your shoes every 500 miles or every three to four months. Make sure these shoes have cushioning that reduce the amount of stress placed on your muscles.
- Stay hydrated. Dehydrated muscles are far more prone to injury, even if they’re only slightly dehydrated. If you’re especially active, and if you sweat quite a bit, you should increase your 64-ounce daily water intake to about 90 ounces or more. If you’re using supplements like creatine or whey protein, you should aim for three-quarters to one gallon of water daily.
Injuries to the muscles of the leg range from mild to severe, and in some cases, surgical repair can keep you out of the gym for weeks or even months at a time. By preventing these injuries, you can continue to exercise and push your body to its limits to get the results you want.