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J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2015 Jun;15(2):227-36.

Electrically induced muscle cramps induce hypertrophy of calf muscles in healthy adults.

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German Sport University Cologne, Institute of Training Science and Sport Informatics, Am Sportpark Müngersdorf 6, 50933 Cologne, Germany.
Orthoparc GmbH, The Clinic for Orthopaedics in Cologne, Aachener Straße 1021 B, 50933 Cologne, Germany.



Skeletal muscles usually cramp at short lengths, where the tension that can be exerted by muscle fibers is low. Since high tension is an important anabolic stimulus, it is questionable if cramps can induce hypertrophy and strength gains. In the present study we investigated if electrically induced cramps (EIMCs) can elicit these adaptations.


15 healthy male adults were randomly assigned to an intervention (IG; n=10) and a control group (CG; n=5). The cramp protocol (CP) applied twice a week to one leg of the IG, consisted of 3x6 EIMCs, of 5 s each. Calf muscles of the opposite leg were stimulated equally, but were hindered from cramping by fixating the ankle at 0° plantar flexion (nCP).


After six weeks, the cross sectional area of the triceps surae was similarly increased in both the CP (+9.0±3.4%) and the nCP (+6.8±3.7%). By contrast, force of maximal voluntary contractions, measured at 0° and 30° plantar flexion, increased significantly only in nCP (0°: +8.5±8.8%; 30°: 11.7±13.7%).


The present data indicate that muscle cramps can induce hypertrophy in calf muscles, though lacking high tension as an important anabolic stimulus.

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